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What Is Overeating? How to Control Your Portions

Portion control is an essential component of a healthy lifestyle. But you might wonder how to put the idea into practice. What is overeating? How can you stop?

To maintain a healthy diet, it’s important to recognize signs you’ve eaten too much and learn to limit portion sizes.

What Is Overeating?

Overeating refers to eating more calories than your body uses for energy. People sometimes overeat for emotional or psychological reasons, such as boredom, anxiety, depression, or stress.

To figure out whether you’re eating too much, first review the correct amount of daily calories needed for your weight, age, metabolism, physical activity level, and gender. For instance, a 150-pound woman who works out regularly needs more calories than a woman of the same size who rarely exercises. You can learn the right amount for you by checking out the latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

Overeating can lead to a host of health problems, including obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. That’s why it’s important to get your food portions under control.

Signs You’ve Eaten Too Much

Ask yourself how you feel after eating. Are you uncomfortable and bloated? Stomach discomfort — feeling gassy and/or swollen — is a major sign of overeating. Also, if you overeat, you may feel embarrassed or distressed after finishing a meal. People who overeat may feel that they lack control over what and how much they consume. A history of failed diets could also indicate that you struggle with overeating.

Frequent overeating may indicate binge eating disorder (BED). Common signs of BED include eating faster than normal, eating until you’re uncomfortably full, eating alone often, or consuming large amounts of food when you’re not hungry.

If you regularly notice signs you’ve eaten too much, it may help to work with your doctor or dietitian to make healthier meal plan.

How to Stop Overeating

Now that you’ve answered the “am I overeating?” question, it’s time to take action. An initial step is keeping track of what you eat. Record you meals and snacks — including when, why, and how much you eat — to help control your food portions. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDKD) recommends reading food labels to check calories per serving, along with creating a food tracker. This tracker can be kept on your phone, as part of an online calendar, or in a notebook. It will help you discover the details of your eating habits and note your progress.

The NIDDKD offers these tips for managing portions at home:

  • Eat one serving, according to the food label or recipe
  • Eat your food slowly to let your brain get the message that your stomach is full
  • Exchange large plates and glasses for smaller ones to help you eat and drink less
  • Fill your plate with mostly low-calorie foods and foods low in saturated fat
  • Eat your meals at the same times every day — eating at different times or skipping meals may lead to overeating later in the day

Also watch your portions at restaurants, which tend to serve more food than you need. Share a meal with a friend, avoid buffets, skip the bread and chips, or simply choose healthier, lighter food options on the menu.

Am I Overeating Without Thinking?

Experts say it’s easy to overeat while watching a TV show or a movie because you’re distracted. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends putting a serving of food or snacks in a container before you start watching to make sure you don’t consume more than you planned. Avoid snacking straight out of a bag or package.