Overeating is what makes being overweight and the main cause for obesity. There are several reasons why you could be overeating, some may be physical and some emotional. In this article I am going to give you the steps to stop overeating. Read them carefully and implement them little by little. Don’t try to make drastic changes all at once. Make a small change every week, journal your progress and if one week you fall off track, don’t blame yourself. There are ups and downs in every journey. What matters is the destination, ambrace what you find along the journey and never stop moving forward.
Now let’s look into the 10 steps to stop overeating!
Listen to your hunger and satiety cues.
Enjoy what you eat.
Eat quality food.
Become aware of how food makes you feel
Get sufficient rest and sleep.
Control your stress levels.
Exercise the right way.
Allow yourself to feel your emotions.
Keep your reasons in mind.
1. LISTEN TO YOUR HUNGER AND SATIETY CUES
If you want to stop overeating, this is one of the most important tools you need to implement. When you overeat, you are eating quantities grater that what you body requires. This is because you are not connected to your body signals to eat when you are hungry and stop when you are comfortably satiated, not full.
Everytime you eat listen to your body, stop and ask yourself, “ Am I hungry to eat? Did I have enough? Am I satiated? “. Do this before, during and after meals to understand your body and learn to listen to its cues. The more you do it, the easier it becomes. You will soon realise that overeating feels uncomfortable and there is no physical need to do so. Stop when you are satiated and eat again when you are hungry. There is no need to go over, you can eat as many times as you need to satisfy your energy requirements. Food is not going anywhere. Eat as many times as you need, as long as you eat when you are hungry and stop when you are satiated.
2. EAT MINDFULLY
It is very common in the modern society to zoom out when we eat. We are most of the time in a rush, stressed, working or with a lot of things in mind. We eat watching TV, on the go or while doing other activities. We get used to not paying attention to the act of eating. We eat most of the time not even registering we have eating. This is an important factor affecting overeating.
Start being present when eating. Eat slow, in a relaxed state. Chew your food enough. Experience the look, the smell, the texture and the taste of your meals. Don’t eat while doing other activities or on the go. Dedicate some time and make eating a sacred ritual. Give that to yourself because you deserve to treat yourself and your body the right way. Nourish your body and soul every time you eat.
3. ENJOY WHAT YOU EAT AND DON’T RESTRICT
Most people when dieting restrict from foods they like and eat foods they don’t fully enjoy because it is what they should eat. They think they are healthy eating those foods because this diet plan, this nutritionist or this trend say that food is healthy or good for you. What people don’t know is that pleasure is a key factor in nutrient absorption. Several studies have demonstrated that when we don’t enjoy the food we eat, we absorb less nutrients. Eating plain salads or so clean if you don’t enjoy it, must be not so healthy after all.
Enjoying the food you eat will also help you to stick to better nutrition long term. How are you supposed to keep eating healthy if you don’t like what you eat? You can’t rely on willpower forever. It won’t be long until you are tired and drained, willpower is not unlimited.
Restriction is a trigger to overeating. You stop yourself from eating the foods you like and then lose control when eating them. In your mind it is like, “who knows when I am going to eat this again… I will better have some extra” or “I already ate something I am not supposed to eat, I already messed up”. Enjoying all the time food you like and not restricting will prevent this to happen.
Find foods that promote your health and metabolism but you can enjoy. Foods that don’t make you feel that you need to force yourself to eat. Eat things that you fancy eating and it will be very easy to be consistent. Also enjoy the not so healthy food in a balanced way. Life is there to enjoy it and be happy. The right nutrition is all about finding balance.
4. EAT QUALITY FOOD
The quality of the food you eat has a huge impact in overeating. Your body needs certain nutrients to faction correctly and carry on the different activities during the day. When your body lacks those nutrients it will ask for them in form of hunger. Your body doesn't have any other way of telling you to provide nutrients than saying “hey, I am hungry”. That’s why the term empty calories, you provide calories but not what your body needs.
Another trigger to overeating, related to the quality of the food you eat, is the false hunger caused by sugar spikes. When you eat meals consisting of poor quality carbohydrates like white sugar, white bread or pasta your blood sugar spikes. Your body in order to level this sugar peak, releases a big amount of insulin that ends up causing the opposite effect, low blood sugar levels. Your body feels weak and needs to stabilise the sugar again, you can guess what happens after. Your body tells you is hungry for carbohydrates and the cycle goes on and on.
Choose to eat quality food. Cook the meals you like yourself with whole foods, quality ingredients and healthy fats. It is not about not eating what you like but eating it in a better way. Provide your body with the nutrients it needs and you will see how your urge to overeat and cravings decrease.
5 . BECOME AWARE OF HOW FOOD MAKES YOU FEEL
You will discover a new world and a new you when you tune into your body. There is nothing better than getting body feedback to make better choices and stop overeating. During and after meals get feedback on how the food suits you. How does it feel? How is your digestion? Do you feel light, bloated, heavy? How are your energy levels, do you feel ups and downs? How is your mood?
For few days, eat different foods and get feedback. When you start checking how different foods make you feel, you will link them to the various feelings and it will become automatic to choose most of the time foods that promote your wellbeing. You will make better choices naturally. Your brain will start registering how certain foods make you feel great and how overeating or other foods make you feel horrible. Once you establish this link the brain will try to avoid what doesn’t make you feel good.
