It can be tricky to tell if you are overeating. We may find ourselves eating in accordance with predetermined meal times, or at events in which everyone else is eating so would be strange to decline.
Or, we eat when we know it could be some time before we have an opportunity to eat again. Then there are the many meals we find ourselves eating away from the home, so it is difficult to know exactly how energy-dense those meals we are enjoying are.
The reality is, though, that if you are gaining weight, ultimately you are eating too many calories more often than not, or even in smaller increments on a daily basis.
So, if you are unsure as to what exactly it is that’s upping your intake, here are some of the key signs or reasons you may be eating a little 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 in the stomach, general feeling of emptiness or even as physical discomfort or emotional irritability.
While excessive hunger is not ideal, actually reaching the stage in which you feel genuinely hungry before eating is a key component of long-term weight control.
“Never eat a snack or meal if you have no physical sign of hunger.”
On a daily basis, many of us overdo it slightly at meal times so we never feel truly hungry, and as such remain in a slight calorie excess. Over time, this is where the kilo creep comes from.
Solution: Waiting at least three to four hours in between meals, or waiting to eat until you are actually feeling hungry, is a simple but powerful step to help take control of daily overeating.
You follow a strict meal plan or eating regime
Meal plans and diet 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 the daily differences in calorie output and requirements, encouraging food consumption when it is not necessarily needed.
Here, extra snacks or larger portion sizes may be prescribed and then consumed irrespective of hunger or appetite, which basically means we end up eating extra calories we do not need.
Solution: Use your meal plan as a rough guide but never eat a snack or meal if you have no physical sign of hunger.
You never wake up hungry
It is common for busy people to eat lightly through the day and then overcompensate at night with a larger meal, treats, snacks and alcohol, which all contribute a significant number of daily calories.
This excessive consumption in the second half of the day can mean we are still processing this food eight or 10 hours later, but we may still reach for the coffee and refuel again the next morning when we could easily last another few hours without eating.
Solution: If you routinely eat late at night, make a concerted effort to keep your meals small to help ensure your fuel stores are depleted come morning and you notice hunger within an hour or two of waking.
You regularly eat until you are uncomfortable
There is nothing wrong with overdoing things a little on special occasions and needing to loosen the belt buckle a little. But if you are regularly eating to the point of feeling seriously stuffed, it is time to cut back. Over time, frequent overeating will mean you are able to physically tolerate larger volumes of food, which, too, will enable overeating.
Solution: Practice stopping eating a mouthful or two away from extreme fullness to endure digestive comfort as well as calorie balance.
Your weight is increasing
We can be quick to blame a lack of exercise as a key reason for weight gain, but ultimately if you are gaining weight, you are eating too many calories for the amount of activity you are doing.
You can always increase your physical activity to put a stop to weight gain, but you may also find cutting back on the treats and alcohol, and lightening your meals too with lower calorie foods, will also help to cut back your calories a little to halt the weight gain.
Solution: Consider when you may be eating more than you need through the day and look for ways to lighten your meals, especially at night. Eating more vegetables and salad in place of more calorie dense foods like meat, pasta, rice, dessert and alcohol too will support a calorie deficit and halt weight gain.
Author Susie Burrel is a leading Australian dietitian and nutritionist, founder of Shape Meco-host of The Nutrition Couch podcast and prominent media spokesperson, with regular appearances in both print and television media commenting on all areas of diet, weight loss and nutrition.
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