Day 16: Stop Overeating Part 1 | 30-Day Weight Loss-athon

Today we hit Day 16 and start the second half of the 30-Day Weight Loss-athon.

All tasks in the 30-Day Weight Loss-athon are adapted from the 52 Weight Loss Missions program.

Read the steps first, then take 10 minutes to think about them and take action. Ready?

What You Need:

Step 1

For most of us with extra weight, overeating plays a role. For some of us, it’s the star of the show.

So I’m going to help you to stop overeating – but without willpower, self-recrimination, obsessiveness, or a Silence of The Lambs mask.

Instead, today we’ll look at ways to reduce your portion sizes so you don’t mindlessly eat more than you need. Tomorrow we’ll deal with some of the causes of automatic eating, and consider ways to break free.

(Remember the 52 Weight Loss Missions sample you downloaded? Today’s and tomorrow’s tasks are drawn from Mission 14: Stop Overeating.)

As our first step, if you need convincing that eating mindlessly leads you to eat more, flip through Brian Wansink’s Mindless Eating. You’ll read dozens of experiments showing how switching your mind off turns your tendency to overeat on.

But I suspect most of us are already convinced.

Step 2

So we need to find ways to:

  • Be more mindful when we eat
  • Make it harder to overeat when we aren’t being mindful.

Here are some of the strategies that have worked for me:

  • Put food on a plate rather than eating out of a container – so you can see how much you’re eating
  • Use table linen, a napkin, perhaps a candle – it will make you want to enjoy and savor your meal
  • Use a smaller bowl or plate – it will feel like a larger serving
  • Use smaller utensils – eg a small spoon instead of a large one
  • Eat as a family or with others – stopping to talk can slow down your eating and give your brain time to register when you’re no longer hungry
  • After serving yourself, put leftovers away immediately – if you’re really still hungry you can get the food back out; if not, there’s a barrier to make you stop and think
  • Enjoy your food – savor the taste and texture
  • Eat slowly – chew your food thoroughly so you extract the nutrients and give your brain time to register when you’ve had enough.
  • Make peace with leaving food on your plate – you can dispose of it in the bin or on your hips; which would you prefer?
  • Eat regularly – every 3-4 hours – so you’re never ravenous and out of control (which we address in Mission 49: Recognize Start And Stop Hunger Signals).

The following ideas might also help – though I confess they haven’t worked for me.

  • If you eat alone, avoid distractions like TV, the web, or reading (this one is hard and I can’t do it; if you can, great)
  • Hold your eating utensil in your non-dominant hand so you’re reminded to slow down
  • Eat the healthier, lower-calorie foods on your plate first – if you feel full before you’re done, you’ll have gained the best nutrition bang for your calorie buck
  • Only eat in one or two places, ideally just in the dining room – not your bedroom, the bathtub or at your desk.

Choose the strategies you’re going to try.

Bonus Step For 52 Weight Loss Missions Members

Revisit Mission 49: Recognize Start And Stop Hunger Signals for strategies to help you manage hunger signals and avoid binging.

Step 3

For each strategy you’ve chosen, complete whatever action you need to take.

For example:

  • Dig out your pretty tableware, table linen, candlesticks, etc
  • Write post-it reminders to put away leftovers, eat slowly, only eat in certain rooms, etc
  • Set alarms on your phone to remind you to eat more regularly.

Mindless eating is a trap we all fall into at times. But with these strategies, it doesn’t have to be a habit.

Which of these strategies will you use?

Check in!

And you’re done!

Be sure to leave your comment below to check in and stay accountable. If you’re reading this by email or in a reader then please click here to leave your comment.

See you tomorrow!

Michele Connolly

Michele Connolly helps people move from procrastination to action. She believes that taking action on your priorities makes you a happier person. Michele is the founder of Get Organized Wizard and creator of tools for business, home, and personal organization. Her programs are used by tens of thousands of people worldwide.

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  • With eating I feel my problem is usually not that I over eat at meals but I skip meals and then snack on the wrong things all day long. I’m working hard to eat regular meals and stop with the mindless snacking. I feel I’ve made progress and the My pal fitness app has been helpful to me to see what I’m eating. I like to be organized I just never thought about organizing what I’m eating. I’m enjoining it, and I feel better about what I’m eating.

  • Going to watch what I eat and how much and where I eat. I usually sit in my easy chair in front of the TV. Need to make some changes, You Think! Going to give it a try! 🙂

  • Am practicing the “small”plate idea– works well. Now that we are settling back into our own home, we are eating all meals at the table. (My mom would be proud- she brought us up to eat at the table with napkins, etc). Even used the good China for Sunday dinner. Do need to work on drinking LOTs of water– do well in AM but find myself slacking off later in the day.

