Overeating occurs when a person continues to eat beyond the point of being full. One hallmark of overeating is eating when we are not hungry. People may overeat as a way of processing strong, hurtful emotions such as when dealing with past trauma, psychological disorders such as depression, present difficult situations, a heartbreak, low self-esteem, and more. You may have attempted to overcome this habit, but you find yourself returning to the old pattern of overeating. Since overeating habits are often tied to our minds, it is a good idea to strengthen your mind to overcome overeating.
Here are some techniques to try:
Identify your feelings surrounding food
Emotional eating is one of the major causes of overeating and identifying the emotions tied to this behaviour can be helpful. How do you feel before you eat? Are you eating to overcome strong emotions such as anger, heartbreak, betrayal? How do you feel after each episode? Take note of the emotions and situations by writing them down. Identify the patterns that appear most frequently. Do you eat when you have had a stressful day? Or when your self-esteem is low? Did you feel relieved after eating? Happy? Comforted? Once this is done, you can work on resolving these emotions in a healthier manner.
Cut down on distracted eating
Most episodes of overeating not fueled by emotions, occur when we are bored or distracted. You plan to have a little snack while watching television, working on the computer, reading, or bored with nothing to do, and before you know it, you have had the entire tin of biscuits or cleared out the fridge. Research has shown that we eat more when we are distracted than when we are focused on our food. Before reaching for a snack, ask yourself if you are hungry or just eating because you are bored. If you are not hungry, try to redirect your attention somewhere else. Try knitting, beading, sewing, or a similar activity while watching the television. Or try an activity that requires your full attention such as painting, drawing, dancing, etc. You can also switch to healthy snacks such as fruits to snack on in moderation and avoid stocking candy, chips, and other sweets. This step requires self-discipline but it yields good results.
Try to reduce stress
High stress levels can give you headaches, acne, and make you overeat. When our stress levels are high for a long period of time, the body produces cortisol. Cortisol can increase your appetite leading to increased feelings of hunger making you more likely to overeat.
Some simple tips to help reduce your stress levels include meditation, practicing yoga, exercising, listening to music, and spending time on your hobbies.
Talk to a professional
Overeating can lead to binge eating disorder (BED). BED is a common eating disorder characterized by repeated episodes of overeating accompanied by loss of control and significant distress over the behaviour, but without added behaviours like vomiting, excessive exercising, or laxative misuse. If you feel ashamed and guilty after each episode and you can barely remember what happened or what you ate, you should consider speaking to a professional.
Overeating can be difficult to identify and resolve, mostly because it becomes an unconscious action. You don’t even notice you are doing it, especially when paired with other activities. Take note of the emotional triggers that prompt you to eat, stock up on healthy snacks, eat mindfully and be aware of what you eat. Talk to a professional or a loved one if it gets too difficult to make the necessary changes on your own.