What Are the Best Ways to Stop Overeating?

If you’re wondering how to stop overeating, don’t worry — there are lots of things you can do to overcome this challenge. 

Written by Jenn Hand, Holistic Nutritionist, Board Certified Health Coach, NBC-HWC

My insidious battle with bingeing and dieting began when I was 16 when I had gained a lot of weight in high school. I’m going to share that story in this post and how I overcame my struggle with overeating, binge eating and emotional eating.

Here’s the thing: you CAN have a normal relationship with food and experience freedom from dieting and restricting without living in fear of gaining weight.

If you want to stop overeating, it’s helpful to explore the four pillars of normal eating: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual.

It’s likely that there are many factors causing your struggle with overeating and taking a holistic approach is the best way to work through what’s keeping you stuck.

Table of Contents

  1. My Personal Experience
  2. 12 Reasons You Might be Overeating
  3. How to Stop Overeating
  4. Common Questions
  5. Special Circumstances that Cause Overeating
  6. Stop Overeating When Stressed
  7. Stop Overeating When Bored
  8. Avoid Overeating When Tired
  9. Stop Overeating When Depressed
  10. Stop Overeating at Night

My Personal Experience with Overeating, Binge Eating, and Emotional Eating

My insidious battle with bingeing and dieting began when I was 16 when I had gained a lot of weight in high school.

I decided I needed to “be skinnier” for the upcoming high school prom and started taking diet pills and restricting my food. I lost 20 pounds in 2 months, went off the diet pills and began a long slide into months of overeating. This began my 13 year battle with dieting, bingeing and trying to “get back to” the weight loss I had for the prom. 

What really helped me overcome this cycle was getting one-on-one help. 

I convinced myself that I could do it on my own for so long–after all, it was “just” food! But when I got the support I needed, I started breaking out of the cycle and slowly began feeling like a normal eater. 

I focused on two main areas that had a huge impact on my own healing: getting out of the diet/binge cycle and working to deal with emotions without food. I started to eat every 3-4 hours, adding protein every time I ate to re-regulate my blood sugar, break out of the all-or-nothing mindset and learn the rhythms of hunger, fullness, and energy levels.

Emotionally, I worked to process, explore and express emotions without eating over them.

After a lifetime spent eating when I was sad, anxious, afraid, lonely or any other emotion, this was a challenge, but one that had a huge impact on my own journey. 

Now, I help other women find freedom around food and get off the diet roller coaster forever. These tips below are all based on my 10+ years as an emotional eating and binge eating coach.

My Personal Experience with Overeating, Binge Eating, and Emotional Eating

12 Reasons You Might be Overeating

Before we get into the 27 things you can do to overcome overeating, let’s talk about the main reasons why you might be overeating. It can be helpful to know the why before we jump into the what-to-do part.

When we’re in the diet world, we learn that less is more.

Diet programs teach us that less we eat, the faster we lose weight. In reality, our bodies need a certain amount of fuel per day. When we don’t eat enough, it can backfire later in the day or week and send us into a binge. 

Oftentimes, we get in our heads about what we are “supposed” to eat.

When I first started working on my own food issues, I had about 750 rules in my own head! The more rules I followed and the more rigid I tried to be, the more I overate later. 

If you have a house with a lot of your trigger foods, it can be challenging to not be tempted every time you open the fridge or pantry. 

You’re not a “failure” if you need to explore getting rid of all of the trigger foods (or not buying them at the store.) It actually can make it easier for you while you are re-balancing your body. 

It’s hard to pay attention to our body’s signals when we’re scrolling through social media, answering emails or watching TV while we eat. 

Not being able to hear our bodies can lead to mindless eating and eating more than our bodies need.

This is cliche but true!

Something as simple as not drinking water can cause people to misinterpret hunger signals and lead to eating when not hungry. 

Something as simple as not drinking water can cause people to misinterpret hunger signals and lead to eating when not hungry. 
People may misinterpret hunger signals and eat when they are not hungry due to something as simple as not drinking enough water.

Stress can have a big impact on food.

I was a stress-eater and ate because I was overwhelmed or anxious. As a society we are more stressed and have more to-dos than ever before. This can lead to eating for relief and to de-stress.

Growing up, I ate when I felt an emotion I didn’t know how to deal with.

I was terrified of big emotions and didn’t know what else to “do” with them besides eat. For many women, we didn’t learn how to deal with feelings, and food becomes our outlet for intense emotions. 

Sometimes overeating is a result of just being plain exhausted!

We burn the candle at both ends and don’t realize that sometimes, we just need a good ole nap or 8:30pm bedtime. 

For me, this is still something I notice that’s linked to cravings and wanting more.