  • already making my choice to eat at the table instead of tv and my husband is joining me. I have always put leftovers away straight away. I like your idea of eating with the non dominant hand and eating lower calorie food first. too late to try that today but its on the list for tomorrow. worn off today’s calories helping with a new born and 2 year old. back to the treadmill tomorrow first thing.

  • I love the ideas of using a smaller plate and utensils. I will start doing that!

  • I will set my alarmon my phone to remind me to eat more regularly to reduce snacking!

  • I have really taken the eating only what you love to heart. I know that you applied this to dessert but I am applying it to all my foods. I don’t want losing weight to be about deprivation, so after I read that challenge applied it to everything I eat. I am only going to eat foods I love. That also included the vegetables I love and so on, and you know it hasn’t been that hard for me to keep it to portion sizes. So what I have been doing is drinking a full glass of water then eating the lower calorie foods first then I eat the higher calorie foods, leaving behind if I am full and I lost weight last week!

  • Even though we went to a fancy Italian (read very generous serving sizes) restaurant with friends for dinner last week I didn’t feel compelled to finish my meal. The restaurant is more than happy to supply doggy bags (anyone remember those?) so DH enjoyed my leftovers for his lunch the next day. I’ve already embraced conscious eating so when out last night yes, I had a couple of chocolates, but I enjoyed them slowly instead of shoving them down my throat as fast as I could.

  • I tend to overeat at functions where they have buffets, I just want to have a taste of EVERYTHING and it ends up being too much – I have to choose one or two absolute favourites and just stick to small serves of those. I also tend to skip meals due to a busy workload and our worklace doesn’t have anywhere to eat other than our desks but just switching off the email & putting on the Do Not Disturb on the phone for half an hour will be my action for this task.

  • Being a homeschooling mom, I have very little time just to me. Reading while I eat is such an escape mechanism, but I only get it at breakfast and if the boys haven’t gotten up yet:-) I just make sure that I have portioned out my meal and put away all food items before sitting to eat. That helps keep me from getting more to eat than I am allowed to have. I still have to work on portion control, but hey, day 16 and I have done better this month, so I have hope.

  • I guess where I usually over eat is when I make mash potatoes, trying them as I mash them and eventually having more than I should. I used to do that also while making cake or cookies also but I am doing much better. Already changed the size of my plates, took smaller plate for meals and it works. I use self control now and it works:)

  • I enjoy eating, and the suggestions from such sites as RealAge and eDiets have helped me to find foods I could enjoy and feel filled. For several years, I’ve used a salad/dessert plate when eating at home, and at restaurants I usually take food home rather than eating all I order. I’ve learned during my first week using My Fitness Pal that when I’m at home I’m more obsessed with eating, and this signals that I need to find other actions to take rather than snacking.

  • Bought some smaller plates for DH and I to use with the correct ratio of carbs, meat & vegs printed on.

  • Many of us have grown up with that clean your plate mentality, and that is the one I’m going to really focus on, if I’m satisfied, then I’m done, whether there is still food on the plate or not. The smaller plates and bowls will be helpful too.

  • I already use the small plates, but I definatly eat mindlessly at work. Must address that and work on it. I also struggle with over eating when we go out. It isn’t everyday, but often enough to be a problem. I WILL cut my food in half to take home and I WILL stop when I feel full. No more “so sick I over ate” feeling for me!

  • I read the Mindless Eating book because of your suggestion. It was an eye opener to see how easy it is to over eat. I feel like I have been doing a good job paying more attention to what I put in my mouth. Just wish I were seeing better results.

  • I’m happy with my portion sizes for all my main meals, my downfall is the snacking in between meals, not every day but just when I am stressed or feeling down. I just need to focus on my real motivators and try to stop that snacking just for the sake of eating.

  • Keeping a food journal has been a great help against mindless eating. I think that was my main enemy. It’s on my iPad, so it is easy for me to see how my eating is calculated in calories. I am using my scale to help me understand portions too.

  • that’s part of my problem, I don’t eat much junk food at all or much fried food as I get sick after it, but I tend to eat too much of the good stuff, drinking water before meals as well as having something to do with my hands, Crochet, cross stitch etc ( god I sound like a granny) is making me eat less, and not having temptations really helps.

  • Now that I measure everything out and keep track of what I eat on My Fitness Pal app I find I don’t overeat anymore. Seeing how many calories are on my plate and how many I have for the day is a huge deterrent for me. Bite it, write it.

  • I overeat mostly when we eat out, and we eat out a lot. I have much more control when I eat at home. Its also harder to find healthy foods when we eat out. I will work on eating at home more where I have more control, smaller plates, and smaller utensils. Great suggestions. Thank you.

