Do you ever find yourself feeling a little too full or eating when you’re not really hungry, but at the same time, you’re struggling to stop overeating?
We all overeat sometimes, and that’s normal and expected. We’re not perfect and you don’t need to be because that’s not the goal.
However, if you recognize that overeating is consistently present in your life, it’s also important to address it because it’s not supporting you.
Consistently overeating can leave you feeling not well physically, more disconnected from your wants and needs, and also be a sign that you haven’t found how to practice healthy and balanced eating in your daily life.
You’ll learn why overeating can be so common and a few practices to start using to help you stop overeating.
How to Stop Overeating
We often get asked, “what should I do to stop overeating,” “how do I stop overeating at night,” or other similar questions along those lines.
I have hours of lessons inside of my program, Mindful Nutrition Method™, that dive into how to support eating habits, but I want to share a few simple tips with you that you can start practicing if you’re finding yourself overeating.
1. Keep a Reflective Food Journal
One of the first steps in overcoming overeating is to understand why you’re overeating.
Many people think it’s because they have a strong sweet tooth or because they have a lack of self-control, but that’s not usually the case. There are several factors that contribute to overeating and understanding your eating habits better will support you in finding the true cause so you can address it.
For example, one the members of the Mindful Nutrition Method™ program noticed she was overeating in the evenings. She needed to better understand what was causing that, so she used a reflective food journal to help her in doing that.
A reflective food journal isn’t about tracking calories or controlling what you eat. The purpose is to understand more about your eating habits and notice the common patterns that come up for you so you can identify what’s working and what’s not working.
Over time, it’s these types of practices that help you bring awareness to your eating habits and behaviors. That awareness helps you make adjustments to the way you’re eating that better align with how you want to feel and act.
2. Uncover What Causes Overeating
After bringing awareness to your unique eating habits, you’ll start to notice patterns around overeating and that’s what will help you identify the root cause.
For our Mindful Nutrition Method™ member that I mentioned earlier, she noticed she was overeating in the evenings. After using a reflective food journal, she was able to notice that she tended to overeat on the days she was at the library studying. After learning about the causes of overeating, she realized she wasn’t eating enough throughout the day when she was studying. She normally packed a protein bar as a snack and that was it, so she was unintentionally going from breakfast until dinner without eating, leaving her feeling ravenous by the time she got home.
Once you have that awareness, you can then focus on actions that will help you navigate these things.
After keeping a journal to help you identify patterns like that in your own life, explore these common reasons people tend to overeat, so you can see if any of these are common in your life.
One of the simplest reasons you may be overeating is because you’re distracted.
When you’re “distracted eating,” you aren’t fully present to experience your food — to fully enjoy it, notice where your hunger levels are at, and what you need.
This often happens when you’re on your phone, watching TV, at your desk working, driving, rushing to get from one task to the next, ruminating thoughts in your mind, feeling zoned out, or doing anything else while eating.
When you slow down and remove distractions from your meals, you’re able to more consciously experience your food — the way the food tastes, how it feels, what it looks like and how it smells, along with how you’re enjoying it, your hunger cues, and how your body feels before during and after a meal.
A key part of learning how to stop overeating will be to learn how to eat without distraction so you can be fully present.
Another common reason is emotional eating. Emotions like boredom and stress are something many people experience on a regular basis, and dealing with those emotions can be a struggle for some people.
This could look like reaching for the snacks in the evening when you have nothing to do but watch TV or it could look like getting home after a long, stressful day at the office and feel called to eating comfort foods.
Other emotions like grief, which may occur less frequently can also contribute to emotional eating.
Situational or Environmental Triggers
The third thing that may trigger overeating is your environment. Environmental triggers are specific situations or places that start a period of overeating.
Common examples of this may be going to the movies and ordering popcorn, grabbing one of the candies in the bowl by the office break room wherever you go by, or going out to eat. It’s those situations or environments that send messages to you that you should eat, and it can sometimes be challenging to remember to check-in with yourself and notice if you’re truly hungry or if external factors are guiding your eating.
Can you think of an environmental trigger that you realize causes you to overeat?
Having Foods that are “Off-Limits”
Another factor that contributes to overeating is if you have foods that you avoid.
