You know what it feels like when you overeat—you’re stuffed, sluggish, and you probably didn’t even enjoy the meal all that much. But you keep doing it anyway. Why is that, and what can you do to stop overeating? Here are six tips to get you going in the right direction.
1- Slow down when you eat.
For most of us, life moves pretty fast. We get up early, head off to busy jobs and come home to family commitments. We’re constantly rushing from one thing to the next, and we often scarf down our meals on the go. The problem with this is that it can sometimes take a minute for our brains to catch up to our stomachs, so when we eat too fast, we may not realize we’re full until we’re too full. Also, our meals aren’t as enjoyable when we’re speeding through them because we’re not really paying attention to what we’re eating—we’re not savoring the experience. Eating slowly makes us more mindful of what we’re doing, which means meals are more satisfying and we’re more likely to stick to moderate portion sizes.
2 – Relax when you eat.
When your body is under stress, your metabolism slows down. Which is all well and good when you’re only stressed for short bursts of time. Our bodies were designed switch into stress mode when we were, you know, running away from bears. But these days, many of us are chronically stressed, which means we have an impaired ability to digest our food nearly all the time. This is particularly problematic if you tend to overeat. So try not to eat at your desk, or in the car when you’re driving from work to soccer practice. Even if you’re busy, it’s a good idea to take a few minutes just for meals.
3 – Focus on enjoying your food.
We sometimes overeat when we don’t feel emotionally nourished by our food. Contrary to popular belief, “emotional eating” isn’t always a bad thing. It’s why we have such fond memories of the meals our mothers fixed when we were kids. When we rush through our meals or we eat on autopilot in front of the TV, we’re not filled up on that emotional level. And because our meals are lacking in quality, we try to make up for it with quantity. Of course, that never works.
4 – Eat more nutrient dense foods.
This is important for a couple of reasons. First, nutritious, whole foods are often more satisfying—and therefore more enjoyable—than highly processed foods. Also, they’re more filling! Junk food is called that for a reason—it’s just empty calories. And that means you need to eat a lot of it before you feel full. With natural, whole foods, a smaller amount will go a much longer way. And, you’ll get the important nutrients your body needs, to boot.
5 – Get to the root of the issue.
As mentioned above, “emotional eating” is often a good thing. But there are times when we use food to fill emotional holes in our lives. Rather than address the real problem—which we may not feel ready to do—we turn to food to soothe us or to take the place of whatever we might be lacking. This can easily lead to overeating. So ask yourself what’s really going on. Maybe your relationship is going through a tough patch, or you’re not happy at work. Are you ready to take steps toward changing that situation? If not, seek out the kind of support that would help you do so, whether it’s a coach, therapist, or simply the encouragement of friends and family.
6 – Forgive yourself when you overeat.
None of us is perfect, and making any kind of positive change in your life is not an all-or-nothing game. Even if you’re truly trying to stop overeating, you will still find yourself doing it from time to time. And that’s okay! It doesn’t mean you’re a failure or you have no willpower. Striving for absolute perfection is just setting yourself up for failure. If you don’t give yourself permission to slip up every once in a while, then minor setbacks become major catastrophes, and you might become convinced that you’re incapable of change—so why even try? When you overeat, remember that you’re doing the best you can, and changing ingrained habits is not easy, so give yourself a little love and encouragement.
The Institute for the Psychology of Eating © Institute For The Psychology of Eating, All Rights Reserved, 2014
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