Self-control is a struggle for many people, especially when it comes to food.
Eating too much in one sitting or taking in too many calories throughout the day are common habits that can be hard to break.
Over time, eating too much food can lead to weight gain and put you at risk of chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease.
Plus, it can hold you back from reaching your health and wellness goals and may negatively impact your emotional well-being.
Although breaking the cycle of overeating can be challenging, there are ways to kick this unhealthy habit for good.
1. Get Rid of Distractions
Whether it’s working through lunch in front of the computer or noshing on chips while you catch up on your favorite television show, eating while distracted is a common occurrence for most people.
While this habit might seem harmless, it may be causing you to overeat.
A review of 24 studies found that being distracted during a meal led people to consume more calories at that meal. It also caused them to eat more food later in the day compared to people who paid attention to their food while eating.
SUMMARY Make an effort to turn off or put away potential distractions like phones, computers and magazines so you can concentrate on your meal. It will help you eat less and prevent overeating.
2. Know Your Weaknesses
Pinpointing which foods you have a particularly hard time limiting can help you decrease your chances of overeating.
For example, if you have a habit of eating a large bowl of ice cream every night, stop keeping ice cream in your freezer.
Preparing healthy options like a sliced apple with peanut butter, hummus and veggies, or homemade trail mix can help you make better choices when you are hankering for a treat.
Another helpful tip is to keep unhealthy snack foods like chips, candy and cookies out of sight so that you aren’t tempted to grab a handful every time you walk past.
SUMMARY Identify the unhealthy foods you can’t resist. Keep them out of your home or far out of sight, and make healthy options easily accessible instead.
3. Don’t Ban All Your Favorite Foods
Restrictive eating patterns that cut out many of your favorite foods may cause you to feel deprived and drive you to binge on forbidden treats.
Diets that concentrate on whole, unprocessed foods are always best, but making room for an occasional treat is perfectly healthy.
Swearing that you will never have a scoop of ice cream, slice of pizza or piece of chocolate again is not realistic for most people.
Instead, focus on providing your body with mostly healthy, nutritious food while also giving yourself the freedom to truly enjoy a treat here and there.
SUMMARY Eating patterns that are too restrictive may drive you to binge. The key to a sustainable, healthy diet is to concentrate on eating whole, unprocessed foods most of the time, while allowing yourself a treat here and there.
4. Give Volumetrics a Try
Volumetrics is a way of eating that focuses on filling up with low-calorie, high-fiber foods like non-starchy vegetables.
Consuming foods that are low in calories and high in fiber and water before meals can help you feel full so that you aren’t tempted to overeat.
Examples of volumetrics-friendly foods include grapefruit, salad greens, broccoli, beans, tomatoes and low-sodium broth.
Eating a large salad or a bowl of low-sodium, broth-based soup before lunch and dinner may be an effective way to prevent overeating.
SUMMARY Use the volumetrics method of eating — fill up on healthy, low-calorie, high-fiber foods to help you feel full. You’ll be less likely to overindulge on unhealthy foods.
5. Avoid Eating From Containers
Eating chips out of the bag, ice cream out of the carton or takeout straight from the box can lead you to consume more food than you need.
Instead, portion out a single serving size on a plate or in a bowl to help control the number of calories you are consuming.
To train your eye, try measuring out serving sizes for a week or two until you know what a normal portion should look like.
SUMMARY Instead of eating food straight from the package, portion it into a dish. Try measuring out appropriate serving sizes to help train your eye to identify how much food is right for you.
6. Reduce Stress
Stress can lead to overeating, so it’s important to find ways to reduce the amount of stress in your life.
Chronic stress drives up levels of cortisol, a hormone that increases appetite. Studies have shown that being stressed can lead to overeating, increased hunger, binge eating and weight gain (2).
There are many simple ways to reduce your everyday stress levels. Consider using yoga, listening to music, meditation, exercise and breathing techniques.
SUMMARY Stress can lead to overeating, so reducing the stress in your everyday life is one important step you can take to stop this downward spiral.
7. Practice Mindful Eating
Adopting mindful eating techniques is one of the best ways to prevent overeating.
