If you’re anything like I used to be, using portion control to stop overeating can be a major struggle!
I remember knowing that it was keeping me stuck in my weight, but still feeling like I couldn’t help myself…
There are lots of tips & tricks online about how to essentially trick yourself into eating less…
But have you ever gone deeper and asked yourself WHY you have to urge to eat more than you should?
For years I tried using will power to overcome this but it never stuck until I finally addressed the root of my portion control and overeating problems.
While I did find a few hacks along the way (and I’ll share those with you too), the biggest game-changer for me was figuring out where my urges to eat came from and how much food my body really needs for fuel.
So here are my 4 best tips to help you improve your portion control and stop overeating so you can finally reach your health goals for good!
Let’s get started…
HOW TO IMPROVE PORTION CONTROL & STOP OVEREATING
Tip 1: Practice finding your bodies natural “satisfied” level
As a society, we’re taught that it’s normal to eat until you’re full or even totally stuffed! Just think about how often people joke about eating too much?
I know I’ve been guilty of this way more times than I’d like to admit…
While I still over do it every now and then, I no longer feel stressed out or guilty if I do. Now, I know how to get right back to my normal eating (and normal portions) at the next meal.
And that’s what I want for you as well!
When you learn how to recognize and listen to your hunger hormones, it’s easy to moderate portions. You certainly won’t need to measure, weight and track every bite!
To get started learning this skill, imagine your hunger on a straight line scale. The scale goes from -10 to +10, with -10 being starving, +10 being stuffed, and 0 being not hungry or thinking about food at all.
Now, instead of eating until you reach a +5, 6, or 7 on the scale, start practicing stopping before that. Practice eating until you feel that you’re somewhere around a +2 on your hunger scale, then stopping.
You might be nervous at first because you have a fear of getting hungry again later…
Here’s the problem with that — if you’re always eating to prevent future hunger, you’ll never get the chance to find out how much less your body might actually need to stay full.
To master the hunger scale, you’ve got to practice paying attention to how you feel as you eat — something most people never do.
Instead, most of us just keep shoveling food in our mouths until our plates are empty or we notice that we’re “full”.
Practice eating mindfully by slowing down, chewing well, turning off all distractions, really paying attention to how you feel and when you’ve had enough.
This is the first, and most important step to discovering the right portions for your body and ending overeating.
Tip 2: Ask yourself, “Why am I really wanting to eat right now?”
Often, we attribute the desire to overeat to a lack of portion control without ever taking a closer look at what’s really going on in our brains…
We know what we should be doing, but we don’t ever go deeper to figure out why we don’t do it. As a health coach, I’m trained to help you get to the root of your problems by seeing your own patterns and finding ways to change them.
I help clients figure out WHY they’re experiencing the urge to overeat. From there, we can find better, longer-term solutions for the underlying problem.
If you want to take this approach too, the next step is to start asking yourself one question…
Every time you feel the urge to eat, stop for a moment and ask yourself, “Why am I really wanting to eat right now?”.
Hopefully, the answer is usually simple and straight-forward: You feel physically hungery.
However, what I find with clients (and what I struggled with for years) is that we eat for a million other reasons besides feeling hungry.
We eat because we’re bored.
We eat because we have a craving.
We eat because someone offered us food and we want to be polite.
We eat because it’s breakfast, lunch or dinner time.
We eat because we want some energy.
…the list goes on and on. There are tons of reasons why we eat that don’t have anything to do with physically being hungry.
If portion control and overeating are problems for you, then you’re eating for reasons other than true hunger.
The first step to changing this habit is to create self-awareness.
Answer this question every time you feel the urge to eat or keep eating past the point of being satisfied. If the answer is anything other than a physical need for food, try to name what it is that you’re feeling.
The goal is to label it as one-word emotion like bored, lonely, tired, etc.
When you do this practice you’ll start to become more aware of your own patterns.
From there, you can find better ways to satisfy your emotional needs, that don’t involve food.
Tip 3: Make it harder for yourself to overeat
There are also a few quick-fixes that you can use immediately to improve your portion control and stop overeating.
However, it’s important that you don’t only use these and ignore the deeper work listed in tips 1 and 2.
Once you’ve started learning how much food you REALLY need and figured out the emotions that drive you to overeat, the next step is to make overeating harder.
Here’s the best tips I’ve found to set your environment up for portion control success…
- Beware of bringing foods into your home that are engineered for overeating.
