One of the biggest problems I’ve had to overcome when training intensely, is overeating.
During my years as a college football player, coaches lead me to believe that after a tough workout, there was no way I could eat too much.
Eating big meals after a grueling workout became a habit. And for years, I continued to devour food well into the night.
After I finished up my last year of football, I thought I’d make a few diet changes and be ripped in no time.
But the opposite happened.
For more than 10 years, I struggled—and still do at times—with overeating after workouts. And though workouts provided my body with good stressors that promoted strength and muscle growth, the stress I began to accumulate as a teacher only fed the monstrous overeating habit I was trying to desperately to defeat.
Changing this habit has been difficult. But I’m starting to get better, and I’m here to share exactly how I’m leveling up my health by superhero punching overeating in the face.
Build Will Powers
The best way I’ve found to curb my hunger is to decide where you fall on the hunger scale.
What’s the hunger scale?
Think of a number line with a five at the top of the page and one at the bottom of the page. If you’re full then you’re at a 5. If you’re at 2 or 3, then you’re “fairly” hungry, and it may be close to your typical meal time.
Now, if you find yourself at a one on the scale, you’re “hangry” and ready to Hulk smash. Might be a good time to eat something.
When you do find yourself looking into the fridge or cupboards, even after eating your post workout meal, ask yourself: “Am I still really hungry?”
If you’ve already eaten enough calories for the day, or when you measure where you fall on the scale, and you fall at a 3 or higher, then the most likely answer is no, you’re not hungry.
*Note from Robbie here: Habitual snacking isn’t done because you’re hungry. It’s done because it’s a habit you’ve been doing for years. Beginning to ask yourself a question like, “am I actually hungry?”, helps you begin to examine your habits and work through your own thought process. And this, is one of the keys to making positive changes.*
I often use this technique to help me stop eating after a solid post workout meal. Thinking about the hunger scale, and whether I feel full or not, helps snap me out of this subconscious routine.
Hero’s Need Hobbies
Ever notice how when you’re in the middle of doing something you love that you can forget about eating at all? One of the best ways to get your mind off of food is do something that pulls you away from the kitchen.
Whether your hobby is playing retro video games or building the latest Star Wars starfighter model—something other than mindlessly consuming TV—you’ll notice that when you engage in our favorite hobbies, you rarely think about food.
Charles Duhigg explains in “The Power of Habit,” that old habits and routines can be replaced with new habits or routines. So, the key is you make sure you replace old habits (like overeating after meals) with new healthier habits, like drinking tea and playing a couple levels of Super Mario Brothers.
Picard’s Earl Grey
Captain Picard loves drinking his Earl Grey tea. And I love drinking tea after my meal because it makes me feel like Captain Picard. But it also helps stop me from overeating. You can’t consume the tea too fast, since it’s so hot, and if you don’t add cream or sugar, then you’re not adding any extra calories to your daily count.
Tea does have hunger blunting powers, thanks to its caffeine. But when it’s served hot, you have to drink it slowly, which allows more time for your food to settle on your stomach and digestion to begin.
Hulk Smash Sugar
Smashing the super villain sugar out of your diet can go a long way to improving your overall health.
But can it help you stop overeating, too?
According to a 2014 study, drinks high in sugar are less likely to leave you feeling full versus a meal with whole foods comprised of the same amount of calories.
Replace sugary beverages (even keep an eye on protein shakes, as they too can have loads of excess sugar) with high fiber, whole foods like sweet potatoes, green leafy vegetables, or brown rice. Fiber helps keep you feeling full and provides your body with the nutrition it needs to properly recover after your workouts.
Become Aquaman or Woman
So you think you’re hungry? Well, you actually could be dehydrated.
*Note from Robbie: I’ve covered this before, but the parts of your brain that tell you whether you’re hungry or thirsty are pretty much next door neighbors. And often your body can’t tell which neighbor is sending the right message. So you could be thirsty but your brain thinks you’re hungry. (Stupid brain)*
As I said above, liquid calories can kill your progress with weight loss. So make sure to switch out the soda for water.
Keep your water bottle on you while you’re at the gym, and keep drinking it throughout the day. Dehydration can affect your workouts as well, and who wants to go to the gym and not give their best because they didn’t drink enough water that day?
Protein Power Ups
Most folks who lift don’t need to be reminded that you need protein to build superhero muscle. But don’t forget, protein is the key macronutrient when it comes to blunting hunger. And since I like reducing the amount of refined sugar I consume, I always opt for unflavored protein powder for my post workout muscle building nutrition.
Protein has become a big buzzword in the last year. And you see shakes or protein packed products everywhere now. But many of these are packed full of excess sugar that you don’t need. If you want to keep calories low(er) and protein higher, toss a scoop of protein into your morning coffee. It’s delicious.
The last tip I have for you is to create a mindful routine via meditation, yoga, or tai chi. These practices can help you become more conscious of mindless eating. Help you begin the process of examining where you fall on the hunger scale and they go a long way in helping reduce your overall stress levels.
Mediation helps pull you out of your subconscious and brings your thoughts to a conscious state, which over time, will help you identify and change your habits.
According to Headspace.com, their research has shown that meditation, or practices of mindfulness, also help prevent stress and anxiety. These two are the biggest culprits when it comes to mindless eating or overeating in general. Mindful practices also promote better sleep. And the more rested you are, the less likely you are to eat junk.
If you are interested in learning more about mindful practices checkout my latest project, and sign-up for my Jedi mindset training. Learn to use the force within.
Lights Camera Action: Stop Overeating Today
My days on the football field are no more. But after a stressful day or big workout, I still feel the pull to the dark side.
I want to eat everything in sight. (No, it actually feels like I must eat everything in sight.)
But I’m strong, and to combat my old habit, I use the tips listed above. Some days I examine where I fall on the hunger scale. Other days, I drink tea or water. And I do this because I need to prove to myself that I can do this. I need to be a good example for my three daughters.
Most importantly, if I lapse, I don’t beat myself up. I remind myself of my strategies, and I get back to what works.
If you struggle with overeating, or grazing while you’re at home, pick one of these tips and try it out for yourself. And if drinking water doesn’t work, try another one. Keep implementing a new tip from above until you find the one that works for you. Oh, and comment below which one you think will help you the most.
The following blog post is from my fellow fitness blogger and online friend Mike Sweetman. Mike loves to mix geek culture and fitness. You can find more from Mike at the, Be A Healthy Geek, where he helps folks get healthy and stay geeky. You can also listen to my interview with Mike on Side Quest Podcast here.