How to Stop Overeating (11 tips from a former overeater!)

Learn what overeating is, what causes it and my top tips on how to stop overeating (or significantly minimize it) for good!

What is Overeating?

how to stop overeating

If you’re someone who occasionally (or regularly) overeats (like I was!) you don’t really need a dictionary definition of overeating. But, I’m going to include my definition here because I do think it’s helpful to define what it is, so we can get clear on what it isn’t and work towards that.

The way I define overeating is anytime we:

  • Consume more food than we really need for energy and sustenance
  • Eating past the point of feeling content or full
  • Anytime we eat more than we intend to

Once I was able to identify that I was overeating regularly, decide I didn’t want to be, and practice the tips and tools I’m sharing below – this lifetime challenge of mine became a whole lot easier for me to overcome. It IS possible, even if it doesn’t feel like it. If I can do it – you can definitely do it too.

What Causes Overeating?

Under Feeling

If we’re overeating and not eating for fuel, we’re likely emotional eating – meaning we’re eating to create, avoid or react to an emotion.

I was initially introduced to this concept when I was in therapy about 9 years ago. I was rambling on, and my therapist said, “It sounds like you relate freedom to food.”

How to stop overeating

This was a game changing moment for me – because before that I never realized I (over)ate through my emotions. After I left the session with this new awareness – I started to see this show up in all areas of my life.

  • When I was stressed, I ate.
  • When I was happy, I ate.
  • When I wanted to relax, I ate.

The problem with this – in addition to not helping my weight loss goals, it took away my opportunity to FEEL. If we eat through our feelings we don’t get to feel the great ones, and we don’t learn from and get stronger through the challenging ones. We also end up with extra weight and an out of control feeling most of us don’t like. We’re left feeling powerless around food and like we NEED it to survive.

When we get good at feeling – the good and the bad, the happy and the sad, we don’t feel the need to eat through our emotions, and we’re able to stop when we’re content, even if it’s uncomfortable because we’re tempted to keep eating. If we’re in uncomfortable or awkward situations (parties, family gatherings, work events) we don’t feel like we HAVE to eat or drink to get through it – we can just feel the feelings. “Embrace the awkward” as I like to say 🙂

how to stop overeating

The Types of Foods We Eat

While it’s beneficial to eat whole, clean, unprocessed foods for overall health and weight loss in general, this is another one of the many reasons I highly recommend that approach. When we’re consuming manufactured, processed and packaged foods that contain additives and preservatives we are way more likely to overeat them.

These foods are created with highly concentrated ingredients – often white flour and white sugar, in a way that provides a dopamine hit much more significant than the one we get from an apple or grilled chicken. When that happens, our brain automatically wants more and more, which makes it even harder to stop. There are studies that show white table sugar is 10x more addictive than cocaine.

Photo of Cheeseburger And French Fries

There are food scientists whose sole purpose is to make foods more crave-able and addicting, and they’re good at their jobs! Fortunate for them, unfortunate for us. So in addition to these foods being less than favorable for providing nutrients, vitamins and minerals – they can also lead to more cravings and overeating without us even realizing it.

Over Drinking

When we drink alcohol, the logical decision-making portion of our brain basically goes to sleep. Have you ever had a late night and ended up at a diner or fast food place open and eaten WAY more than you ever would sober or in the daytime (I HAVE!) This doesn’t happen because we’re hungry, it happens because the majority of our sense of control is completely gone – we are doing whatever we feel like, whenever. We literally have no care in the world – until we wake up the next morning.

Mindless Eating and Distractions

When we’re in situations where food is present but our mind is not, it’s a whole lot easier to overeat because we aren’t paying attention. There’s food in front of us and we’re eating it without much thought to if or how much we really want. Situations like this include:

  • Watching TV, Youtube, etc.
  • Scrolling social media
  • While drinking
  • At events
  • Driving
  • At dinners/events with friends
  • Eating while working
  • Rushing in between tasks or going from one activity to another
  • Times of high emotion (when we’re sad, stress, overwhelmed, bored)
  • Habitual eating (night eating, family gatherings, 2pm snack)
  • Grazing (picking up random bites of food throughout the day unintentionally)
  • Hormonal or nutrient imbalance (rare – usually with a combination of this and ab

Lack of Awareness Around Portions, Hunger Cues and Fullness

In all fairness, some of us have never been taught how to tell the right amount of fuel for our body, or how to determine when to start and stop eating. Or even worse, we were taught to “clean our plate” or “we don’t waste food.” We have competing ideas of what’s “right” and what we “should” do, and maybe have never stopped to question what we want to do, and whats “right” for us.