If you’ve ever been on a diet before, this might sound like a familiar situation. You go out to eat or go to a social gathering while on a diet and are offered foods you “can’t have” which increasingly make you hyperaware, hypersensitive, and focused on that food choice.
When you’re face-to-face with these foods, you then may feel the lack mentality which causes you to want to overindulge in that food because you don’t know when you’ll be able to have it again since you’ve labeled it “off-limits”, rather than being able to enjoy a serving and be fully satisfied.
You Aren’t In-Tune With Your Hunger Signals
One of the main practices we teach here at Nutrition Stripped is how to read your body’s hunger signals to guide what to eat when to eat, and how much to eat. This skill takes patience and practice to learn because it’s not as simple as “eat when you’re hungry and don’t when you’re not.” If you aren’t successfully using your hunger levels to guide your portion sizes, you may be overeating.
You Went to Long Without Eating
We only have so much willpower to use before it runs out. When we wait an extended period of time to eat, our hunger cues eventually take over which results in overeating food.
Let’s use the time period between lunch and dinner as an example. If you have lunch at 12:00 pm, then don’t eat anything until you get home and start to prepare dinner at 6:00 pm, chances are you’re going to be very hungry.
For most people, at this point, we experience at least a minor loss of control. As soon as we see or even smell food, our hunger cues shoot through the roof and our bodies are looking for anything and everything to eat.
This often leads to overeating in an attempt to make up for hours without food.
Your Meals Aren’t Well-Balanced
Each of the macronutrients serves a different purpose, which is why using our Foundational Five system is key for eating balanced meals. While some are meant to give us energy, others are meant to keep us full.
If we maintain a diet that is consistently low in nutrients that provide us with satiety, we can often perpetually overeat. This occurs when we maintain a diet primarily void of healthy fat and/or protein.
If you don’t have the right balance of macronutrients on your plate, this can also cause blood sugar spikes, which can cause you to feel hungry even when you ate not that long ago or develop cravings for sugary foods.
Lack of Sleep
A good night’s sleep allows the body to replenish, reenergize and recuperate for the following day. One poor night of sleep won’t do much harm, but a perpetual lack of sleep can start to wreak havoc on the body.
When sleep-deprived, the hunger and satiety hormones ghrelin and leptin can get out of whack (3). This can result in excessive cravings, hunger cues and an increased appetite over time.
3. Identify What Action to Take to Stop Overeating
What some people try to do when they experience overeating to try to stop it is to avoid those foods or situations.
Maybe you’ve done some of these things. You find yourself overeating chips, so you say you’re not going to eat chips anymore. Or you find yourself overeating when you go out for girl’s night, so you decide it’s best to just avoid going out to dinner with your friends.
Not only do these things not solve the root cause of the problem, but they can actually heighten it when you inevitably are faced with that food or situation again.
On top of that, it can bring up a lot of emotions, like guilt, shame, or even sadness and depression for feeling out of control and for separating yourself from friends, families or experiences that may trigger your overeating or encourage unhealthy eating behaviors that left unresolved over time, can lead to more disordered eating habits.
So when you’re learning how to stop overeating, avoiding foods or situations aren’t going to support you in doing that in the long-run.
What’s most important is addressing the root cause of overeating in a supportive way that doesn’t feel restrictive and is sustainable for you in the long-term.
For our member, that meant she needed to create a practice of meal prepping for herself so she would have nourishing lunches for herself throughout the week when she was studying. She also even set alarms on her phone to check in with herself to make sure she was taking breaks to notice her hunger levels and eat.
For other members who struggle with emotional eating, they needing to find how to better manage those emotions rather than turning to food.
This will look different for everyone because we’re all so unique. The key is exploring what those practices are that would both address the root cause and also feel really supportive and aligned for your life.
If you’ve tried looking for a solution several times on your own and haven’t found anything that’s stuck for the long-term that is when you may need professional support, and that’s what we can help you with inside of our program. You can sign up for our free workshop where we bring you through the Mindful Nutrition Method™ and how it can support you in nourishing yourself in a balanced way. You’ll also learn how you can receive additional support from our team.
How You Can Stop Overeating in Your Daily Life
Now that you know what a few of the common causes of overeating are and a few tips you can start using right away, which practice is resonating the most with you that you could give a try this week?
The key is to start taking a small action with the knowledge you have just gained to align with what you want to be experiencing.