3 Tips to Stop Overeating at Meals

One of life’s joys is to share a meal with family and friends. It is one of my favorite ways to connect with my family. Both my husband, Kevin, and I come from families where gatherings involve delicious food, board games, card games, and a long, leisurely evening.

It is way too easy for me to overeat at these gatherings.

But the indulgment doesn’t always stop there.

Sometimes we overeat on regular days.  Or at regular meals.  Or All. The. Time.

Typically as children we eat when we are hungry and stop when we are satisfied. As we age, we become exposed to yo-yo dieting, stress and emotional eating, and many of us disconnect from a balanced way of eating. We can begin to overeat.

Overeating can compromise your health and your waistline, but setting yourself up for success is easier than you think. Consider these three simple and effective tips that can help you gain some control over your portions.

Tip #1: Start with some water

When your stomach is growling and you smell amazingly delicious food, it’s too easy to overfill a plate and dive into the food.

But did you know that it’s possible to sometimes confuse the feeling of thirst with that of hunger?  Your stomach may actually be craving a big glass of water rather than a feast.

Some studies have shown that drinking a glass or two of water 30 minutes before a meal can help reduce the amount of food eaten.

Not only will the water start to fill up your stomach before you get to the buffet – leaving less room for the feast – but drinking enough water has been shown to slightly increase your metabolism and may even help with weight loss. Win-win!

Tip #2: Try eating “mindfully”

You’ve heard of mindfulness but have you applied that to your eating habits?

This can totally help you avoid overeating as well as having the added bonus of helping to improve your digestion.

Just as being mindful when you meditate helps to focus your attention on your breathing and the present moment, being mindful when you eat helps to focus your attention on your meal, your body and the present moment. Do this by:

  • Eating at a table (sitting down) without watching TV or computer, gaming or reading;
  • Taking smaller bites;
  • Slowing down and chewing thoroughly; and
  • Savoring every mouthful.

Notice and appreciate the smell, taste and texture of your food.  Breathe.

It’s not easy. We just did this exercise in my private FaceBook group and only committed to this practice for one meal a day for a week.  I find myself reading when I’m by myself for a meal and my husband, Kevin, is travelling for work. It was quite eye opening to sit quietly with myself for a meal. Breakfast was the easiest meal for me to begin this practice.

At first I was a little agitated but I stayed with it, letting myself notice what I was feeling and just let myself be uncomfortable. After a couple of days, I noticed that the food tasted brighter and I could feel more in my body. And, I wasn’t agitated any more. I ended up seeing great value from this exercise and I’ve continued the practice.

This practice can help prevent overeating because eating more slowly often means eating less.

When you eat quickly you can easily overeat because it takes about 20 minutes for your brain to know that your stomach is full.

So, take your time, pay attention to your food, and enjoy every bite.

Bonus points: Eat at a table, off of a small plate, and put your fork down between bites. Soft music and dimmer lighting will help to create a relaxing atmosphere.

Tip #3: Start with the salad

You may be yearning for that rich, creamy main dish.

But don’t start there.

(Don’t worry, you can have some… just after you’ve eaten your veggies.)

Veggies are a great way to start any meal because they’re full of not only vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and health-promoting phytochemicals but they also have some secret satiety weapons: fiber and water.

Fiber and water are known to help fill you up and make you feel fuller; they’re “satiating.”  A good rule of thumb: let vegetables account for half of your dinner.

And these secret weapons are great to have on your side when you’re about to indulge in a large meal.


Have your glass of water, eat mindfully, and start with your veggies to help avoid overeating at meals. I’ve shared below some of my favorite ingredients for “spa water” that I like to drink.

Spa Water
If you're not much of a plain water drinker or need your water to be more appealing to your senses here are five delicious (and beautiful looking) fruit combos to add to your large glass of water.
  • Slices of lemon & fresh ginger root
  • Slices of strawberries & orange
  • Slices of apple & a pinch of cinnamon
  • Blueberries & raspberries
  • Fresh basil & mint
  1. Add to water to taste.
  2. Tip: You can buy a bag (or several bags) of frozen chopped fruit and throw those into your cup, thermos, or mason jar in the morning. They're already washed and cut and ready to go!




Carolyn S. Barnes, CHC, LMT

Carolyn is an integrative health coach, speaker, Reiki Master and the author of Return to Ease: Gently Reconnect with Your Body’s Natural Mobility and Joy.

She writes and speaks from a personal place–her own journey of healing from various health issues (including Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and obesity) and opening to her inner wisdom. Her mission at Return to Ease is to help women who want to experience natural weight management and reconnect with their personal power and true essence. This integrative process of reconnection allows her clients to align their hearts, minds, and bodies while creating a more sacred life filled with health, ease, and joy.

Carolyn received her coaching training from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, where she learned about more than one hundred dietary theories and studied a variety of practical lifestyle coaching methods. She specializes in helping women who struggle with emotional/stress eating gain control and experience ease with food and their lives. As a result, her clients experience a newfound appreciation of their bodies, no longer obsess over food, and witness an amazing transformation of more ease and joy in their lives.

To learn more about Carolyn, apply to be a coaching client, order a copy of her book, or book Reiki session, please visit her website.

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