Overeating is a serious problem for lots of folks. While many attribute overeating to a lack of willpower, it’s more complex than that. Scientists say people who overeat exhibit different brain activity than those who don’t.

Fortunately, there are ways to stop overeating that don’t rely on willpower or rewiring your brain. Let’s explore nine of them.

1. Eat breakfast.

Skipping breakfast is a big no-no. Research shows people who don’t eat breakfast are more prone to overeating later in the day and have a higher incidence of coronary heart disease. Another study showed that eating eggs in the morning can help you eat less throughout the day.

2. Slow down.

It may sound obvious, but eating slowly and mindfully is one of the best strategies for combating overeating.  Eating slower helps you feel full faster.

3. Use smaller plates.

The larger the plate, the more likely you are to overeat, says food researcher Brian Wansink. Most standard dinner plates are around 12 inches in diameter. Switch to a 9-inch plate and you’ll eat less.

4. Pay attention to your emotions.

You need to become aware of your reasons for wanting to eat junk food to understand why you overeat. For example, maybe you eat compulsively to make yourself feel better or to combat stress. Identify your triggers, and you’ll be more likely to create personalized strategies to deal with them.

5. Exercise more.

Research shows that your responsiveness to food cues is significantly reduced after exercise. In other words, you’re less likely to want to indulge when you see a picture of a giant ice cream sundae.

Not to mention the fact that exercise is a keystone habit that can change your life.

6. Choose nutrient-dense foods.

“Nutrient density” means the amount of nutrition packed into a particular volume of food. For example, you can eat a giant plate of broccoli to get the same amount of calories in a tiny cup of ice cream because vegetables are generally more nutrient-dense.

Steer clear of foods like sweets, cheese, and soda, which don’t offer a lot of nutritional bang for your buck. Choose healthy foods like vegetables, fruits, lean meats, healthy oils, and beans instead.

7. Pack healthy snacks for when you’re on the go.

Healthy snacks are an essential tool to help you avoid overeating. Studies show that snacking on healthy foods like almonds can help you avoid food cravings. So pack healthy snacks like nuts, seeds, fruit, and vegetables with hummus and take them with you to work, school, or other places you go throughout the day.

8. Allow for one cheat meal each week.

Cheat meals are when you reward yourself for eating healthy by splurging on something you love. This doesn’t mean have a free-for-all at the buffet. But having one or two pieces of pizza is okay. Completely depriving yourself makes it much more likely you’ll give in to food cravings and overeat.

9. Plan for setbacks.

Implementation intentions help you plan for bumps in the road. The basic setup for an implementation intention is this:

If this happens, I’ll do that.

For example, if you find yourself getting stressed and reaching for a bag of chips even though you’re not hungry, write down the following implementation intention: “If I get stressed and reach for chips, I will grab a piece of fruit instead” or “If I get stressed and reach for chips, I will go for a walk instead.” This is a powerful strategy that uses proven principles of behavioral psychology. A little planning goes a long way.

Overeating can be a tough thing to overcome, but these methods will help. The more you can work to develop healthier habits, the less likely you’ll be to overeat. Take one step at a time, focus on the small wins, and you’ll crack this bad habit for good.

Featured photo credit: meshmar2 via flickr.com

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