If that’s the case, eating the “right” amount for us, and stopping before we’re overfull can be much more challenging. Many times we don’t realize we’ve overeaten until after the fact, when we feel uncomfortable and sometimes a little sick…I’ve been there way more times than I’d like to admit!

The Impact of Overeating (More than just weight)

Again, those of us who are experienced overeaters may not need this list (we know why we want/need to stop) But it can be helpful to see other mental, physical and emotional benefits to stopping and impacts it’s having on overall health versus just the number on the scale.

Weight Gain

The one we’re most familiar with – weight gain. Overeating easily and quickly disrupts the balance between calorie intake and expenditure, resulting in a higher body weight than we likely want.

Possible Nutrient Imbalance

Overeating often involves choosing calorie-dense, nutrient-poor foods, leading to nutritional imbalances. A diet high in processed and sugary foods can result in deficiencies in essential vitamins and minerals, negatively impacting overall health.

Impaired Cognitive Function


Have you ever overeaten sweets and felt like you needed to take a nap after?Excessive caloric intake, especially from refined sugars and processed foods, can impair cognitive function. Studies have linked poor dietary habits, including overeating, to a decline in memory, attention span, and overall cognitive performance.

Emotional and Mental Health

Overeating can have a direct impact on mood. The initial pleasure derived from indulging in comfort foods may be followed by guilt, shame, or a sense of loss of control. This emotional rollercoaster can also contribute to conditions like depression and anxiety. Overeating can also negatively impact self confidence, and our relationship with ourselves.

In addition, as I mentioned above, when we use food as a coping mechanism for stress, boredom – we develop a habit of doing that. We reduce our ability and the opportunity to FEEL, and can become dependent on eating, drinking, or “buffering” in some way that causes us emotional or physical distress. Minimizing overeating involves finding alternative, healthier ways to address emotions, fostering a more balanced and resilient emotional well-being.

how to stop overeating quote

Can Contribute to Chronic Health Conditions

Overeating is a significant risk factor for the development of various chronic health conditions, including cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome.

How to Stop Overeating (Top Tips from a former overeater!)

how to stop overeating

1. Identify when and why the overeating is happening

The first step is to become aware of when you overeat and look at what’s happening – which of the reasons above does it fall into or something else entirely? WHY do you think you’re doing it? Getting to the root of the challenge is the best way to create a sustainable solution.

2. Make a Decision and Decide WHY you really want to stop

Any consistent action we take has to start with 100% commitment and decision to do it. Even when it’s hard, uncomfortable and inconvenient. We have to be determined and committed and not just interested (most of the time, we can feel the difference). Once you’ve made a full decision, define WHY you really want to stop. What is the real reason, that creates an action inspiring emotion when you think it, and will be stronger than all the “why nots”?

3. Identify what your “regular eating” is, or what overeating is not, for YOU.

An important step in overcoming overeating is to clearly define what “regular eating” is for you. Knowing your ideal intake is crucial because without a clear plan, it’s challenging to recognize when you’ve crossed the line. For me, regular eating usually means 3 meals a day, not snacking unless I’m hungry or it’s a rare occasional food experience, and eating when I’m hungry and stopping when content or 80% full. It’s also not consuming more than I intend to at any given time.

Establishing a concrete plan for your meals and snacks, when and why you want to be eating and when and why you don’t want to be – makes it easier to identify when you’re tempted to overindulge.

4. Slow Down and Check-In

A seemingly simple yet powerful tactic is to slow down while eating and regularly check in with yourself. I’m constantly saying this to me 8yo, especially when she’s hurriedly eating something like pancakes, pasta or chips, but this advice is relevant to all ages and I find it especially helpful to use regularly myself.

It’s as simple as eating slowly, chewing our food and asking ourselves “Am I still hungry? How do I feel?” Taking the time to assess our level of contentment and hunger levels can prevent mindless overeating and help build a healthier relationship with food.

As silly as it sounds, you can set a timeframe for your meal, or have a certain amount of chews for each bite. Iike to take 15-30 minutes+. each meal and just make sure I’m fully chewing my food, but you can decide what works for you.

how to stop overeating - hunger scale

5. Decide on and Plate your portions before your first bite

One of my favorite mindful eating tips that you can practice anywhere is to “portion out your food before taking the first bite.” By consciously deciding the amount you want to consume, you engage your brain in the process, rather than letting your hands dictate the serving size.

Avoid eating directly from the serving dish, as it’s easy to lose track of how much you’ve consumed. Think about those times at restaurants with endless baskets of chips and salsa – portioning out your share beforehand helps maintain control.

