It can be hard to tell if you’re overeating. We may find ourselves eating according to predetermined meal times, or at events where everyone else is eating, so it would be strange to decline.
Or, we eat when we know it might be some time before we have a chance to eat again. Then there are the many foods we eat away from home, so it’s hard to know exactly how energy-dense those foods we enjoy are.
However, the reality is that if you are gaining weight, you are ultimately eating too many calories most of the time, or even in smaller increments on a daily basis.
So, if you’re not sure what exactly is spiking your intake, here are some of the key signs or reasons you may be eating too much, too often, and what you can do to change that habit.
you never feel hungry
Hunger is the physiological signal that we need to refuel. It can be experienced as a rumbling stomach, a general feeling of emptiness, or even physical discomfort or emotional irritability.
While excessive hunger isn’t ideal, getting to the stage where you feel genuinely hungry before you eat is a key component of long-term weight management.
“Never eat a snack or meal if you don’t have physical signs of hunger.”
On a daily basis, many of us overindulge at meal times, so we never really feel hungry and therefore remain slightly excess calories. Over time, this is where the creep of kilos comes from.
Solution: Waiting at least three to four hours between meals, or waiting to eat until you really feel hungry, is a simple but powerful step to help control daily overeating.
You follow a strict eating plan or eating regimen.
Meal plans and dietary programs can be effective tools to help guide food choices and keep calorie and macronutrient intake on track. But when a plan is followed religiously, it can overlook daily differences in calorie production and requirements, encouraging food consumption when it’s not necessarily necessary.
Here, extra snacks or larger portions can be prescribed and then eaten regardless of hunger or appetite, which basically means we end up eating extra calories we don’t need.
Solution: Use your meal plan as a rough guide, but never eat a snack or meal without physical signs of hunger.
you never wake up hungry
It’s common for busy people to eat little during the day and then overcompensate at night with larger meals, candy, snacks, and alcohol, all of which contribute a significant amount of daily calories.
This overconsumption in the second half of the day can mean we’re still processing this food eight to 10 hours later, but we can still reach for coffee and recharge again the next morning when we could easily go a few more hours without eating.
Solution: If you habitually eat late at night, make a concerted effort to keep your meals small to help ensure that your fuel stores are depleted in the morning and you’ll feel hungry within an hour or two of waking up.
You eat regularly until you feel uncomfortable.
There’s nothing wrong with overdoing things a bit on special occasions and having to loosen your belt buckle a bit. But if you eat regularly to the point of feeling very full, it’s time to cut back. Over time, frequent overeating will mean that you will be able to physically tolerate larger volumes of food, which will also allow you to overeat.
Solution: Practice skipping a bite or two away from extreme fullness to support digestive comfort and caloric balance.
your weight is increasing
We can quickly blame lack of exercise as a key reason for weight gain, but ultimately, if you’re gaining weight, you’re eating too many calories for the amount of activity you’re doing.
You can always increase your physical activity to stop weight gain, but you may also find that cutting back on sweets and alcohol, and lightening your meals with low-calorie foods as well, will also help cut your calories a bit to stop weight gain.
Solution: Consider when you may be eating more than you need during the day, and find ways to lighten your meals, especially at night. Eating more vegetables and salads instead of more calorie-dense foods like meat, pasta, rice, desserts, and alcohol will also help maintain a calorie deficit and stop weight gain.
Author susie burrell is a leading Australian dietitian and nutritionist, founder of form meco-host of The Nutrition Couch podcast and prominent media spokesperson, with regular appearances in print and television media commenting on all areas of diet, weight loss and nutrition.
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