How to Eat Less: 5 Tips that Really Works

If you want to eat less, you need to know why you’re eating too much in the first place. Here are five tips that can really help you to eat less but won’t leave you feeling hungry.

Eating less food, obviously, is a key strategy when it comes to losing weight. But promising yourself that you’re going to eat less is like promising yourself that you’re going to floss more. It’s just too vague. You can plan to eat less (or floss more), but that’s just not specific enough. You have to know exactly what steps you’re going to take.

5 Ideas to Help You Eat Less Food

When it comes to solving a problem like how to eat less, you first have to identify the obstacles that are getting in your way. You can’t eat less if you don’t know what’s causing you to eat more. So, you need to take a good look at your own behavior to figure out what’s causing you to eat too much in the first place. Here are some of the most common reasons that people eat more than they should—and some fixes that really can help you to eat less.

1. You get distracted

This is probably one of the most common reasons that people eat too much: they focus on everything but their meal. If you eat while watching television, surfing the ‘net or driving, you’re paying absolutely no attention to what’s on your plate—or how much.

The Fix: Set aside about 20 minutes just to eat—not “I’ll eat lunch while I catch up on my email”—and really focus on how your food looks, tastes and smells. If you’re at home, put whatever you’re eating on a plate (even if it’s takeout), set it on a place mat and turn on some music. Those extra touches can make your meal more enjoyable and more satisfying, even when you eat less.

2. You serve yourself too much

How to eat less: 5 tips that really workMost of us tend to eat whatever amount we’re served, whether it’s a little or a lot. If you load up your plate with a huge portion, there’s a good chance that you’ll eat it all. To eat less, the process starts the moment the serving spoon hits your plate.

The Fix: Try putting about 20% less food on your plate than you normally would. It’s just enough to shave off a reasonable number of calories, but it’s not so much that you’ll feel as if you’re depriving yourself. Try using a smaller plate, or a smaller bowl, to help you control your portion size.

3. You get too hungry

If your strategy for eating less means that you just postpone meals and snacks as long as you can, it may backfire on you. When you skip meals, you probably won’t eat less overall. Instead, you’ll just get overly hungry and overeat when you finally get the chance.

The Fix: You don’t necessarily have to eat on a schedule, but your body will let you know when it needs fuel. For most people that happens about every 3-4 hours. Plan not only what you’re going to eat for meals, but think about healthy snacks, too. And try to include a bit of protein each time you eat to take advantage of its staying power.

4. You’re stressed

The problem with stress eating is twofold: not only do you wind up taking in calories you don’t need, but stress eating often doesn’t actually make you feel any better. So, the trick here is finding other ways to deal with the stress.

The Fix: When you feel an emotional food binge coming on, put your feelings down on paper. It can help you to pinpoint your eating triggers, and it also puts the brakes on for a minute or two. That’s often long enough to delay the urge to splurge. It’s been said time and again, but one of the best strategies for dealing with emotional eating is to find other ways to deal with your stress. Call a friend, take a walk or make yourself a cup of tea. Take a moment to reflect on your feelings without judgment. It’s okay to be lonely or bored sometimes.

5. You eat too fast

How to eat less: 5 tips that really workFast eaters know all too well that it takes a little while for your brain to register that your stomach is full. In fact, it’s usually about 20 minutes. That’s why when you eat a huge meal really quickly you might feel okay at first—but positively stuffed a few minutes later.

The Fix: You could try eating in front of a mirror (some people swear that’s what finally broke them of the fast-eating habit), but it’s probably more practical to use some other tried-and-true tactics. Eating quickly often goes hand-in-hand with eating while distracted. So, take note: eating in courses works well. Try having your salad or your veggies first. Rather than sitting down with everything at once, you can begin to fill up on the lower calorie elements of your meal before moving on to the main course. Practice taking smaller bites (that mirror might come in handy here), and put your utensils down between bites. If you’re eating something that needs to be cut up, like a chicken breast, cut it up as you go. And include plenty of high-fiber foods in your meals, too. They’re not only filling, they also require more chewing which can help slow you down.

Written by Susan Bowerman, M.S., RD, CSSD, CSOWM, FAND – Senior Director, Worldwide Nutrition Education and Training

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