The practice of mindful eating stresses the importance of focusing on the present moment and being aware of your thoughts, emotions and senses while consuming food.
Eating more slowly, taking small bites, chewing thoroughly, being aware of your senses and appreciating your food are all simple mindfulness practices you can incorporate into your daily routine.
SUMMARY The practice of mindful eating has been shown to help reduce binge eating behaviors. Mindful eating focuses on being aware of your thoughts and senses while eating.
8. Eat Fiber-Rich Foods
Choosing foods that are rich in fiber like beans, vegetables, oats and fruit can help keep you feeling satisfied longer and reduce the urge to overeat.
For example, one study found that people who ate fiber-rich oatmeal for breakfast felt fuller and ate less at lunch than those who consumed cornflakes for breakfast.
Snacking on nuts, adding beans to your salad and eating vegetables at every meal may help reduce the amount of food you consume.
SUMMARY Add fiber-rich foods to your diet to keep yourself feeling satisfied for longer. Studies show this may help reduce the urge to overeat.
9. Eat Regular Meals
When attempting to lose weight, many people cut out meals in the hope that it will decrease the number of calories they take. For example, some people may skip lunch to restrict calories, only to find themselves overeating at dinner. However, eating a balanced lunch may actually help reduce the chances of eating too much later in the day.
SUMMARY Skipping meals may cause you to eat more later in the day. Instead, focus on keeping yourself feeling satisfied by eating balanced meals made with whole foods.
10. Keep a Food Journal
Keeping track of what you eat in a food diary or mobile app may help reduce overeating.
Many studies have shown that using self-monitoring techniques like keeping a food diary may help with weight loss.
SUMMARY Studies have shown that tracking your food intake may help you lose weight. It will also help you become more aware of your habits.
11. Dine With Like-Minded Friends
The food choices of your dining companions may have more impact on your food intake than you realize.
Numerous studies have found that people’s food choices are heavily influenced by the people they eat with.
You may tend to eat similar amounts as those around you, so dining out with friends who overeat may cause you to overeat as well (8).
Plus, studies have shown that a person is more inclined to order unhealthy options if their dining partner does.
Choosing to eat with family and friends who have similar health goals can help you stay on track and reduce your chances of overeating.
SUMMARY Who you eat with may majorly impact your food choices. Try to dine with people who also want to eat healthy meals in moderate portions.
12. Fill up on Protein
Protein helps keep you full throughout the day and can decrease the desire to overeat.
For example, eating a high-protein breakfast has been shown to reduce hunger and snacking later in the day (10).
Choosing a protein-rich breakfast like eggs tends to lower levels of ghrelin, a hormone that stimulates hunger.
Adding higher-protein snacks such as Greek yogurt to your routine can also help you eat less throughout the day and keep hunger under control.
SUMMARY Eating protein-rich foods may help you stave off hunger and cravings. Starting the day with a high-protein breakfast can also help fight hunger later in the day.
13. Stabilize Your Blood Sugar Levels
Eating white bread, cookies, candy and other carbohydrates with high glycemic indexes will likely cause your blood sugar levels to spike, then fall quickly.
This rapid blood sugar fluctuation has been shown to promote hunger and can lead to overeating.
Choosing foods with lower glycemic indexes will help prevent blood sugar spikes and may reduce overeating. Beans, oats and brown rice are all great options.
SUMMARY Eat foods that help keep your blood sugar levels constant. High-glycemic foods like candy and white bread can make your blood sugar spike then drop, which may lead to overeating. Instead, choose foods like beans, oats and brown rice.
14. Eat slowly
Eating too quickly may cause you to overeat and can lead to weight gain over time.
Slower paced eating is associated with increased fullness and decreased hunger, and can serve as a useful tool for controlling overeating.
Taking the time to thoroughly chew food has also been shown to reduce overall food intake and increase feelings of fullness.
SUMMARY Focusing on eating more slowly and chewing your food thoroughly may help you recognize signs of fullness and may reduce overeating.
15. Watch Your Alcohol Intake
Drinking alcohol may cause you to overeat by lowering your inhibitions and stimulating your appetite.