Highly processed foods are created by engineers whose jobs it is to make you keep eating.
These include snacks like chips, crackers, popcorn, granola bars, protein bars, cookies, muffins, cakes, ice cream, and essentially anything made with added sweeteners and/or flour.
Theses foods highjack our brain’s pleasure centers so that we’re always left wanting more and never feeling fully satisfied.
This is not to say that you can’t have them, but it’s just helpful to know the pros and cons…
If eating those chips is going to leave you craving more chips for the next 2 days — is that really worth it?
The more you have these highly processed foods, the more your brain will crave them. It’s eerily similar to how our brains react to addictive drugs.
So whether you choose to have those foods around or not is up to you. It’s just helpful to be aware of the way they’ll impact your urges and cravings later.
- If you do choose to have a treat, never eat it straight out of the bag, carton or box.
This tip has to be one of the most helpful, practical ways to set yourself up for success with snack foods and desserts.
When you eat these straight out of the container it’s way too easy to underestimate how much you’ve eaten.
Remember, these food are processed in a way that makes them much less satiating. Our hunger hormones didn’t evolve with these kinds of foods and thus, don’t know how to recognize when you have had enough of them.
If you aren’t interesting in cutting them out completely, it’s imperative that you eat them mindfully and intentionally. Eating chips straight out of the bag is a recipe for overeating!
Instead, serve yourself a normal portion in a bowl then package the chips up and put them away.
This will help you stop overeating and also allow you to learn what normal portions sizes really are.
- If you’re overeating the food you cook, get in the habit of putting away any leftovers BEFORE you sit down to eat.
This used to be my biggest struggle. I love to cook and I love to eat, so whenever I’d cook dinner I felt compelled to finish it all. So, the habit of overeating at dinner was something I struggled with for a long time.
I’d start with one plate of food, then I’d go back for just a liiiiiittle more. Then I’d be snacking on the leftovers even more as I cleaned up. Then, I’d just say, “Screw it!”, and finish the rest off because I didn’t want to waste any food.
When I finally broke this habit, I found that putting away my leftovers right after I served my plate (before I sat down to eat) created the barrier I needed to stop the mindless eating.
I wasn’t actually hungry enough to go back into the fridge, pull out my leftovers, reheat them, and eat more.
If you can relate to my struggle, you might also find that creating this simple barrier between you and the food will be enough to get you to pause and ask yourself “Why am I really wanting to eat right now?”.
Tip 4: Wait out your urges
A lot of times, we think that a craving means we MUST satisfy that need right now! This is just not the case…a craving is NOT an emergency.
In fact, a craving means nothing more than the fact that you are thinking about eating a specific food. It doesn’t need to have any impact on how you act.
If you have an urge to eat more than you think your body should need for fuel, just try waiting it out.
Usually, if you wait about 90 seconds, this urge to eat will pass.
Challenging yourself to drink a full glass of water before eat anything (or any more) can be really helpful!
While there may not be scientific evidence to back this up, personally, I find this is a great way to help you wait out a craving.
Whenever I have the urge to eat something I didn’t plan on eating, I tell myself I will have it ONLY if I still want it after I finish drinking a 32oz bottle of water.
By the time I’m done drinking all my water, the moment has passed, I’m fully hydrated, and that thing I was craving before seems a lot less interesting.
This same concept applies when it comes to controlling your portions sizes. If you serve yourself a normal portion of food and, after finishing it, you’re craving more — just wait it out!
Tell yourself you can have more if you still want it after you’ve done something else for a few minutes…
Leave the kitchen completely…go for a 10 minute walk, take a shower, do some laundry…
In most cases, you’ll find the urge to eat has passed and you can move on.
One final note!
If you’ve been struggling with utilizing portion control to stop overeating, it’s likely been holding you back from reaching your goal weight and truly feeling confident in your body. I get it, I used to be there too.
In my coaching practice now, I help women who are struggling with unhealthy eating habits just like you.
I teach them how to implement the healthy habits and mindset tools they need to finally reach their health goals (and actually maintain them) like I have!
If you need help implementing the tips I share and feel like it’s time to overcome your food and weight struggles for good — schedule a free consultation call with me today.
Whether we decide to work together or not, I would love to meet you and help you gain clarity on your next steps.
Click here to read more about how I help clients in my coaching practice and how I can I help you too.
You deserve to feel free and fully in control of your health!
September 30, 2021