I dedicate this post about strategies to stop overeating to Zofia.
Zofia came to me with a question: What changed for you to crave more than your body needed?
Essentially, she wanted to know how to stop overeating and lose weight.
Losing weight isn’t just about eating veg*n or whole foods. You can eat 100% whole foods and still have excess weight. As Zofia put it “instead of having a bowl of rice or pudding or salad, I have three. Instead of one spoon of peanut butter, I have the entire jar…”
When she wrote those words, I knew exactly what she was talking about. It wasn’t about feeling physically hungry. It was the addictive, itching desire to eat for pleasure. It was the need to eat something because I was bored or because I loved how dates tasted.
Have you felt the same way? If you have, it’s common. In today’s culture, most foods are filled with salt, sugar and oil. Salt, sugar and oil overstimulate our senses and make us crave more. Food addiction is one of if not the most socially acceptable addiction.
I was glad for Zofia’s question. I thought about her question and realized the number of tools I use to combat food addiction and overeating. Unlike tobacco and alcohol addiction, you can’t ‘just say no’. Food is necessary to live.
So how have I balanced my need for sustenance with my desire for tasty food?
Pay attention to how your body feels
One of my best strategies to stop overeating is paying attention to my body when I was eating. Don’t allow eating to become a mindless act. Don’t make finishing your plate the goal. Make your mealtime goal to nourish yourself.
It takes time for ourselves to realize we’ve eaten enough. Instead of eating until you’re full, eat until your satisfied. Just that small vocabulary change should help to stop overeating. There is a difference between being full and being satisfied.
When you think of feeling full, think of a glass of water that’s full to the top. There is no more room to more water, right? Adding more would be too much. If you eat until you’re full, then you’ve stuffed yourself. And that’s not what you want to be.
Satisfied means that you’re content with your hunger level. You could eat more, but you don’t need to. When you’re satisfied, you’re not hungry. Ask yourself, “Would I begin to eat at my current hunger level?” If not, then you don’t need to eat more.
Going back to the example of the water glass: you take how much water you need, right? If you’re a little thirsty, you fill it 1/3 of the way. If you’re really thirsty, you fill it 3/4ths of the way. But you wouldn’t fill it all the way, even if you were parched, because it would spill.
Reset your appestat
Do you need an abnormally large amount of food to feel satisfied? Then consider resetting your appestat. Your appestat is the amount of food you need to feel full. When you reset your appestat, you train your body to crave how much food it requires.
Note: I need less than 1400 calories per day, and I’m 5 feet 8 inches tall (173 cm).
I reset my appestat over the course of a week and then counted calories for months afterwards. Lindsey from Happy Herbivore has an amazing post about it and I highly recommend you read it.
You may be hungry when you reset your appestat, but it’s worth it.
Find a hobby
Have you ever eaten because you’re sad or bored? That means it would be beneficial for you to find a hobby to make your life more enjoyable. Those with food addictions often turn to food when they feel emotions they don’t want to.
For people like me (and Zofia), of of your strategies to stop overeating needs to focus on enjoyment. Some enjoy sports, sex, knitting. People like us enjoy eating. Don’t allow eating to become your hobby. Seek to find something you enjoy as much as eating and do that instead.
Honestly, I’d rather you masturbate than overeat!
Admit your food addiction
I watched a great video recently about being addicted to eating. I consider people like me food addicts. I use it to as an outlet for many emotions, like sadness and boredom.
Prevent emotional eating by eating the same food for an extended period of time, like bananas or potatoes. It gets rid of the new flavors and novelty that can come with having many foods at your disposal.
Another method? The broccoli or apple test. If you wouldn’t eat and apple or piece of broccoli to satisfy your craving, then you’re not hungry. Drink a healthy drink, find something to do and the craving will pass.
Don’t be afraid of being hungry
Another reason I used to overeat is that I didn’t want to be hungry later. I used to believe that we should try to stick to 3 meals a day… no snacking. This regime can help those lose weight if they have a zero-tolerance policy for snacking. But who has enough willpower to wait 2 hours until another meal when they’re hungry?
Overeating can come from a fear of being hungry. You might eat too much now because you don’t want to be hungry later. Don’t be afraid of being hungry, there are worse things in the world.
I finally realized I’d rather be hungry than be fat.
It was also mentally freeing to not punish myself every time I snacked. I chastised myself every time I snacked. I thought snacking was something fat people do.
Sure, snacking when you’re not actually hungry leads to weight gain. But don’t overeat at mealtime because you don’t want to snack later. It’s better to eat until your satisfied at meal time and eat something later if you get hungry. It’s better to under eat and snack later than overeat. You can’t un-eat food. I know because there are countless times I wished I could.
Realize you’ll feel terrible afterward
Remember the feeling of what it was like after you overate.
When I overeat, my stomach feels big and bloated. I feel sluggish and lack ambition to do anything. I feel ugly, unsexy and gross.
Mentally, I hate myself. I chastise myself for overeating, yet again. I’m angry at myself that I keep making the same mistake. I seek to punish myself. I tell myself that I don’t deserve to eat or enjoy my next meal because I ate too much.
Combined, the physical and mental feelings of overeating are depressing.
One way I prevent myself from overeating is to remember how I feel after I overeat. The short-term pleasure I get from eating isn’t worth feeling terrible later.
Repeat after me: You Are Not a Garbage Can
One way I reasoned it was okay to overeat was by telling myself it was to prevent wastage. But repeat after me: YOU ARE NOT A GARBAGE CAN.
You don’t need to finish your plate to prevent food from going to waste. If you’re satisfied but have more on your plate, save it for later. At a restaurant? Opt for a to-go box.
The small amount of food you throw away after your mean is insignificant. More food wastage happens before you take the first bite. Most food is discarded because it’s ugly, it expired or due to health regulations.
You don’t need eat what’s left on your plate because you don’t want to throw it away.
If you want to actually prevent food wastage, sign up for an Imperfect Produce box with my link. You get $10 off your first order.
How do I stop overeating?
Here are the ways I’ve come up with to help me with food addiction and overeating:
- Pay attention to how your body feels
- Reset your appestat
- Find a hobby
- Admit your food addiction
- Don’t be afraid to be hungry
- Realize you’ll feel terrible afterward
- Repeat: you are NOT a garbage can
I didn’t cure myself of food addiction and overeating overnight. Food addiction is something I still struggle with. Like ex-smokers and ex-alcoholics, I must use mindfulness to stop the overeating cycle.
I felt ashamed of my eating habits for a long time. I regret procrastinating to deal with my problem. I knew learning to stop overeating would result in more health and happiness.
Fortunately, dealing with it becomes easier with practice, self-awareness and time. I hope at least a few of these strategies to stop overeating has resonated with you.
Just because somebody isn’t fat doesn’t mean they don’t overeat or battle food addiction. Food addition and overeating are problems that persist in our society. Please share this post with somebody else or on social media if you found it useful.