While having a drink or two with a meal won’t have a huge effect, having several drinks in one sitting may lead to increased levels of hunger.
Cutting back on the amount of alcohol you drink may be a good way to minimize overeating.
SUMMARY Studies show that drinking several drinks in one sitting may lead you to overeat. Instead, stick to just one or two drinks, or forgo drinking alcohol entirely.
16. Plan Ahead
If you’re not prepared when hunger strikes, you’re more likely to make poor food choices that can lead you to overeat.
If you’re forced to purchase meals and snacks at the last minute from restaurants, you’re more likely to make unhealthy choices and eat more than you should.
Instead, keep healthy snacks on hand, pack home-cooked lunches and stock your fridge with healthy options so you can prepare dinner at home.
These strategies will help you decrease overeating. Plus, making more meals at home can save you money and time.
SUMMARY The more prepared you are to eat healthily, the less likely you are to overeat. Keep your fridge and pantry stocked with healthy, filling foods.
17. Replace Sugary Beverages With Water
Drinking sugary beverages like soda and juice could lead to weight gain and increase your risk of certain diseases like diabetes (19).
Studies have shown that consuming sweetened drinks with meals may be linked to overeating as well.
A review of 17 studies found that adults who drank sugar-sweetened beverages with meals consumed 7.8% more food than adults who consumed water with meals (20).
Choosing water or unsweetened fruit juice over sweetened beverages may help reduce overeating.
SUMMARY Avoid sugary beverages. They’ve been linked to an increased risk of diabetes and other diseases, and may also be linked to overeating. Drink water instead.
18. Check in With Yourself
Do you find yourself heading to the kitchen and checking the fridge a little too often?
If you overeat even when you are not hungry, it may be a good idea to take a minute and check in with yourself to understand why you have the urge to eat.
Depression and boredom are two common issues that have been linked to the urge to overeat.
Luckily, there are actions you can take to break the cycle. For example, try taking on a new activity you enjoy. It may help prevent boredom and distract you from the urge to nibble.
If you believe depression may be driving your overeating, seek out a mental health professional for guidance. They can help you get back on track.
SUMMARY Ask yourself why you’re overeating and address the issues behind the behavior. Depression and boredom are two common reasons. If you think you’re experiencing depression, seek out a mental health professional for guidance.
19. Ditch the Diet Mentality
Short-term, restrictive diets may lead to rapid weight loss, but are often unsustainable and can set you up for failure.
Instead, make long-term lifestyle changes that promote health and wellness. It’s the best way to create a balanced relationship with food and prevent habits like overeating. Find a sustainable way of eating what nourishes your body and helps you reach optimal health.
20. Break Old Habits
Habits can be hard to break, especially when they involve food.
Many people get into comfortable routines, like eating dinner in front of the TV or having a bowl of ice cream every night.
It may take time to identify unhealthy behaviors that lead you to overeat and replace them with new, healthy habits, but it’s well worth the effort.
For example, make it a point to eat at the dinner table instead of in front of the TV, or replace your nightly bowl of ice cream with a hot cup of tea. These replacements will become healthy habits over time. Identify your unhealthy habits and gradually replace them with new, more positive behaviors.
21. Eat Healthy Fats
Although high-fat foods are often associated with weight gain and overeating, choosing foods rich in healthy fats can actually help you eat less.
Several studies have shown that adults who consume high-fat, low-carb diets are less hungry three to four hours after meals and lose more weight over time than people who consume diets high in carbs and low in fat (23, 24).
22. Keep Your Goals in Mind
Setting short- and long-term goals and referring to them often may help you stay on track and reduce the urge to overeat.
23. Knowing why you want to stop
Overeating and how overeating is keeping you from reaching your health and wellness goals can motivate you to break this unhealthy habit.
The Bottom Line is many people struggle with overeating. Fortunately, there are many ways to take back control of your eating habits, for example, try adding more protein to your meals, implementing mindful eating techniques and reducing your stress levels.
Certified dietitians and Nutritionist can also provide counseling and guidance to help you get back on track.
Overeating can be a hard habit to break, but you can do it. Use these tips to help yourself establish a new, healthy routine, and make sure to seek professional help if you need it.