Your Starbucks latte? 300 calories. That seemingly healthy salad from a fast food joint? 600 calories. The bag of processed chips you just grabbed at work? 200 calories.
According to recent surveys, almost every American is underestimating how many calories they consume in a day. In fact, the average person consumes more than 3,600 calories, which is well over the recommended amount for a normal person, no matter their gender or weight.
Unfortunately, American culture often fosters food addiction and habits of overeating. Instead of eating several small meals throughout the day, we gorge ourselves on two or three big ones and are told to clean our plates. Instead of cooking at home, we spend thousands of dollars at restaurants and chain eateries. TV dinners are the norm, and greasy-fried foods are weeknight staples.
This culture of high-calorie consumption and unhealthy eating has only increased America’s obesity epidemic, and if things continue to progress as they have over the past decade, more than 100 million Americans will be dramatically overweight in the near future.
If you’re someone who frequently eats past the point of being full or who snacks purely to satiate feelings of boredom, you’re certainly not alone. However, overeating is a habit you want to nip in the bud ASAP, if not for the sake of your appearance, then for the sake of your heart and overall health.
Here are the five big steps to take if you want to kick the habit in the butt, once and for all. It’ll take time to stop overeating, but with dedication, anyone can learn to quit.
When you’re chowing down on pizza while watching The Bachelor or quickly grabbing a lunch while driving between client meetings, you’re not truly paying attention to how much food you put in your body.
Instead of focusing on something else while you feed yourself, turn your attention solely to the meal. Pay attention to how fast you’re eating, when you start to feel full, and how each bite tastes. Not only will you start to enjoy your meals more, but you’ll also find that you consume fewer calories unintentionally.
Read More: 10 Disturbing Facts About Fast Food
It’s no secret that drinking water can help with weight loss. By filling your stomach with zero-calorie liquid, you’ll speed up your metabolism and convince your brain that you’re feeling full without eating.
Try drinking a full glass of water before you even start on your meal. You’ll find that you’re less likely to clean your plate if your stomach is already brimming with water, plus you’ll digest your food more effectively and steer clear of bloating.
As great as a Snickers bar probably sounds at about 3:00 PM, that won’t keep you feeling full until you get home for dinner. When snack time rolls around, reach for foods that are high in fiber and protein. These will prevent you from overeating when you’re starving later in the evening and keep your calorie consumption more evenly dispersed throughout the day.
Need help in the filling snack area?
Sometimes, your brain needs to catch up with your stomach before it can send signals saying “I’m full, stop eating!” That’s why it’s smart to put your fork down once you feel about 80 percent full. This will give your brain the chance to assess your appetite and decide if you’re satisfied. You might be surprised by how often you decide you don’t really want a second helping, even when you initially thought you did.
A big part of eating the right amount of food each day is thinking about your meals in advance. If you know you’ll indulge in a fair amount of greasy food at dinner with your friends tonight, have a lighter lunch and monitor your portion sizes during the evening. When you go to an extravagant brunch on a Sunday morning, don’t force yourself to eat a normal dinner like you usually would. Listen to your body and prepare for certain meals accordingly to avoid feeling stuffed at the end of the day.
Need help getting started with meal planning?
Read What to Eat to Slim Down.
As with any habit, overeating is not easy to quit. You won’t stop eating until your stomach feels tight right away, but as you work on planning your meals and read your hunger cues, you’ll find that your body feels healthier overall.