  • Although I haven’t checked in each day, the reminders have all been read and I have found them encouraging. I’ve seen a loss of over 4 pounds! NB eating in the bathroomm! ok that’s one I don’t have a problem with lol.

  • I already use smaller dishes, put food away when a meal is over, and eat frequently. The ones I’ll try to add is eating more slowly and savoring my food – really tasting it instead of just consuming it!

  • I overeat. I wish I didn’t. This is something I really struggle with. I like these suggestions as well, and seriously need to put these to use. I don’t want to overeat anymore. Our stomachs weren’t designed for that. That’s what I believe.

  • I’m going to put everything on a plate so I can see exactly what & how much I’m eating and I’m going to start eating with my left hand- it’ll force me to slow down. I have a real tendency to eat too fast.

  • I overeat if I have not planned my meals and have found success if I plan and buy ingredients for the following 3 days only. you will be amazed how much cheaper it is and you can often eat for up to five days with your ingredients.

  • We are going to commit to eating at the dining room table. I’m also dusting off my good scale to better track portion size and calories.

  • I have already started eating on a smaller plate but I think I may start putting the leftovers away right away too!

  • Working on eating mindfully. I am also tracking what I eat again so I can’t fool myself.

  • we switched from the dinner plates to using the salad plates instead, it does help keep the portions down.

  • My problem isn’t over eating at meals, but all the grazing in between meals. That is what I need to cut out.

  • Eat more regularly. Post-it notes~Love those things! Eating only at the table and off a plate or bowl.

  • I am certainly going to try these suggestions.

  • love the idea of setting the table, eating mindfully, no TV.And eat veg first! All these tips are so easy, yet we don’t do them.Back to wholesome, eating and taking real care of ourselves….

  • I love the idea of setting the table, eating mindfully, no TV.And eat veg first! All these tips are so easy, yet we don’t do them.Back to wholesome, eating and taking real care of ourselves….

  • I did read these earlier in the week and have been following, today is just my first chance to “check-in”. I have bought a really pretty vinyl/flannel backed tablecloth because it was more practical with the kids, I have a center piece for the table and have been making a concerted effort to eat there for meals. I have also started to plan my meals, my biggest downfall to overeating has always been not planning and then eating everything in site for hours because I’m starving. So far So good.

  • Amazingly I already knew most of this trick which I practise, eat at the family table (not in front of tv) use smaller plates, smaller forks, etc. I think that I will start having my own food diary to become more conscious of what and when I eat.

  • I have some new serving spoons from Weight Watchers that I am now using. I figured out that I was using 2 cups of food instead of 1. I have cut back to 1 1/2 cups and heading towards 1 cup!

  • Doing most of the above already. Just have to portion control the foods I like!

  • Hello to everyone: Yippee! Your half way through this program; hooray! You’re doing great. Stay on track and you’ll do even better. Remember, food portions are the size of your fist. If you’re a large eater, cut your portion sizes each day until you make to fist size or weekly if absolutely necessary. If you do get hungry later on reach for a healthy snack or fruit. I’m proud of all of you. Keep up the good work and continue to post to be accountable.

  • Eating regularly and using smaller plates and bowls works really well for me. I find it almost impossible to avoid distractions while eating, but I need to work on it so that I can concentrate on eating slowly and enjoying my food more thoroughly.

  • My Dr has had me on a plan where I eat at least every 4 hours for years. I really need that cuz I get very light headed if I don’t…or if I eat carbs alone. We eat dinner late, so I save the fruit from lunch & add some walnuts for protein or I eat puppadums & hummus, which is pure protein. Helps me skip seconds at dinner, too.

  • I do very well while I’m at work, since I have to plan my meals/snacks ahead of time. However, in the evening it is a little more difficult. I’m putting the leftovers away, and I’m trying to eat slower. I have a 1 year old, so the last year has been eating fast just to eat. Now it is time to slow down. I even decided I would eat at my mother’s pace the next time we eat a meal with them. She is so slow, but it would do me some good to do the same.

  • Switching to smaller plates has REALLY made a big difference. I am more aware of the quantity of food I eat at mealtimes, and avoid seconds…I may sometimes wait an hour or more, if I’m still hungry, I’ll have some fruit. Logging down everything also helps me make healthier decisions…I went grocery shopping and did not pick up any chips, cookies, treats…etc. Yeah for me!

  • Great ideas! I have tried some of them, but not, “not eating with my non-dominat hand.” I am going to give that a try today! I am sure, I will need to wear a bib, for the first few days. LOL! They don’t call it non-dominat for nothing. I am also looking forward to eating the healty foods first! That just makes sense! I think, the one that I need to do most, is eating at more regular times. I get busy, and forget to eat, and by the time my body reminds me, that I am hungry… it is demanding, FEED ME NOW! <3 : ).