6. Be Aware of and Beware of your Brain

Our brains play a significant role in our eating habits, often pushing us to consume more for that rewarding dopamine hit, especially with processed sugars or flour, or our favorite foods/trigger foods. Being aware of this biological tendency allows us to overcome it.

Recognize that your brain will urge you to eat more, but by making a decision ahead of time, staying present aware and watching for those urges and ideas, you can intentionally decide to let them be there without acting. If you make a decision ahead of time on what you want to eat, and are willing to feel uncomfortable when the urge to overeat comes, you can overcome overeating and anything else in life!

7. Watch the Over Drinking


While it might not be a popular suggestion, monitoring your alcohol intake can help minimize overeating for the reasons mentioned above. Excessive drinking can impair the decision-making part of your brain, making you more likely to overeat. I LOVE my wine and cocktails so you don’t have to remove them completely (unless you want to!) but just know minimizing the over drinking can help you make more consistent, better food choices (with less late night drive through runs 🙂

8. Eat Primarily Whole, Clean, Unprocessed Foods

When you fill your plates with fruits, vegetables, chicken, beef, eggs (or your protein of choice), healthy fats like olives, coconut, nuts seeds, etc. you get fuller quicker and feel satiated longer. With the lack of additives and preservatives and addition of nutrients, these foods are also much less likely to trigger a dopamine spike in your brain or lead to continuous cravings and temptations to overeat. We also tend to crave what we eat – and it’s a whole lot harder to overeat broccoli, kale or grilled chicken.

In addition, focusing on high protein and balanced meals will also help you feel more satiated longer giving you less of a desire to overeat, minimize spikes in blood sugar, less cravings, physical and emotional hunger.

9. Watch for mindless eating

Woman in Red Sweater Reading a Book

Be aware of and watch for times when it may be easier to mindlessly eat or where you may be distracted while eating and make a conscious decision to pay extra attention. Practice #6 above and check out my blog post on mindful eating to help with this.

10. Remember, With Every choice you’re building a Habit

Every single time we make a decision we are moving towards our goals or away from them. We’re choosing to embrace a new identity or confirm an old one – someone that eats more than their body needs or that they intend to, or someone who stops when content even when its uncomfortable or challenging in the beginning (as it likely will be, because we have to create new habits aka new neural pathways in our brain)

Visualize the outcomes of your choices – how will you feel if you indulge versus if you resist? Use these mental images to guide your decisions and stay on track with your journey.

11. Learn to feel your feelings


When we learn to process through our emotions, the world changes. Emotions are “energy in motion” and can negatively impact our health when we don’t acknowledge and feel them. We’re no longer afraid of any emotion – meaning we’re not afraid to take any action, including to stop eating when we feel content or full.

Simple steps to feel and process emotions (so we don’t eat through them!)

Get comfortable being uncomfortable. Learn to allow the urges instead of avoiding the food.

  1. Awareness – when you feel a strong emotion coming on, decide to FEEL it, instead of resist it, react to it, or distract from it.
  2. Breathe – simple box breathing can help you relax and practice the rest of the steps. Breathe in for four counts, hold for four counts, breathe out for four counts.
  3. Know this will be uncomfortable, but you can handle it, I promise. And every time you do, you’re building emotional strength and resilience.
  4. Label the emotion, describe it – where do you feel it? Does it have a color? Texture? Anything else? Consider if you were describing this emotion to an alien or child who had never experienced. How would you describe it in vidid detail?
  5. Ask yourself – what purpose could this feeling be serving or what is it trying to tell you?
  6. Once you feel calmer, try to identify the thought causing it. (It’s always a thought, not a thing – which is AMAZING – because we can manage our thinking).
  7. Once identified, question the thought. Is it true? Is it benefitting you? What else could you think about the circumstance or situation that would leave you feeling at least 1% better?
  8. Allow the old thought and feeling, and bring the new thought and feeling in as well.

Overeating – What if it happens?

We’re human, so chances are we may overeat again in the future. And that’s OK.

This isn’t a problem unless we make it one – we get to choose how we think and what we do about it after it happens. My recommendation is to accept what happened, never beat yourself up, learn from it and adjust for next time, take the next best step that will help you feel your best, and plan your week ahead.

It’s not a mistake or failure if we learn from it! We want to continuously focus on progress and growth versus perfection.

Incorporating these eleven steps into your daily routine can make a huge difference – trust me, I know! I used to overeat weekly, sometimes daily, and now rarely do anymore from practicing these exact tips.

Need 1-1 support with this? Book a health and weight loss coaching call with me here.

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