Being exhausted or stressed can cause you to overeat. Inattentiveness is also to blame. Who counts the french fries eaten while driving or the doughnut downed at the computer?
Even when you sit down to a meal, you may not know how many calories you’re consuming. Many people don’t know how to stop eating when they’ve had enough. When people are given oversized restaurant portions, for instance, studies show they get eaten. People are programmed to eat what they’re served, not what they need.
It’s also hard to downsize once you’re used to supersizing. If you’re stressed or bored, food becomes an easy antidote.
Is it possible to stay on automatic pilot but still eat less? Try the half-plate rule: You can eat anything you want to, but half the plate has to be salad, vegetables, or fruit. When half your plate has nourishing lower-calorie foods, you’ll take in fewer total calories and have the flexibility to eat the foods you like.
Think before you eat. Ask yourself whether the food at hand is worth the calories. If you can’t talk yourself out of it, at least consider a lower-calorie alternative.
Learn visual cues so you know how much you’re eating. Pour a portion of cereal into a measuring cup. Count out 10 nuts (about 70 calories for raw almonds) instead of grabbing a handful. After a while, you won’t have to count.
Change some habits. For example, you might have to stop eating in your car, or weigh yourself once a week to keep on track.
Develop strategies so you don’t deprive yourself of treats. If you go out for a multicourse dinner followed by a movie and a box of candy, you’re probably taking in too many calories. Plan ahead. Don’t eat dessert at dinner, but have a box of chocolate-covered raisins as a trade-off.
Blunt your appetite with filling, low-calorie foods. Suppose you tell yourself you can have anything you want for a snack if you have a piece of fruit first. Most people don’t want a snack bad enough to find a piece of fruit. Others will eat the fruit and be satisfied. A smaller number will eat the fruit and then the snack, but they might eat less of the snack.