  • A strategy a friend of mine uses to resist left overs when dining out is putting a napkin on the plate so she won’t see the food!
    I guess I need:
    – a set of tableware.
    – collecting candles I have and moving them to the dining room!
    – eating in the dining room, not the kitchen!
    – Prepare a sheet of paper reminding me of: Eating times, drinking water, and exercise. Maybe make a small scrapbook for it for fun!
    – set daily small rewards for not eating out of the allowed food menu!

  • Amy, that’s my problem ditto! If I eat small things evry 2 hours I feel much better and have more control because I am not super hungry. 🙂 (In a perfect world) As the economy got worse I put a measuring cup with our cereal. I told the boys to use the scoop. Its a serving size.

  • I love this! Nutrition is definitely where I have the most challenge with weight loss. The things I know I can do better is planning as well as eating at the table (I tend to eat in front of the TV or computer most of the time).

  • I have put my smaller plates closer than my bigger ones, and have small containers that I portion food into before putting it away. That way when hunger comes, it is already measured into small portions and I am not tempted to eat as much as I want from a large container.

  • I’ve been bought up to eat what’s on your plate ( as a child my parents didn’t have much money) and now as an adult it’s been in-trenched into my eating habits so that I feel guilty if anything is left on the plate. At the moment I’m trying to teach myself that if I can’t finish everything on the plate to put it in the fridge/container.

  • This one is hard. I usually eat healthier food, but too much of it. I will concentrate on spending time enjoying more vegetables and fruit, not just plowing through because they are “healthy”.

  • I have the same problem as Amy Egley Seville. I am not consistent with meals (esp. lunch). I need to snack on the right things. The last few days I’ve been making fruit shakes, and they really fill me up.

  • Eating smaller servings every 2 1/2 – 3 hrs makes the biggest difference in my energy level & keeps me from bingeing.

  • With my new eating I don’t have the urge to eat mindlessly. I have to cook my food from scratch. It’s really hard to over eat veggies and fruit!

  • I do quite a few of these regularly; however, some of these seem fun… I think I might dig out some candles and have a nice relaxing dinner tonight 🙂

  • I tend to snarf my meals… a habit I learned from my daddy. I love the idea of eating with my left hand and also to eat all my veggies first!

  • Decided this weekend to start eating every 3 hours. I like the table linen idea to make a meal feel special. I also need to work on eating s-l-o-w-l-y…so hard for me.

  • Definitely a problem, but working on slowing down when I eat and not taking such large portions. Drinking water before the meal and eating lots of fresh vegetables.

  • Have been using a small plate for a couple of years now and it really does help.

  • I’m going with portion control. I’m eating as a substitute for smoking,not because I love eating.

  • Checking in late. Thanks for all the good and helpful tips!

  • I definately get a hunger zombie if I don’t eat after a certain time. I go crazy and just need to eat. No one had better get in my way at that point 🙂

  • Me too, Janice Byrd Godfrey.

  • I hoard food… as in I hate to leave anything on the plate. We were really short on money for a while and went hungry so this is hard for me to throw food away.

  • I’m trying to slow down when I eat, so I hold hands with my husband between bites.

  • I like the line “you can dispose of it in the bin or on your hips; which would you prefer?”

  • I frequently eat in front of the computer ~ going to attempt to stop that.

  • It’s all about tricking myself, I have done it before, I can do it again.

  • Portion size is a big one…gotta work on that!

  • Not a prob for me, thank goodness.

  • My downfall 🙁

  • done

  • I set an alarm on my phone to remind myself to eat regularly throughout the day. It’s been really helpful, now I’m not so hungry when it comes to meal time and I eat less.

  • I have found that since I started drinking 2 glasses of water before any meal or snack I no longer feel like over eating. Lots of my over eating came from my inability to tell the difference between being thirsty and being hungry. Now I will try setting my watch to remind me to have small snacks between main meals.

  • Smaller plate and put food away so ot iis less convient to grab more.

  • I eat good food – and – I eat to much! It´s a bad habit and I want to change it. I don´t want to overeat. I want to feel satisfied, energized and light after a healthy tasty meal, not full and tired.

  • When I organize my meals I don´t have time to eat a lot of snacks while watching TV. I´m making great changes!

  • I’m trying to avoid eating while I cook dinner because I do not realize how much I eat…

  • Specially when I feel tired I sit in front of the TV with a big container of “whatever”. I must get rid of this bad habit and I’ve just started exercising my brain for that.