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Family gatherings and celebratory feasts can be simply amazing.  It’s not just the abundance of delicious food that is so wonderful but also the people, friendly banter, and overall atmosphere.

It is way too easy and common to indulge on those fun days (I know I have!).  But for some of us it doesn’t always stop there.  Sometimes we overeat on regular days.  Or at regular meals.  Or All. The. Time.

If this describes your eating habits, here are three simple tips to help you avoid overeating at meals (and feeling like the stuffed turkey you just ate!).

TIP #1: Start With Some Water
When your stomach is growling and you smell incredibly delicious food it’s very easy to fill a plate and dive in.  But did you know that it’s possible to sometimes confuse the feeling of thirst with that of hunger?  You might actually be craving a big glass of water rather than a feast of food.

Some studies have shown that drinking a glass or two of water before a meal can  help reduce the amount of food eaten by simply filling you up.  And yet other studies have found that drinking about two cups of water 30-40 minutes prior to a meal can slightly increase metabolism and aid in daily energy expenditure through something called water drinking-induced thermogenesis.

If using this super-simple tip can fill up your stomach before you get to the buffet, leaving less room for the feast, and boost your metabolism that’s a win-win!

If you’re not much of a plain water drinker or need your water to be appeal more to your senses, here are five delicious (and beautiful looking) fruit combos to add to your large glass of water.

  • Slices of lemon & ginger
  • Slices of strawberries & orange
  • Slices of apple & a cinnamon stick
  • Chopped pineapple & mango
  • Blueberries & raspberries

TIP: Buy a bag of frozen chopped fruit and throw some into your cup, thermos, or uber-cool mason jar in the morning.  They’re already washed and cut and will keep your water colder for longer.

TIP #2: Eat The Salad First
Remember when you were little and your mom or grandma told you eat your veggies?  She was right.  You may be yearning for that rich, creamy main dish when you sit down at the table but don’t start there…eat the salad first!

Vegetables, including a fresh salad of greens topped with other raw veggies, are a great way to start any meal because they are full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and health-promoting phytochemicals.  And they have two secret satiety weapons that are great to have on your side when you’re about to indulge in a large meal: fiber and water.

Foods high in fiber (like vegetables) not only add bulk to your meal that helps to fill you up, they can also make you feel fuller by taking longer to chew (see Tip #3) and slowing your digestion.  This can leave you more satisfied and apt to dish out smaller portions of other goodies that are on the dinner table onto your plate.

Don’t overlook the salad bowl; reach for it first to avoid over-filling your plate and your belly.

TIP #3: Eat “Mindfully”
You’ve heard of mindfulness but have you applied that to your eating habits?  This can help you avoid overeating as well as having the added bonus of improving your digestion.

Just as being mindful when you meditate helps to focus your attention on your breathing and the present moment, which calms the nervous system, being mindful when you eat helps to focus your attention on your meal.

Do this by taking smaller bites, eating slowly, chewing more thoroughly, and savouring every mouthful.  Notice and appreciate the smell, taste and texture.  This can help prevent overeating because eating slower often means eating less.  When you eat quickly you can easily overeat because it takes about 20 minutes for your brain to know that your stomach is full.

So take your time, pay attention to your food, and enjoy every bite.  Bonus points if you eat at the table (not in front of the television or computer), off of a small plate, and put your fork down between bites.

By turning these tips into daily habits you will be better prepared to ditch the willpower and simply enjoy your food.  Give them a try at your next meal and let me know how they work for you.  Happy eating!

 

References:

Boschmann, M, et al, Water-Induced Thermogenesis, The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, December 2, 2016, https://academic.oup.com/jcem/article-lookup/doi/10.1210/jc.2003-030780

Davy, Brenda M., et al, Water Consumption Reduces Energy Intake at a Breakfast Meal in Obese Older Adults, Journal of the American Dietetic Association, July 2008, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2743119/

Locke, Tim, Drink Water Before Meals to Lose Weight? WebMD, August 28, 2015, http://www.webmd.com/diet/obesity/news/20150828/water-weight-meals-obesity

Paddock, Catharine, Two Cups Of Water Before Each Meal Enhanced Weight Loss In Clinical Trial, Medical News Today, August 24, 2010, http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/198720.php

Rose, Darya, The Science Behind Mindful Eating: What Happens to Your Body During a Mindful Meal, October 27, 2015, http://summertomato.com/the-science-behind-mindful-eating-what-happens-to-your-body-during-a-mindful-meal