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How To Stop Overeating and Eat Mindfully

Food is one of the greatest pleasures in life and your body and mind need to be nurtured with nourishing foods.

I’d like you to take a moment to think about the last time you ate because you felt so hungry, and you ate so much until you felt so full and can’t eat anymore and you had to unbutton your pants.

How did you feel afterward? Did you feel happy and satisfied or you feel horrible and guilty?

I believe that most of us have done it at one time or another, and the reasons of overeating can be due to: Emotional eating, stress eating, boredom, not able to clearly identify the sense of hunger, or just because the food simply tastes too good.

If this happens occasionally, it’s not such a big deal.

Eating more than usual when food tastes good is relatively normal eating behaviour. However, sometimes overeating is driven by a ‘last supper’ attitude. This is characterised as mindless eating with a drive to eat food until there is none left.

For those who tend to overeat regularly and start to realise that their eating habits become out of control, and always thinking about foods and feel ashamed and guilty after eating, then we need to take a closer look at why we are doing it and how to prevent overeating.

First, it is important for us to identify different types of hunger to prevent overeating.

1) Stomach hunger (physical hunger)

Stomach hunger is a physical hunger when it’s time to feed your body with foods. Hunger is the body’s natural way of asking for food and drink. If it’s not asking, and you have eaten within the last few hours, then it doesn’t need food.

It is important to listen to hunger and fullness cues. People without weight concern usually eat when they are hungry and stop eating when the hunger signal has ceased and start to feel full, rather than waiting until they feel really full. Also, they don’t tend to eat in the absence of hunger. If they do overeat at a meal (perhaps a work function, Christmas party or birthday meal), they don’t eat again until hunger kicks in.

Foods that we eat contain carbohydrates, protein and fat, and it takes at least 3-4 hours for the nutrients to be properly digested and absorbed. If we keep a good eating routine with 3 regular main meals a day, and give our body sufficient time to digest foods properly before the next meal, then we can easily sense and trust our body’s cue for hunger when it’s time to eat again.

We can trust and listen our body cues of hunger when the body is well slept, hydrated and without high levels of stress.

Eat when you feel moderately hungry, don’t wait until you feel extremely hungry and you know that you a greater tendency to overeat and feel sick afterwards.

If you felt hungry after 1-2 hour of meal, then ask yourself, “Were you eaten too little at main meals or just simply not drinking enough water!”

When you under-eat and not eating enough fibre-rich foods at main meals, you will get hungry very soon and start to feel like eating again. You may end up eating a lot more calories that you expected in a day that blows all your effort away.

#Thirst is one big mistake that many people make and perceive as hunger. Instead of satisfying the body with water, they reach out for comfort food! So, make sure that you drink a glass of water first before snacking on foods.

2) Nutritional hunger

Some people may say, I just feel hungry all the time. And I just need to eat and eat and eat.

Well, the chances are you may be eating the wrong types of foods.

You may be eating foods that are high in calorie and fat and poor in nutrients especially fibre. You may be feeling full and satisfied, but it will only last for a short period. After 1-2 hours later, you feel peckish again, you start crave for more foods to satisfy your hunger. This is because our bodies naturally crave for nutrients and real food. so your brain will stimulate your appetite wanting to eat more nutrient-dense foods, but instead you keep feeding your body crappy foods, and the vicious cycle continues, and guess what, you keep gaining more weight.

So how to break the vicious cycle? It’s very simple. I want you to eat real foods. Foods that are naturally high in vitamins, minerals and fibre and minimally processed. Fibre bulks up the meals and keeps you full and satisfied longer. You won’t have much cravings to eat more foods and you will start to lose weight.

2) Emotional hunger

When we are under stress, boredom, angry and emotional, we tend to turn to food. Instead of dealing with the issues, we turn to foods to comfort our mind to make us feel better emotionally. This is similar for those who turn to alcohol and drugs. Yes, you may feel relieved but it’s only for a short period. When it’s over, I can assure you that you will feel worse, and hate yourself for binge eating. Hence, it’s very crucial for us to identify what it means by emotional hunger.

Emotional hunger:

  • Isn’t a real hunger. You don’t feel hungry in your stomach.

  • You often have bad craving for certain types of foods such as chocolates, chips or cake.

  • It’s also commonly called non-hungry eating.

  • It often leads to mindless eating. For instance, you may grab a big pack of chips or a big block of chocolates and eat mindlessly before you realise you have already eaten the whole pack of chips or a whole block of chocolates.

  • You may not enjoy the foods you eat, but you just can’t stop eating because you’re feeling overwhelmed.

  • You don’t feel satisfied even when you are full.

  • Often leads to regret, guilt or shame.

If this is you, the next time when you start to eat mindlessly, put your foods down, pause for a few minutes and take some deep breaths. And ask yourself, “What am I asking the food to do for me?”; “Do I really need it?”; “Do I eat because I’m enjoying the food or simply due to feeling emotional and overwhelmed?”

If it is caused by emotional trigger, don’t’ ignore it. Find ways to deal with the specific issues. For example, if you’re feeling down or lonely, find someone to talk to, or find ways to extend your social circle. If you’re feeling tired, take a break and go to the nature to give some time to relax, if you’re feeling bored, read a book or doing something that you enjoy to get yourself distracted from foods.

Food is one of the greatest pleasures in life and your body and mind need to be nurtured with nourishing foods.

It is important for us to clearly understand the underlying causes of hunger that lead us to eating mindlessly. Mindful eating includes maintaining awareness during eating. Through the practice of mindfulness, we learn to enjoy food better, as we pause to notice the colour, texture, smell, and the taste of the food before us. We also learn to better manage our emotions by finding better ways to deal with emotional triggers as well.



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