Believe it! There is a way to end overeating and you can do it!
Believe me, too, when I say I know how hard it is to end overeating. All the toothbrushing and bathtub soaking, and gum chewing and walk taking won’t stop overeating.
Drinking water between bites and chewing thoroughly and slowing the pace might help temporarily, but it’s not enough to stop overeating unless you begin with the logical step.
The logical step is a basic understanding of why you overeat.
You don’t need specific reasons because they are vast and chasing them all down is a waste of time. Instead of worrying why you overeat, just understand the mechanics and concentrate on reprogramming yourself to help you stop overeating.
The mechanics of eating and overeating:
Our bodies are designed to recognize a need for food. When a long period of time, three or more hours, has passed our bodies recognize it’s going to need fuel again soon. That is the beginning of homeostatic hunger. Blood sugar drops, we get the vaguely uncomfortable feeling of hunger, and we start thinking about where to go to get food and what that food will be.
Then, if things are working as they should we eat and we eat just enough to satisfy our body’s need for fuel. Our body detects we have filled the tank, so to speak, and it tells us, “okay, put down the fork; I’m full.” The meal is over and we have no interest or urge to eat for hours.
Lots of us don’t have a system that works that way.
Through years of conditioning that may have started as an infant, plus other mitigating factors such as stress, anxiety, depression, boredom, we get the “full message” but we don’t stop. We keep going as long as food is available until we reach a point where full becomes pain. When we start to hurt because we have eaten too much we finally stop… for a little while that is…
More can go wrong with our systems.
A little food settles, we burp, and although it hasn’t been hours since last we ate, the hungry sensation starts to build again. It builds faster and more urgently if food happens to be nearby and within sight and smell. The more palatable the food, the more strongly we feel the hunger signals. Even though we have an adequate amount of fuel in our system we receive a message that tells us we don’t. The message is real; it’s not in our head but rather coming from our bellies. When our hunger signals are not coming from a real physical need for fuel it’s called hedonic hunger.
Ending overeating is both managing how much is eaten in response to homeostatic hunger and finding a way to avoid eating when we’re experiencing hedonic hunger.
How to reprogram the behavior to end overeating
Reprogramming yourself to end overeating takes self-confidence, patience and time. It’s a skill. Like most skills you approach with confidence you will eventually become proficient but there will be a period during the learning phase where you are not so proficient. That doesn’t mean the skill cannot be learned and eventually mastered. it means it will take patience – don’t give up – and time to become skilled.
- Have a plan. Have some predetermined limits to provide structure. Calories are a simple way to set limits. Weight Watchers members use points. Some people like to use servings broken into dietary exchanges. Create a plan using what limits suit your preference.
- Try to eat according to a schedule. You may feel satisfied with three meals and several small snacks daily. Some people like to eat smaller meals more frequently broken down into 6 daily meals roughly two hours apart. Find what’s most satisfying and as much as possible try to stick to that schedule.
- Eat good food. Good food is food you enjoy. It’s nutritious food but unless you like it, it’s no good. Good food includes a few small treats. This isn’t about becoming a martyr. It’s about reducing how much you eat, but not reducing your eating pleasure.
- Be prepared with actions to take when hedonic hunger kicks in. Being a coach to yourself works well. Tell yourself how you will redirect your thoughts away from food. Telling yourself, “don’t eat that,” is not how to coach yourself. Coaching is focused on positive steps – what to do to replace the unwanted behavior.
- Get and give support. It’s important to believe in yourself. The more you refrain from overeating, the more your confidence grows. Having encouragement from others who are successfully ending their overeating behaviors helps you to believe you can do it too. Support is even more important if you need to recover from a lapse. Giving support to others helps to reinforce your own success.
- Expect to make mistakes, and move on. Never give up!