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How to Stop Overeating: 5 Methods That Work

If you’re trying to lose weight, the first step is often to eat less. Do you think you may be eating too much? The temptation to snack or indulge can be strong. We’ve gathered some tips and information about how not to overeat that may help you.

What is considered overeating?

You may indulge at dinner and end up stuffed or in a food coma, or you may snack throughout the day in addition to your three main meals. Regardless of how it happens, consistently eating too much may lead to weight gain and may cause a host of other health problems, including gastrointestinal tract problems, joint problems, heart disease, Type 2 Diabetes, and sleep-related breathing disorders like obstructive sleep apnea.

Let’s delve a little deeper into the relationship between food and your body. Your body uses calories from food for energy. The number of calories your body needs to function, work, exercise, and play depends on your age, height, weight, sex, and activity level. Smaller, shorter women need fewer calories for their bodies to operate than taller, heavier men. If you’re an active person who exercises at least 150 minutes per week or takes at least 10,000 steps per day, your body will need more calories.

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Although the USDA uses 2,000 calories as the recommended daily amount for the average person to maintain weight their weight, many women need fewer calories than that. You can get a rough estimate of how many calories you need by using an online calculator to determine your minimum caloric needs (the amount your body needs to function) based on your height and weight. Then add more calories to this number according to your activity level. For example, a 5’5” woman who weighs 150 pounds will need about 1,700–1,800 calories per day if they get light exercise.

Overeating is the consumption of more calories than your body needs. These excess calories (think of them as potential energy) are stored in the body as fat tissue. If you eat fewer calories than you use during the day, your body converts the fat tissue to energy to make up the difference.

Overeating doesn’t always feel like eating until you’re stuffed. For many people who want to lose weight, it simply means consuming more energy than their bodies use.

There are many reasons people overeat. Some doctors and scientists consider chronic overeating similar to other addictive behavior, like drinking or gambling. In these cases, binging may be your response to trauma in your past or a way to soothe negative emotions. Others choose to eat large meals to celebrate or reward themselves. 

Why do people overeat? Other people may binge because they have binge eating disorder (BED) or bulimia. Both of these eating disorders involve compulsive eating when stressed, sad, depressed, or angry. Risk factors for binge eating disorder are family history of eating disorders, history of dieting, psychological issues, and history of sexual abuse. Eating disorders are a coping mechanism, rather than an addiction, and they can often be treated with professional therapy, typically cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT).

Other people have problems with binging simply because they don’t realize how much they eat or how many calories are in the food they eat. Some healthy foods, such as nuts or cheese, have a lot of calories per serving. A handful of almonds or walnuts, for example, may clock in at over 200 calories. If you constantly graze and snack throughout the day, a handful of nuts here and there can quickly add up. If you ask yourself, "Why am I eating so much," or wonder why you’re gaining weight, it may be that you aren't mindful of how many calories you’re consuming.

Eating more food than your body needs can lead to weight gain and obesity. Doctors typically categorize weight according to body mass index (BMI), which is a ratio of your height to weight. A person’s BMI falls into one of four categories: underweight (below 18.5), normal (18.5–24.9), overweight (25–29.9), or obese (over 30). BMI may indicate the likelihood of developing many diseases and illnesses, including Type 2 Diabetes, heart disease, joint issues, arthritis, and reproductive issues such as polycystic ovarian syndrome and infertility. It should be noted that BMI isn’t always an accurate assessment of a person’s health.

It’s important to understand that fat, or adipose tissue, isn’t an inert mass that accumulates around your abdomen or hips. Fat tissue is an organ that secretes estrogen. An imbalance of hormones can make it more difficult to become pregnant, and it can cause irregular and heavy menstrual periods, bloating, excessive mood swings, and increase the risk of endometrial cancer.

Doctors typically categorize weight according to body mass index (BMI), which is a ratio of your height to weight. A person’s BMI falls into one of four categories: underweight (below 18.5), normal (18.5–24.9), overweight (25–29.9), or obese (over 30).

The effects of obesity aren’t just physical. Many overweight people have a poor self-image and face discrimination. In addition, not liking your physical appearance can lead to depression, sadness, lack of confidence, and becoming socially withdrawn.

Being overweight can also affect your love life. Certain sex positions may be off the table, or you may have to modify your favorite positions to accommodate your body. And people who have poor self-confidence may find it difficult to enjoy intimacy with another person.

The first step in determining how to stop eating so much is to get to the bottom of your tendency to overeat. Depending on the underlying reasons for overeating, you may need to see a licensed therapist who specializes in binge eating disorders or who can help you heal from past trauma. If you use food as a coping mechanism, understanding why can help you process your emotions and adopt healthy behaviors so that you learn how to not overeat in response to negative feelings.

You may also benefit from group therapy, such as Overeaters Anonymous, and creating a network of support that you can lean on when you feel the urge to binge eat. In group therapy, you may also learn strategies from others that help you learn how to control eating, but only after discussing your problem with a doctor. 

If your eating habits aren’t caused by psychological issues, you might need to learn more about nutrition and exercise. If this sounds like you, begin with a visit to a licensed dietitian (not a nutritionist — these are two separate things). A dietitian can help you find healthier alternatives to calorie-dense foods and develop an eating plan to help you put an end to overeating. 

Being mindful when you eat can help reduce how much you eat. This means that when you do eat, you concentrate only on eating. Chew slowly, taking note of the flavors and textures of your food. Set your utensils down between bites and allow yourself to eat more slowly. These techniques can help you learn how to stop eating so much. 

In addition, pay attention to your body and its hunger cues. Sometimes, you may be thirsty instead of hungry — if you're slightly dehydrated, your body may be telling you to eat when all you really need is a glass of water. Or, you may eat when you're bored. Instead of snacking, practice a hobby that occupies your hands to combat boredom eating. 

Eating too much can lead to weight gain and a host of physical ailments. However, eating better can help you have more energy, enjoy better health, and even see a reduction in the symptoms of certain diseases. Changing your eating habits can be hard work, but you may be surprised by the benefits of learning how to control eating. 

https://www.eatingrecoverycenter.com/conditions/compulsive-overeating/health-risks

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/binge-eating-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20353627

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5403578/

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/binge-eating/

https://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/assessing/bmi/adult_bmi/index.html

https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/learn/by-eating-disorder/bed

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