New year diet on the cards? If you're worried you won't quite make it, you're not alone – studies show most people abandon their new healthy eating plans within two weeks of starting.
But don’t despair, there are plenty of clever little tricks to stop yourself overeating.
Dietitian Dr Carrie Ruxton says: “Once you’ve got into the habit of overeating, it’s difficult to make long-lasting changes without feeling hungry all the time.
“However, by taking small steps and trying lots of different approaches, you can succeed in controlling calories.”
Here are 10 tips to help prevent overeating:
1. Take a minute
If you feel peckish, be strong and wait for a few minutes, distracting yourself by doing something that’s not food-related. Often the urge to eat will disappear, especially if you’re not really hungry. Similarly, delay having second portions or dessert.
“Our fullness mechanism takes time to kick in, so eat more slowly and take a break after your first course. It may be that you don’t feel hungry enough for seconds,” advises Ruxton.
2. Eat slowly
Remember the age-old advice to sip water between bites and chew food thoroughly before swallowing. US research has shown it takes at least 12 minutes for food satisfaction signals to reach the brain of a thin person, but 20 or more minutes for an obese person, so eating slowly gives these important messages more time to reach the brain.
3. Be aware
Don’t nibble at your desk or while you’re driving. When people are distracted or hurried the food (and calories) eaten won’t register in the brain, so more is eaten than it should be.
4. Petite plates
Use a smaller plate – your brain registers whether the portion size is big enough to satisfy you, and if the plate’s smaller the meal will appear bigger. Ruxton says studies have shown this helps obese patients control calories and weight.
5. Choose big foods
Try to avoid calorie-laden food that has very little volume - like chocolate! Instead, opt for high-fibre and high-protein foods, like porridge or wholemeal bread, which look bigger on the plate and will fill you up without filling you with calories too.
Fill up on vegetables and fruit. “Hunger responds to volume, not calories,” explains Ruxton, “so by filling up your plate and stomach with two to three portions of vegetables or fruit, you can trick your body into being satisfied.”
7. Smooth snacks
Buy a smoothie maker, or if you’ve already got one, keep it on the side near your fruit bowl to make it easier to whip up a healthy and filling drink.
8. Scoff salad first
Start buffet meals with plenty of salad to help fill you up with nutritious, lower-calorie food.
9. Little and often
Waiting too long to eat can send you on an emergency hunt for food without the willpower to make healthy choices. Try to eat a small amount regularly – every four to five hours – to keep your blood sugar and energy stable, but make sure you’re snacking on healthy food like fruit, or a handful of unsalted nuts which will fill you up and fill you with goodness too.
10. Keep treats at a safe distance
Keep temptation out of the way by making sure there are no sweet treats in the house.
Ruxton says: “If you need to walk to the corner shop to gorge on sweets, you’re far less likely to do it. Keeping lots of treats in the house is a recipe for disaster for overeaters.”