This step will also help you recognising the trigger foods. Those foods that for some reason make you feel anxious and overeat. If you know which ones they are, you will be able to decide if you want to eat them or not considering how you will feel and what will happen if you choose to eat them. But now it will be a conscious choice, rather than working on autopilot.
6. GET SUFFICIENT REST AND SLEEP
If you want to find balance in your life, you need to make rest and sleep a priority. Studies have shown that people who don’t get enough sleep eat 400 more calories on average. When we feel tired we feel an increase in hunger, our brain is ess focused, we feel less motivation nd we make worse food choices.
Care for your body and don’t force it, don’t make it work 200%. Get 7/8 hours of good quality sleep. allow yourself to rest when necessary. Give yourself the gift of those days off to slow down from your hectic life. Get your own time to rest your mind as well as your body. A well rested body will maintain a strong and motivated mind that will help making better decisions and being consistent towards your goals. If you are focused and motivated it will be easier not to give into overeating.
7. CONTROL YOUR STRESS LEVELS
Stress shuts down digestion and decreases nutrient absorption. when we are under stress we activate the fight or flight response. This is a survival mechanism that helps us reacting when facing danger. Your brain cannot differentiate what the danger is. It doesn’t know if a Lion is after you or you can’t keep up with the workload. When it feels stress it thinks you are in danger and activates the flight or fight response. Blood is redirected from the mid section to the extremities and brain, to move and think quick. It makes sense that when we are in danger it is not time for eating and digestion.
Another side effect of stress on metabolising food is that we store more fat. The hormones released under stress provide a boost of energy to fight or flight and get over the danger. Our metabolism under the presence of this hormones doesn’t break down the food for energy correctly as it is getting energy from those hormones. All that energy that it is not being used it is stored at fat.
Stress is very toxic to our body. Stress plays a good role when it comes sporadically and in short periods. When we are under stress for prolonged periods of time our cells, organs and tissues are damaged. It is more toxic the stress than the food you can eat. It causes premature aging and decreases performance and brain function. Our body becomes acidic and cells need to be in a slight alkaline state to be healthy. If you are under stress most of the time you are making yourself ill.
Control your stress levels by doing activities that help you release stress, meditate, relax from the day having a coffee with a friend, chilling with your loved ones, reading, taking a bath, listening to music… there are infinite possibilities. Breathing deep will also help you decreasing stress levels. Do some breathing techniques two three times a day. It will be super beneficial and it can be done anywhere at anytime. Keep stress away to keep overeating away.
8. EXERCISE THE RIGHT WAY
Exercising is a way to release stress, keep active, be stronger and improve your health. All these should be achieved while enjoying and having fun. There is no need to force yourself to do log workouts, or go to the gym if you hate it. This causes stress and we know what happens when we are under stress. Forcing your body to exhausting exercise and promoting a stressful environment will affect overeating due to the extreme tiredness and stress levels.
There are plenty of different activities and ways to exercise, find the one that suits you. Weight lifting, body weight workouts, group fitness classes, bootcamps, outdoor activities, yoga, zumba, dancing, swimming, team sports, martial arts, cycling, running… there are so many! Find what you like doing and exercise the right way. Even a walk is super beneficial, just get yourself to move.
9. ALLOW YOURSELF TO FEEL YOUR EMOTIONS
One of the main reasons to overeat is emotional eating. Emotional eating happens when we start eating to numb certain feelings. The feelings can be superficial like boredom, tiredness or stress, or they can be very deep as depression, loneliness or unworthiness. We start linking food with feelings since we are babies. When babies are breastfed they link eating with the love of their mums. Kids are rewarded with food when they behave well and adults celebrate with food.
Food releases hormones that make us feel good. It is easy to turn to food to get that instant comfort when something is not going right and we are not feeling well. The problem is that the brain registers this pattern and repeats it. It thinks, "feel bad, eat, feel well let's do it again". When we repeat this pattern we get addicted to this behaviour and it is difficult to break it.
What you need to do, is start connecting with your feelings. Allow yourself to feel you emotions, don't try to shut them up. They won't kill you. Listen inside you, understand yourself and try to solve whatever is causing to have that feeling. Don't turn to food to stop that feeling momentarily. The feeling will come back, because it is unsolved. The only way is allowing yourself to feel it and fixing the problem from the root.
10. KEEP YOUR REASONS IN MIND
What are the reasons for your goals? Keeping those reasons in mind will help being motivated, away from overeating and will help sticking to the changes you are making or the new habits you are implementing. Don’t forget why you are doing it. Write them down on a note you can access easily and read them any time you need.
Make this reasons positive reasons rather than negative. Always have a positive mindset and get rid of the negative. Don’t write down, I want to lose way to look different, or because I don’t like my body or I am fat. Focus on positive things like, I want to look after myself better, I want to have better energy, I want to find balance, I want to be happier, etc…
Try to make them strong reasons specifying why you want to achieve those things. For example, if you want to have better energy specify what’s the strong reason driving you. Is it because you want to be energetic to play with your kids and give the best of you to them, is it because you want to become really good at some kind of sport or be able to embarc in more activities without feeling tired all the time?
Now you have all the tools that will assist you to stop overeating. If you implement all of them you will see amazing changes. If you need some help implementing any of this book your free consultation with me. I will assess your particular case and guide you on your journey. Having a coach who has expertise will get you where you want a lot quicker. Experts have done the work, research and figure out everything for you, so you don’t have to trial and error yourself.
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