How to Avoid Mindless Eating

And get weight loss benefits from running

As runners, it's easy for us to not pay close attention to calories and portion sizes because we think, "I'll burn this off later, or tomorrow." To help get the weight loss benefits from running, it's important to think before you eat and avoid mindless eating. Here are some ways to avoid mindless eating and boost your weight loss from running.

Stock the fridge and pantry with healthy options.

Woman in front of refrigerator
Paul Burns/Getty Images

If you have lots of unhealthy snacks around the house, you'll be tempted to open them up and eat them – and then keep eating them. But with healthy snacks around, you'll be more likely to see food as a way to satisfy your hunger, rather than something to cure your boredom. Try to keep healthy snacks, such as fruits and veggies, close at hand so you reach for them (rather than cookies) when the "post-run hungries" hit.

Don't eat when you're distracted.

Try not to have food near you while you're driving, watching TV, working on the computer, or doing some other distracting activity. If you eat when you're distracted, you won't pay attention to how much you're eating and you're likely to eat way more than you need to satisfy your hunger. If you get too tempted to eat while you're watching TV, try to keep yourself busy by painting your nails or doing push-ups or sit-ups.

Go for a run or do some weight training.

Forward Lunge Exercise

Recent research has shown that exercise, including walking and running, can help curb food cravings. In one study, researchers found that a session of weight training, performed before or after dinner, could reduce hunger among obese type 2 diabetic patients. If a food craving hits you or think you may be hungry, try doing some simple bodyweight exercises, such as these lower body exercises or standing core exercises.

Source:  Heden Timothy, et. al. "Impact of Exercise Timing on Appetite Regulation in Individuals with Type 2 Diabetes" Medicine & Science in Sport & Exercise, Feb 2016.

Don't eat family style.

If big bowls and plates of food are sitting right in front of you, you're more likely to reload your plate. Put the food on your plate in the kitchen instead of at the dining room table and you'll avoid being tempted to take a second or third helping.

Drink green tea.

Drinking tea
Jerome Tisne
Sipping green tea will keep your mouth and hands busy, so you won't be tempted to eat. And studies have shown that green tea does have metabolism-boosting benefits.

Refuse the bread basket at restaurants.

Bread baskets (or tortilla chips at Mexican restaurants) are a common trouble area for people trying to lose weight. It's so tempting to nosh on bread, chips, or crackers while you're waiting for your food. If your dining companions are OK with it, ask your server to keep the bread basket off the table, so you can avoid temptation completely. If someone else at the table wants the bread or chips, try to keep yourself busy by drinking water and really focusing on the menu (and choosing a healthy option).

Write it down.

runner on computer
Leonardo Patrizi/Getty

It's easy to not realize how many calories you're actually consuming throughout the day, but keeping track of your foods and drinks will make you more aware of everything that you put in your mouth. Some runners like to track their foods along with their workouts in a training journal.

Have a restaurant strategy.

Speaking of dining out, if you have a hard time refusing food in front of you, be smart when you're ordering. Split an entrée with another person or order an appetizer for dinner. Chances are you'll still get plenty of food to satisfy your hunger.

Watch your portion sizes.

Keep your portion sizes in check so you don't feel the need to finish your plate even if you're full. And don't tempt yourself with a huge bag of chips -- try buying individual-sized snacks and limit yourself to eating just one.

Also see:  100-Calorie Healthy Snacks for Runners

Eat small meals throughout the day.

Eating 5-6 small meals during the day will keep you from getting so hungry that you start eating everything in sight, and then not stopping when you're full.

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