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How to Stop Overeating (2021)

Do you struggle with eating when you're not hungry? Or, maybe, you turn to food when you’re bored and have nothing to do? With all this extra time at home, near our kitchens and snack pantries, mindless eating, emotional eating, and overeating have become more common. And though it’s a normal part of life, it’s also important to be mindful of your eating patterns and how they make you feel. The first step in doing so is understanding what impacts your eating habits. The second step is listening to your body and honoring your hunger cues. Here are a few tips to help you stop overeating and more efficiently manage your weight.

How to Stop Overeating

Get Enough Sleep

A good night’s sleep can help with appetite reduction, weight loss, and the prevention of overeating. In an article by Angela Spivey, she mentioned a study where “women who reported sleeping 5 or fewer hours per night were at greater risk for weight gain and in general weighed more compared with women who slept 7–8 hours per night” (1). There are various factors as to why lack of sleep causes weight gain, such as increased time to eat or snack, boredom (which often results in randomly eating), an imbalance in hunger hormones, and increased appetite while awake. In fact, in Angela Spivey’s article, she mentioned another experiment where participants’ eating habits were studied during a period of getting 5 ½ hours of sleep and a period of 7 or more hours of sleep. Results showed that “[d]uring the sleep-deprived period, the participants ate more calories — mostly from carbohydrate-rich snacks rather than meals” (1). Rather than sleeping late or staying up all night, get restful nights of sleep. This will cut out all the extra late-night snacks or meals from your diet, which may have caused weight gain. Additionally, it will help balance your hormones and prevent you from randomly or unintentionally overeating.

Reduce Any Stress

Eating food is often used as a way to cope with emotions –– and that’s okay. But turning to food over and over again can result in overconsumption and weight gain. Researchers Paul G. Koenders and Tatjana Van Strein studied the correlation between emotional eating and changes in weight. They found that “[r]estrained eating, emotional eating, and external eating all contributed positively to increases in BMI” (2). Additionally, Koenders and Strein stated, “it is not so much the tendency to eat when food is present but the craving for food when being emotional which seems to drive emotional eaters to buy food and eat it at every street corner” (2). Rather than overeating when you are stressed, try to find ways to relax, breathe, and improve your mental health. Talk to your partner, friend, family member, or therapist. Go on a walk or hike. Take a relaxing bath. These are only some of the many ways you can combat your stress and prevent yourself from emotionally eating.

Eat Adequate Meals

Not getting enough energy, calories, and nutrients throughout the day can lead to overeating or binge-eating episodes. Making sure that you are eating balanced meals and snacks throughout the day can help prevent these situations. According to Helena Dória Ribeiro De Andrade Previato and Jorge Herman Behrens, skipping meals has been shown to cause increased appetite, cravings, and weight. Previato and Behrens mentioned a study where scientists found that “breakfast intake reduced food cravings in girls” (3) and that “hormonal and physiological changes of prolonged fasting … increases the desire for and intake of sweets in the following meals during the day” (3). Restriction often results in higher cravings and an increased chance of overeating later on. Make nourishing and balanced recipes to prevent yourself from overeating.

The Bottom Line

Overeating is completely normal and common, especially during this time. These simple tips can help you eat without feeling uncomfortably full while managing your weight more easily. Regardless if you are trying to lose weight, hopefully, this article acted as a reminder for you to make sure that you are sleeping enough, taking care of your mental health, and eating adequately. 

WRITTEN BY CAMERON KAO

Reviewed by Kelly Powers, MA, RDN, a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist who takes a holistic approach to nutrition and health. Kelly is a recipe developer with a food blog highlighting whole foods, simple recipes, and her life in San Francisco. She’s the creator of 52 Weeks, a weekly meal plan program that helps users get back in the kitchen and feed themselves well. Kelly is also a co-founder of Olivaio.

Image Credits:
pexels.com/@readymade
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unsplash.com/@brookelark
unsplash.com/@angelopantazis

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How can I help a friend or family member who is struggling with overeating and seeking help?
A: First of all, share this article with your loved one! Gaining knowledge and learning these tips might inspire them to make changes to their lifestyle or eating habits. Secondly, use your new knowledge on overeating to care for your loved one. Check on them, make sure they are getting enough sleep, feel emotionally well, and eating healthily. However, if overeating has been a significant problem for them, consider setting them up with a Registered Dietitian, who can give them more personal and specific advice.

Q: Eating comfort foods when I’m emotional makes me feel mentally better. Are there any foods that I can eat that won’t make me gain weight?
A: Before you turn to food when you feel stressed, try the other methods mentioned in place of eating. Talk to a loved one, go on a walk or hike, or take a relaxing bath. Once you do one of those self-care practices, you might already feel more peaceful and no longer have the desire to emotionally eat. If you are truly hungry, eat! Try one of these healthy snacks.

Q: I still feel hungry even after eating meals, which causes me to eat even more and end up overeating. How do I make my meals more satiating?
A: To make your meals more satiating, make sure that they are balanced. Balanced meals include all food groups and are rich in nutrients. Often people don’t add enough fat into their meals, which can lead to hunger even after eating. Adding ingredients such as extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), nuts, and avocado will provide you with fatty-acids and increase satiety.