Nutrition Articles

Overcoming Overeating

New Strategies to Stop Overeating Before You Start

Tips at Home 
Cooking at home may be the easiest way to control your portions during a meal, but it also presents us with fully-stocked cupboards and refrigerators that can be tempting:
  • Bring home healthy fast food. Try precut, frozen, canned or microwave-in-the-bag vegetables. Automatic portion control.
  • Stop the Taste-Testing Habit. If you’re the cook in the family, you may be eating a lot of calories when you taste your foods as you cook. To stop this natural habit, try chewing gum while you prepare you meals. Each time you are tempted to sneak a bite, you’ll have to take the gum out of your mouth. This will make you more conscious of what you’re doing.
  • Make fruit your dessert. It’s a great way to get more produce into your diet, and it satisfies the sweet craving many people have after a meal. Experiment with new and exotic fruits. And, when it comes to fruit, eating a little extra isn’t a bad thing.
  • Keep your hands busy. Many people want to eat when bored or just out of habit while watching TV. Keep your hands occupied with something else, and you won’t want to eat. Try knitting, painting your nails, shuffling cards, petting your cat—anything that keeps your hands moving will do the trick. Or, keep your whole body busy by doing crunches, squats, lunges or other body exercises while you watch.
  • Feeling hungry? Try this first. Try drinking a glass or two of water. Many people mistake what is actually dehydration for hunger.
  • When you feel the urge to snack or keep eating, take an exercise break. Walk around the block for 5 or 10 minutes, run up and down the stairs, or distract yourself with anything for about 10 minutes. You’ll probably find that you weren’t really hungry, but bored instead.
  • Buy snack-size portions. Don’t buy more of your unhealthy snacks just to save a buck or two. If you have trouble controlling yourself—if you eat the whole bag of chips before you realize what you’ve done—then buy snack size items. You can find chips, pretzels, cookies, snack cakes, soda, juice, ice cream, and even cereal in single serving sizes.
  • Make a rule that works for you and your family. No eating in front of the TV, in the car, or at your desk. This will help you avoid mindless eating when you’re not hungry.
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Nicole Nichols Nicole Nichols
Nicole was named "America's Top Personal Trainer to Watch" in 2011. A certified personal trainer and fitness instructor with a bachelor's degree in health education, she loves living a healthy and fit lifestyle and helping others do the same. Her DVDs "Total Body Sculpting" and "28 Day Boot Camp" (a best seller) are available online and in stores nationwide. Read Nicole's full bio and blog posts.

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Member Comments


    I think I have similar problem about breaking good habits in the evening. Maybe the solution could be a new habit for the evening? Like taking a walk, or doing some light work (crafting in my case) that keeps the hands busy so they don't stray for the bag of crisps?

    I was surprised at your reaction to the picture - It's amazing how different perception can be. I saw very little beef on the plate, most of it was (to my eyes) fried food, refined carbs and sauce. The glass could just as well have been root beer AFAIK. I was actually glad that for once the overweight person wasn't a woman shoveling cake into her mouth; something I've seen in plenty of articles and books on the subject. - 3/17/2014 8:54:07 AM
  • Such a great eye opener. Really enjoyed this. Thanks very much. - 8/10/2013 6:00:38 PM
  • I really found the accompanying photo offensive. To imply that we are fat because we eat beef or drink alcohol is just perpetuating a stereotype. - 3/2/2013 8:23:31 PM
  • JOANNEA1952
    My husband and I eat out a lot, and I have figured out how to do this without gaining weight. Just like the article said: I either ask for just vinegar or lemon juice to put on a salad, and I ask to eliminate any cheese it may come with. I never eat any bread that may come with the meal. I order salmon (first choice) or another fish, chicken or lean pork for an entree. I substitute a double order of vegetables for any starch included, and I may have a dry sweet potato on occasion (I never eat white potatoes of any kind). I also enjoy a pre- dinner cocktail and wine on occasion. I may have a taste of my husband's dessert, if he should order one (which is rare). Also, I rarely eat red meat, but I may splurge on a steak once or twice a year. I know this sounds really restrictive, but I really enjoy having a social dinner out with my husband (and friends, on occasion), and I focus on the social aspects of the meal more than I do on the food itself. After 15 years of weight gains/losses of 10 to 30 pounds, I've finally figured out how to maintain a constant weight of 100 pounds (I'm 60 years old and very petite). I enjoy everything I eat, but I am very disciplined about what I eat. Giving up all the fattening foods I used to love became a lifestyle that took several years to achieve, but it is so worth the effort it took to get there. - 1/6/2013 10:50:47 PM
    I have not yet found a solution. If anyone has an idea, I would appreciate it. - 12/29/2012 6:30:42 AM
    I have not yet found a solution. If anyone has an idea, I would appreciate it. - 12/29/2012 6:30:42 AM
    I am usually very good over 90% of the day. I stay within my calorie range, eat plenty of fruits and veggies and drink plenty of water. Where I struggle is before bed. I am usually hungry. Some of the solutions here do not work well for me at that time. If I exercise, I have trouble getting to sleep. If I drink a lot of water, I will be getting up (my other problem is not sleeping well). If I just go to bed, I have not yet found a cure for - 12/29/2012 6:28:50 AM
    This isn't a bad article, but the tips tend to suggest a diet that won't leave you satisfied. Oh, you might have enough food, but frankly, to me a salad with grilled chicken and just enough dressing to taste sounds like something I'd give up 20 years of my life to avoid eating every day. And too much of this advice leaves out the important role that fat plays in a satisfying diet. If I eat three strips of real bacon (turkey bacon is basically no better) and two over-easy eggs for breakfast, that's only 260 calories, but it's 260 calories that's going to keep me satisfied until lunchtime. I could eat 260 calories of whole grain oatmeal with a splash of skim milk, and it would not only be unsatisfying taste-wise, I would be hungry in two hours.

    That being said, the article does mention nuts and eating protein, but I just wish that more articles would keep in mind the role of fat in our diet. - 6/18/2012 7:07:10 PM
    I agree with happeningfish that it's very important to listen to one's body: eat when hungry, stop when enough...
    And fruit for dessert? This will give most people a bloated feeling. Fruit as I understand it is best eaten on an empty stomach. So better to turn it around and have fruit BEFORE a meal, not afterwards. - 6/18/2012 5:14:23 PM
  • One thing the left out is ordering off the kids menu! Most restaurants have one plus; There's less food, less cost and they do have healthy options. Another thing you can do is split your meal with your date and split the cost :) - 6/18/2012 2:43:08 PM
  • Excellent! - 6/18/2012 6:35:16 AM
  • Excellent! - 6/18/2012 6:35:16 AM
  • VERY HELPFUL!!! - 2/19/2012 8:26:11 PM
  • Thanks for all the tips. I do- or have done- most of these things, and have found that they are truly helpful. My problem is that when all around me are out of control, it´s difficult to not eat too much...for example at a family gathering with lots of junk food. - 2/19/2012 8:14:26 AM
  • It's always good to have more tips for overcoming temptation and overeating.

    One question with which I came away from the article is--I thought it wasn't a good idea to drink while eating, because it dilutes the stomach acids needed for digestion?

    - 6/29/2011 6:17:58 AM