Don’t sabotage your workout routines with unhealthy binge eating. Instead, find out what you need to do to stop the binging.
Eating so you’re full and satisfied, rather than giving in to emotional overeating to fill a void or simply because the food is there, takes some planning—and a few good strategies. Here they are:
Healthy eating tips # 1. Identify high-risk situations.
Few people overeat in every situation, so determine the circumstances that are likely to trigger a binge. Once you’ve identified which situations are most likely to spark emotional overeating, come up with a game plan for each one. For example, if eating at relatives’ always involves plentiful gooey desserts, plan to make or buy a low-fat dessert, and bring it with you for everyone to share. If you can’t go to the movies without snacking on something, sneak in your own bag of air-popped popcorn or some low-cal candy.
Healthy eating tips # 2. Keep a record of what you put in your mouth in a food diary.
In a study at the Center for Behavioral Medicine in Chicago, researchers asked 38 people who were trying to lose weight to keep a food diary; doing so not only helped them control their weight during high-risk holidays, but even helped them peel off unwanted pounds. Keep it simple—it doesn’t have to include total calories or fat grams—but don’t forget to jot down snacks or drinks, which can add up. You need to maintain a record at least 75 percent of the time for a food diary to be effective.
Healthy eating tips # 3. Explore food-free ways to socialize.
In social situations, everybody eats more if they see everybody else doing so. If this sounds familiar, get in the habit of bonding with friends over activities that don’t center around food: a walk at the park, an afternoon at a paint-your-own-pottery shop, a long bike ride or hike, or trying a new class at the gym.
Healthy eating tips # 4. Dine smart and use portion control.
Research—and common sense—tells us we eat much more when we dine out. Do damage control at restaurants by speed-reading the menu: Skip past "appetizers" and head straight for "salads" for a safe starter, and look for any mention of plate-sharing charges, a sure sign that the restaurant’s meals are enormous and that you and your dining companion may want to split one. (Note some restaurants will honor requests for half-size portion control, or if it’s a low-key establishment, ask the waiter to serve just half and box the rest for you to take home.) Once you pick a healthy option from the menu, order before anyone else at the table. That way, you make the commitment and you won’t be persuaded by other people’s orders.
Healthy eating tips # 5. Eat thin before fat, choosing low calorie foods – or at least lower – first.
People tend to overeat the more-delicious, more-palatable foods, which have a higher fat content. The solution: Fill up on low calorie foods first—fruits, vegetables and grains—and you’ll be less likely to overindulge in the high-calorie stuff.
Healthy eating tips # 6. Keep temptation out of your path.
Get rid of junk food and replace it with better choices—rice cakes or pretzels for your pantry; low-fat frozen yogurt, pre-made fruit salad and baby carrots for your fridge; and reduced-fat popcorn or dried fruit for your desk drawer. It’s going to be easier for you to avoid overeating if you control your external environment.
Healthy eating tips # 7. Don’t eat meals just anywhere.
Make a point of always sitting down at a table to eat, rather than dining by the light of your computer screen or TV set. Focus on what you’re eating—including how it looks, smells, and tastes—and you’ll be less likely to continue eating after you’re full.
Healthy eating tips # 8. Eat small meals more often.
Eating frequent small meals during the day not only keeps your blood sugar stable and your energy high, but it can help you avoid excessive hunger. People who get into night eating generally follow a typical pattern where they don’t eat much during the day, then binge at night.
Healthy eating tips # 9. Don’t diet.
Being too rigid about your eating is likely to make you feel deprived. A study from Louisiana State University found that calorie counting and consciously dieting were associated with overeating, especially while alone.
Healthy eating tips # 10. Buy single-serving-size snacks.
Get rid of big bags of food since people tend to graze until they’ve eaten the whole thing. While food shopping, think small: packages of several single-serving-size cereals, boxes of animal crackers and individually wrapped string cheese.
Healthy eating tips # 11. Use the 10-minute rule before indulging.
When the vending machine or kitchen beckons, stop and ask yourself if you’re truly hungry, and not just bored or using food to procrastinate from something. Get involved in another activity for 10 minutes, then see if you still want what you were craving. Sometimes we get hunger pangs and they’re more mouth hunger—a desire to taste or chew—than stomach hunger.
Healthy eating tips # 12. Have an hor d’oeuvre before the party.
It’s easy to lose control when you go to a party or dinner hungry. Eating a piece of fruit (half a banana, an apple, or some dried fruits with a glass of water) or having a glass of milk or tomato juice and some whole-grain crackers before going out will act as an appetite suppressant.
Healthy eating tips # 13. Buffer against buffets.
To avoid overeating at a party, hold a non-caloric drink in your dominant hand. It’ll interfere with the likelihood of reaching for problem foods. Take the focus off food: Identify people you want to talk to—and keep your distance from buffet tables.
Healthy eating tips # 14. Lick TV temptations.
While watching television, polish your nails, knit, do a puzzle—anything that occupies idle fingers. You want to keep your hands busy so you’re less likely to eat.
Healthy eating tips # 15. Turn down food pushers (politely).
When people push food, you need to be clear and say, "No, thank you." Choose your words carefully: Saying you’re on a healthy eating program is more persuasive than saying you’re trying to lose weight.
Healthy eating tips # 16. Keep it up with your workout routines.
Workout routines do more than help counteract the excess calories that come from overeating. People who exercise regularly are less susceptible to overeating, most likely because their mood is elevated, so they don’t need food to make them feel better. Exercising most days of the week also reinforces your commitment to a healthy lifestyle, which is likely to make you more mindful of when, where and how much you eat.
Healthy eating tips # 17. Seek alternate stress relief.
You can learn to manage your emotions in a way that doesn’t involve food. Find another outlet for frustration—whether it’s taking a long bath, meditating, getting in a workout, chatting with a friend or another form of healthy stress relief. If you can distract yourself from upsetting feelings or learn to sit with them for a while, you’ll probably find they pass more quickly than you’d thought. And, you’ll feel better afterward because you’ll have avoided another potential source of distress: losing control of your eating.