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External cues for overeating

There are a number of other factors that can have an influence on feelings of fullness after a meal and the body's satiety signals. An awareness of these factors can help us avoid some of the pitfalls that may encourage us to overeat.

  • Portion size can have a strong influence on how much we eat. Most people tend to consume more when offered larger portions of food, without necessarily feeling any more satisfied. So a good tip for controlling how much you eat is to keep portion sizes moderate. When offered a range of snacks and nibbles at a party, just serve yourself a sensible portion on a side plate, rather than constantly reaching for the large bowl.
  • The variety of foods we are offered has an effect on how much we eat. We tend to eat more when presented with a wide variety of foods. Maybe resisting the dessert menu could make all the difference!
  • How much sleep we get may also affect our satiety mechanisms. Lack of sleep is linked to an increased risk of obesity and some initial research suggests that a lack of sleep may affect our appetite, making us more inclined to overeat. So getting a good nights sleep may also be important in helping us to control our weight.
  • We all know that physical activity is important for health and particularly for controlling our weight. Studies also show that people don’t eat proportionally more to compensate for the energy used up during exercise. So for example, you are likely to feel a lot hungrier if you try to eat 500 calories less through the day than if you use an extra 500 calories through exercise. Another reason why incorporating more physical activity into our lives is a great way to help control weight!
  • Distractions, such as watching television, tend to make us less responsive to our body’s satiety signals and this can mean that we are more likely to eat more. Watching television has been linked to an increased risk of obesity (although this is complicated by the fact that TV viewing is a sedentary behaviour in itself). Nevertheless, avoiding distractions such as television while eating may help us to respond better to satiety signals and avoid overeating.
Last reviewed July 2009. Next review due June 2013.
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