How to Stop Overeating and Kick the Bad Habits

July 20, 2023


Valerie Agyeman, RDN

Are you experiencing episodes of overeating? It’s a common occurrence for many of us. However, if you find yourself struggling with compulsive overeating and experiencing overwhelming feelings of guilt, anxiety, and shame, it might indicate a more significant issue. 

Consistent overeating can contribute to weight gain, increase the risk of chronic conditions such as heart disease or even digestive discomfort and may even impact mental well-being. Additionally, overeating often involves unhealthy food choices, resulting in nutrient deficiencies and hindering a balanced and nutrient-dense diet. 

If only it were easier to just eat when we are hungry and stop when we are full. It can be so hard to stop overeating because our eating habits are influenced by so many things, including psychological, behavioral, and environmental factors. Together, these factors are the driving force behind what we eat, when we eat, and how we eat. The good news is that many of these factors are within our control to change. It may take some extra time and support to kick your overeating habit to the curb, but it is possible. Start your journey to conquer overeating with these practical tips to improve your relationship with food.

How To Stop Overeating & How To Kick The Bad Habits

If you’ve been struggling with overeating for an extended period, it’s essential to acknowledge that breaking the cycle requires some effort. Understanding the underlying reasons behind overeating is crucial to addressing the issue effectively. It may involve exploring emotional triggers, stressors, or past habits that contribute to the behavior. Be patient with yourself throughout the process, and consider seeking support from professionals, such as a registered dietitian and mental health therapist to help you navigate and overcome the challenges. Remember, change takes time, and taking the steps to understand and address the root cause is important on your unique journey.

Avoid Restrictive Dieting

When an individual decides to severely restrict certain foods or food groups like cutting out carbs completely, they may experience intense cravings and feelings of deprivation, leading to binge eating behaviors. Prolonged calorie restriction can also slow down the metabolism, making the body more efficient at conserving energy, and when regular eating patterns are resumed, the body may store more calories as fat, resulting in significant weight gain in some people. In fact, according to one study, after 3 years of completing a weight loss program, merely 12% of the participants managed to maintain at least 75% of the weight they had shed, whereas 40% of them regained even more weight than they initially lost. (1)

Constantly depriving yourself of enjoyable foods can create a negative relationship with food, causing feelings of guilt or shame when indulging in “forbidden” treats, and, the stress and anxiety surrounding food choices on restrictive diets can trigger emotional eating and lead to overeating as a way of coping. And in extreme cases, it may lead to eating disorders.

How To Stop Restrictive Dieting? 

To avoid the cycle of overeating, it’s best to adopt a sustainable approach to eating that promotes a positive relationship with food and supports overall well-being.

1 – Keep in mind that there is no quick fix and no one-size-fits-all solution to stop restrictive dieting. People learn behaviors under unique circumstances and changing those behaviors also takes a personalized approach.

2 – Start with mindfulness. Identify your triggers (emotional, environmental, physical) for restricting and/or overeating.

3 – Self-monitoring your eating habits is a great way to bring awareness to your personal triggers to restrict and/or overeat.

4 – Now that you understand the psychological and physiological forces behind the restrictive dieting and overeating cycle you can see how challenging it can be to stop the cycle on your own. Work with a professional to stop the cycle once and for all! Contact us HERE to get started!

Don’t Skip Meals

Research on this topic is very mixed, but we still truly believe that finding an eating schedule that works for your body is essential in preventing overeating, and managing your weight and stress response.

While it is true that some people feel better when eating infrequently (1 – 2 times per day or intermittent fasting of various degrees), we have found that most people who skip meals or go for long periods of time without eating are prone to overeating, weight gain, and even anxiety.

Skipping meals is a big trigger for overeating because it throws your blood sugar (aka blood glucose) off, making it difficult to eat mindfully. Blood sugar provides essential fuel for your body’s tissues and organs, especially your brain. Skipping meals can also cause your blood sugar to drop dramatically, which triggers the release of several stress-related hormones, including cortisol. Cortisol causes your blood sugar to rise rapidly by stimulating your liver to make and release glucose into the blood.

Cortisol also triggers insulin resistance (a metabolic condition that increases hunger, decreases fat metabolism, and contributes to weight gain and type 2 diabetes) in your muscles and other tissues, which causes glucose to stay in your blood. This extreme elevation of blood sugar triggers a compensatory release of insulin, which increases hunger and promotes fat storage.

You can see how skipping meals can actually intensify your hunger and make it extremely difficult to regulate your appetite.

How To Stop Skipping Meals

1 – You don’t have to do a full weekend of batch-cooking, but make sure you are eating something every 3 – 5 hours. Set alarms or make a loose or detailed plan of what you are going to eat and when.

2 – Create balanced, nutrient-rich meals with a mix of protein, fiber, and healthy fats. This will keep you full longer and reduce the likelihood of feeling the need to skip a meal.

3 – Keep nutritious snacks on hand to prevent extreme hunger between meals that leads to meal skipping.

