Overeating is something a lot of people struggle with, especially during the holidays.
But first, I think it’s important to define what overeating really means!
I ate more than (some predetermined portion size) is NOT overeating.
Overeating is relative to your stomach’s capacity based on what YOU would determine is your point of discomfort.
It’s INTERNALLY based rather than external (how much we think we “should” eat).
Once we release those external influences we start to tap into the wisdom of our own body telling us it’s had enough.
Our body wants us to FEEL GOOD. Our head wants us to BE GOOD. And that’s where we end up feeling guilt, shame, judgement and anxiety around food when we base it off of external reasoning.
Even though I now have a healthy relationship with food and I’m much more connected to my body there is the rare occasion I overeat, but I don’t beat myself up over it anymore. I take into account what happened in that moment, learn from it, then move on. That’s part of being a normal eater. It happens sometimes.
It happens when you’re celebrating a holiday or special occasion, when you’re on vacation trying a speciality dish only from that region, when that food is out-of-this-world delicious! or when you just don’t have the heart to turn down grandma’s thanksgiving pie.
Eating for emotional reasons can also be part of normal eating too! Of course, emotional eating would become unhelpful if it’s the only way you’re coping with your emotions.
When any of these scenarios happen know that it is totally OK to feel some regret. The difference is when you are a normal eater, there is no guilt attached to it.
So, what can you do about it if you find yourself eating beyond your stomach’s point of discomfort?
Below I share 5 reasons that may be triggering your overeating behaviour and what you can practice doing instead:
1. You chose to eat something that you didn’t really want
If there’s a diet voice inside your head that says you “should” choose a healthier option and resist what you actually want it can backfire and you may find yourself wanting to continue eating even when you feel full.
It’s not until you satisfy your “hedonic hunger” with what really hits the spot you’re then able to move on.
Pause and ask yourself what is it that you are REALLY in the mood for. Sometimes we want to eat for pleasure and that’s perfectly fine! Food isn’t only limited to being fuel for our bodies, we have tastebuds for a reason.
2. You ate mindlessly so your brain didn’t register pleasure from the food
If you were distracted while you were eating (watching TV, scrolling on your phone, driving, etc), your brain didn’t get to enjoy the food, leaving you feeling unsatisfied even if your stomach is telling you it’s full.
Take a few deep breaths before you eat.
Seat yourself somewhere where you have minimal distractions. That way your brain has the space to register what you’re eating by allowing it to pay attention to the textures, flavours, aroma, temperature and appearance of the food. This will help you feel more satisfied.
3. You were eating something you don’t normally get to eat
Which foods are you afraid of eating because you view them as “off limit” foods? Or which foods do rarely ever have the opportunity to enjoy (like while traveling or dining out)?
Remove the idea that you might as well eat all of this food now because you won’t ever see it again (scarcity overeating). It can rob the joy out of the food if we end up feeling uncomfortable afterwards. Save some for later or promise yourself you’ll eat that food again another day.
4. You want to keep eating because of external triggers
Do you feel guilty wasting food? Looking to get your money’s worth? Do you eat more around certain people? Were you taught as a child that you can’t leave the dinner table without finishing the food on your plate?
Whatever trigger it is, practice mindfulness. This can help you spot the interference of your brain’s desire to keep eating despite how full your stomach feels. Mindfulness helps you tune in to recognize when you’ve had enough.
5. You want to keep eating because of emotional triggers
Food may only temporarily provide the distraction or comfort you’re craving. Emotions will resurface when you stop eating, so until you meet that need in another more effective way you’ll continue to keep eating!
Think about a situation where you usually overeat. Name the emotion(s) you commonly experience in that situation.
What is the underlying need(s) that your emotion is signalling you to look into? What is one thing you can do to meet that need more effectively than eating?
Need more support improving your relationship with food and finding balance in your diet? I can help you understand your own psychology to stop unwanted eating patterns. Here’s what one recently graduated client just shared with me:
“Before I go for seconds I pause and ask: “Do I really want that? Is it an emotional thing I’m trying to satisfy, or am I actually hungry?” In the past I wouldn’t think twice. I’m surprised that I carried through with everything and they have become habits now!”
Apply here to learn how and get all the support you need to walk into the new year feeling so much ease around food than you’ve ever experienced before.