You’re having dinner at a restaurant with friends. You skipped lunch so your stomach is growling like a caged beast as you examine the menu. You go to town on the bread basket and devour your starter as soon as it arrives. Now the waiter puts your main course in front of you. It’s a sizeable portion and you’ve eaten almost enough already.
What goes through your mind?
- Nothing. You pick up your knife and fork and eat until you’re finished.
- “I’ll have to eat it. If I don’t, what will people think?”
- “Diet starts again tomorrow so bring it on!”
- “I’m paying for it, so I might as well eat it, otherwise it’s a waste.”
- “But it looks so good! Also, I’ve had a tough day so I deserve it.”
Which answer leads to you feeling satisfied and thoroughly enjoying your evening?
None of them.
All of them mean you’ll overeat until you’re seriously uncomfortable. And feeling uncomfortable isn’t enjoyable.
The correct response was actually secret answer no. 6: “I’m aware I’ve almost had enough food. How much of this do I want? Probably only a couple of mouthfuls. I’m going to ask the waiter if I can take the rest home. I’ll explain to my friends that I didn’t have lunch and overdid it with the bread and starter. I’m also going to plan better so I don’t miss lunch again – that way I can enjoy my dinner out in future”.
For those in recovery from emotion-driven overeating, working out how much food satisfies you is a vital part of the process – nobody but you can determine how much is just right for you. It involves checking in with your body and having a conversation like the one above.
It’s also important to identify occasions when you eat too much because other factors come into play. I’m not talking about emotional drivers that lead to bingeing, such as feeling upset, or bored, or anxious, but times when you overeat almost “by accident”.
See if any of the following scenarios strike a chord:
You’re Not Hungry
If you pick at food while you’re preparing supper, you’re probably not going to be hungry when it comes to sitting down and eating it so it’s OK to wait until you are. If your body doesn’t give you a signal that it needs food, it can’t give you a signal to stop eating, so aim to eat only when you’re hungry.
You’re Not That Hungry
Why have a massive plate of roast chicken and vegetables when what you really wanted was a few cubes of cheese and some olives? Don’t feel obliged to have a meal when all you really want is a snack. Make sure the amount of food fits with your appetite.
You’ve Paid for It
You’ve paid the same for a meal, regardless of how much of it you eat. Eating beyond the point you’ve had enough doesn’t give you more value for your money – it’s just as much of a waste as throwing it away. I’m a big fan of asking for a doggy bag in restaurants. The bonus is you haven’t overeaten and you get to enjoy it again tomorrow.
Fear of Missing Out on Food
If you experience FOMOOF (yes, it’s a thing. I know many people who have it, including me) then Tupperware is your best friend. Rather than continuing to eat because you feel panicky about missing out, box it up and enjoy it at your leisure.
What Will People Think?
Who cares? Is it more important than resolving your issues and having a peaceful relationship with food? Absolutely not. Early on in my process I went out to dinner and only ate a pudding because that’s what I really felt like. Had I eaten a main course just so I could “legitimately” have pudding, I would have massively overeaten.
It Tastes Sooooo Good
It tastes so good you just want to keep eating. It may taste good but, if you overeat, you’re not going to feel good. Remind yourself you can have this again whenever you like, but, for now, you’re satisfied so you’re going to stop eating.
You Need a Reward
You deserve to feel satisfied and content. Is feeling bloated and uncomfortable a reward? Absolutely not. What would truly be rewarding for you? Some downtime? Some fun? A rest? Give yourself what you really want.
Don’t let people serve you portions that are too big for you or push food on you if you’ve had enough. Politely turning down the offer of seconds is not a valid reason for someone to be offended, so don’t buy into it – that’s their issue.
The Diet Starts Tomorrow
Seriously? Don’t get me started. Just stop. Seriously.
If there are others you could add to the list, fantastic (I’d love to hear them).
Be careful the pesky diet mentality doesn’t pop up and say “this sounds like cutting back – good, we’ll lose loads of weight”. This isn’t cutting back, it’s getting in sync with your body so you’re eating just the right amount and enjoying what you eat.
The more in sync you are, the more satisfied you are, the more you stop ruminating about food and can get on with enjoying life. Isn’t that what it’s all about?
While we probably all overeat on occasion, the fact remains we shouldn’t experience any kind of discomfort after eating but it’s amazing how often we do.
So if feeling uncomfortable after meals has become the norm, rather than the exception, maybe it’s time to ask yourself the question:
“How much is enough?”
“How Much is Enough?” is the question for this month’s eatonomy group on Saturday 28th September. For more information, please see the Community page.