Avoid Eating Too Fast

Satiety, or the feeling of fullness after a meal, is regulated by a network of signals between your gastrointestinal system and the appetite-regulating neurons in your central nervous system.

You have stretch receptors in the lining of your stomach that are activated as your stomach fills with food and liquid when you eat. Signals from these receptors tell your brain that you are full, which encourages you to stop eating.

When partially digested food reaches the small intestine, it also triggers the release of several appetite-regulating hormones, including cholecystokinin (CCK), peptide YY (PYY), oxyntomodulin (OXM), and glucagon-like-peptide-1 (GLP-1). All of these hormones inhibit appetite and encourage you to stop eating. 

Eating slowly allows your brain enough time to receive these signals from your digestive system, which in turn decreases appetite and helps you to stop eating when you feel full.

How To Eat More Slowly

1 – Put your fork, spoon, or hand down between each bite. This simple strategy helps you slow down and be more mindful of how much you are eating.

2 – Give yourself at least 20 minutes to finish a meal or snack. This is about the amount of time it takes for your brain to register the satiety signals from your gastrointestinal tract.

3 – Use a food journal to track how fast you are eating, and make a goal to increase your eating time by 5 minutes every week.

4 – Work with me for more mindful and intuitive eating techniques like these. Contact us HERE for more info!

Get Enough Sleep

Getting enough sleep is essential for pretty much every aspect of your health, including maintaining a healthy weight and controlling your appetite. 

Poor sleep hygiene disrupts hormones (ghrelin and leptin) that control appetite, increasing hunger and reducing fullness feelings, potentially causing overeating. In addition, sleep deprivation can induce cravings for high-calorie, carbohydrate-rich foods leading to compulsive eating for some people making it tough to resist less nutrient-dense choices. Lack of sleep can also increase stress and cause mood fluctuations, leading to emotional eating. This involves using food for comfort and stress relief, potentially causing people to consume more calories than necessary as a coping mechanism. 

Scientists have recently discovered that sleep deprivation is powerful enough to actually increase appetite and decrease metabolism. One research study even found that people who don’t get enough sleep eat 20% more than they normally would. That could be an additional 240 to 400 calories per day (based on a 1200 – 2000 calorie diet), just from one night of sleeping less than 6 hours. (2) Another study found that getting less than 6 hours of sleep in just one night causes changes in several appetite and weight regulating hormones, including insulin, cortisol, and leptin. Even just one night of sleep deprivation can cause insulin resistance. Sleep deprivation also increases the production of cortisol. As we know, cortisol increases blood sugar and decreases fat burning and metabolic rate. Leptin is a chemical messenger produced by your fat cells that tells your brain you are full. Sleep deprivation decreases leptin levels in your body, which makes you feel hungry and crave carbohydrate-rich foods. (3)

How To Get More Sleep

1 – Get sunlight at least 20 minutes per day to regulate circadian rhythms and melatonin production.

2 – Create a wind-down routine! Read a book, take a warm bath, drink warm sleepytime tea or practice relaxation techniques like deep breathing or meditation. 

3 – Limit screen time before bed. The blue light from electronic devices like phones, tablets, and computers can interfere with your body’s production of the sleep hormone melatonin. 

Learn Portion Sizes

While portion control may not suit everyone, it can be highly effective if aligned with your preferences and routine. Being mindful of your portion sizes encourages conscious eating, recognizes hunger and satiety cues, and promotes a nutrient-dense, balanced diet. Mindful eating is crucial in learning when we feel comfortably satisfied rather than overly full, allowing us to stop eating at the right moment. By implementing portion control techniques such as paying attention to serving sizes, it can help you foster a more positive relationship with food and prevent the tendency to overeat, ultimately supporting healthy eating habits.

How to Be Mindful of Portion Sizes

1 – Tune into your body’s hunger and fullness cues. Eat slowly and pause during your meal to check how satisfied you really are. Stop eating when you feel comfortably full. It’s okay if there’s still food left on your plate.

2 – Pre-portion your snacks into smaller, individual servings instead of eating directly from the container. This will help prevent mindless eating.

3 –  Choose smaller bowls and plates to avoid underestimating portions and ensure you serve appropriate amounts that cater to you, aiding in mindful eating.

Final Thoughts On How To Stop Overeating

Now that you understand the science behind overeating triggers, take the first steps to change. Start by focusing on one habit at a time. If overeating has been a long-standing challenge, recognize that breaking the cycle requires effort. Dig into the reasons behind your overeating, including emotional triggers and past habits. Be patient and seek support from professionals like a dietitian and therapist. Remember, change takes time, and addressing root causes is crucial on your unique journey. For assistance, schedule a session with a Culina Health dietitian.



Any general advice posted on our blog, website, or application is intended for reference and educational purposes only and is not intended to replace or substitute for any professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or other professional advice. If you have specific concerns or a situation arises in which you require medical advice, you should consult with an appropriately qualified and licensed medical services provider.

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