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This is a list of how to manage external eating cues so that you don’t need to rely so much on willpower to make good decisions. Not all these tips will apply to everyone. You only need to apply these kinds of tips in the situations that you personally tend to overeat in.
1. Freezer meals as an alternative to takeaways for when you don’t feel like cooking and/or have little food in the house
For example, if you store individual portions of vege-heavy lasagna in the freezer you have a complete meal that you can eat within a few minutes of walking in your front door.
You can easily make healthy versions of takeaway meals e.g. Thai curries, and store those in the freezer.
Find options you like to eat, that freeze well, and make sure you have at least some options that can serve as a meal on their own without additional accompaniments.
Put some time aside every 1-2 weeks to cook meals to fill up your freezer with your takeaway alternatives or make more than you need when you cook and freeze the extra portions. Find enough reusable containers that will hold moderate portions so not having appropriate containers is not a barrier to making this work.
2. Build a repertoire of healthy meals you can make in under 10 minutes and always keep the ingredients on hand for these recipes.
For example, omelettes can work well since you can throw in whatever you have available. Different members of the family can choose whatever fillings they like. And, if you have kids they usually love flipping omelettes.
Make sure you keep on hand the ingredients you would need for this. When you do your shopping list, check whether you need to top up your stock of anything. Make a habit of doing this before each supermarket shop.
3. If you eat cereal, make portion control automatic by keeping a dedicated cup measure inside the cereal container. Use whatever size cup measure you need depending on what you want your portion to be e.g. keep a 1/2 cup measure inside your oatmeal container.
You might need to purchase some extra cup measures to make this work.
4. Gentle avoidance.
Avoidance is generally an unhelpful coping strategy but there are exceptions. Sometimes its easier to avoid starting eating something than it is control the portion you eat.
For example, if you overeat when you do baking, do less baking.
Alternatively bake items you don’t tend to overeat. This could be a simple switch e.g. from making one type of chocolately food to another.
5. Train your husbands and sons to cook for themselves
I often hear from women clients that they end up buying takeaways when they’d be happy with a light dinner at home but need to offer something more substantial for the men in their household.
Find a solution that works in your family.
For example, have steaks and stuffed potatoes in the freezer that your husbands and sons can cook for themselves. Surely anyone is capable of cooking themselves a steak and reheating a stuffed potato!
6. Don’t eat directly from the bag.
Whenever you’re going to eat something that comes in a bag that contains more than one serving, take out the portion you want and put the bag away. Don’t just leave the bag on the bench. Seal the bag up tight with a rubber band and put it away before you start eating.
7. Adjust your recipes so that they make a set (whole) number of moderate sized portions
For example 2 moderate portions rather than 2 1/2 moderate portions.
8. Don’t purchase food for dinner parties that you’re likely to end up overeating as leftovers, and don’t purchase/make food to take out that you’re likely to end up overeating.
You don’t need to provide giant quantities of food when you’re having guests/taking a plate somewhere.
Sure its a culture thing to be generous with food you provide for other people but many people will appreciate not being tempted by excessive quantities of food.
9. When you bake
– Consider making a 1/2 batch rather than the full quantity of the recipe.
– Some baking freezes well. For example, if you make a batch of scones but only want to eat one scone then put the rest in the freezer.
10. Try eating desserts, cereal, yogurt, or whatever else you want with a smaller spoon. It’ll encourage you to eat more slowly.
11. Don’t keep food in the house that you tend to overeat. And, don’t delude yourself that you need to keep junk food in the house for your kids.
For example, if you overeat icecream, don’t buy tubs of icecream. Instead when you feel like icecream, go out and buy an individual icecream.
12. Out of sight, out of mind.
Don’t leave tempting food where you’re going to end up looking at it often. For example, if someone brings food to work to share, put the leftover food away rather than leaving it lying around.
At home, put tempting items on a low shelf of the fridge or pantry so that they’re not always catching your eye.
13. When you make something like popcorn, only make what you want to eat.
Before you start making it, figure out how much you need to cook for each person who wants popcorn to have a moderate portion.
14. Challenge your assumptions about what makes a complete meal.
For example, eating both rice and bread when you eat Indian is probably unnecessary.
15. Standardize the times of day you eat.
Figure out when you want to eat your meals/snacks and don’t eat additional meals/snacks outside these times.
Make sure the meal/snack times aren’t too far apart that you’ll become overly hungry.
16. Are there times when you need to eat and no good food options are available?
Plan appealing alternative coping. For example, if you’re taking your kids to a theme park and packing a lunch for yourself seems boring then plan to buy something on the way there that’s both healthy and a treat for you.
Make a habit of thinking ahead about your upcoming week/day so that you can prepare for these times.
17. Find the solutions you need for YOUR life.
Be a DIY Psychological Detective.
Identify what situations you tend to overeat in or make unhealthy/unsatisfying food choices in.
Then be creative about finding solutions for those situations that work for you.
In addition, consider measuring out portions of the foods you tend to overeat e.g. chips.
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