The lower your protein intake, the less satisfied you’ll be. Not enough protein can cause cravings, which leads to overeating.

Similarly, not eating enough fiber can cause blood sugar spikes and lead to feeling more “crave-y.”

Eating high fiber foods helps you to feel full. And high fiber foods also are often very high in nutrients and flavor leaving you feeling satiated.

While at first, it’s helpful to focus less on what we eat than how we eat, it’s important to note that higher processed foods can cause more cravings.

The more we’re eating packaged foods, the more we can crave them. 

Many people don’t know what else to do when they are bored, besides eat.

In our society, we are “doers” not “be-ers,” which can lead to overeating when we are feeling bored. 

In our society, we are “doers” not “be-ers,” which can lead to overeating when we are feeling bored. 
Apart from eating, many people have no idea what else to do when they’re bored.

How to Stop Overeating without Feeling Worried about Weight Gain

I’ve personally used all of these techniques to overcome overeating, emotional eating, and binge eating.

This journey is very personal and different tips resonate with different people, depending on where you are on this path.

Over the years, I’ve used some or all of these in working 1:1 with women, so take what resonates with you and leave the rest! 

1. Try Mindful Eating and Reduce Distractions While Eating 

This has always been a hard one for me. I’m a fast eater, doer and talker. 🙂

When trying to be mindful, I worked to slow down, take 2 breaths before a meal, try to taste what I was eating and pay attention to the experience of the meal. It’s good to start small–try taking one deep breath, one sip of water or put your fork down one time to pause during a meal and explore how you feel. 

2. Identify and Manage Trigger Foods

Going home for the holidays was always a big binge trigger for me.

I began making a plan when I went to visit my family–I’d write down what triggered me and what to do instead of turning to food. Having a plan can be super helpful in the moment of a trigger.

See if you can identify the people, places, or situations that trigger you and write out a 1-3 step plan to deal with it at the moment. 

3. Enjoy Your Favorite Foods in Moderation

The key is balance! It’s not that we make a rule to stop eating something forever.

We work to find what balance works for our own bodies–and we savor, taste and enjoy so that one of something can be enough. 

4. Try Releasing Food Rules

Begin with less “charged” foods and see if there is a rule you can challenge and break.

One of my biggest rules was “if you eat bread you’ll gain weight”–so I purposefully would have a piece of toast with breakfast or a sandwich for lunch a few times a week to prove to myself I could eat bread in moderation and be okay.

It’s scary to challenge your food rules, but this is the first step to building trust with yourself!

5. Explore Intuitive Eating

Learning to tune in to listen to our bodies rather than follow a rule-based way of eating helps us to explore our eating behavior and eating patterns so that we can understand more deeply what foods work for our bodies, how much we need of something and what nourishes us. 

Identify and Manage Trigger Foods

6. Identify If You’re Eating Balanced Meals 

Take a look at the types of meals you’re eating.

For sustainability and nourishment, aim for adding a protein to each meal or snack. This helps you stay balanced and diminishes cravings. Eating balanced meals also helps you not eat too much food.

As you eat regularly and often your body will likely feel better with less food because you’ll be able to eat again in a few hours! 

7. Explore Better Ways to Think about Portion Control

Instead of portion control (which immediately makes it feel diet-y!) I like to think of it as “how much does my body need?”

Exploring this question allows you to gently tune in to what feels like enough for you–without all of the judgment and criticism that we feel in the diet world. 

8. Don’t Ban Your Favorite Foods

As soon as we tell ourselves “you can’t have that cookie,” we immediately want the thing we said we cannot have.

Instead of banning foods, instead ask yourself: how can I eat balanced? 

9. Put Food in a Bowl or Plate Rather than Eating from the Bag or Container 

Visually, putting food on a plate can help our brains register how much we’re eating.

I still have trouble knowing how much is enough if I eat out of the bag. Put your meal or snack on a plate next time you eat–this helps your brain to recognize the signal of “enough.” 

10. Look at Your Food and Enjoy the Visual

Just like seeing food on a plate helps your brain register fullness, seeing what you’re eating helps you be present and experience what you’re eating.

Allow yourself to enjoy the experience of what you picked to eat! Your body needs fuel and this is one way you are caring for yourself. 

Look at Your Food and Enjoy the Visual

11. Slow Down and Savor the Flavor of Food as You Eat

I did an experiment with Reese’s cups (which used to be a huge binge food).

I made myself sit down, take them out of their package, and put them on a plate before I ate them.  I’d tell myself over and over I was allowed to enjoy them. It helped me actually taste them instead of inhaling them in a binge-like trance. Being present with what we’re eating helps us to actually receive the pleasure of food. (And it’s more likely one serving will be enough!)

12. Identify If or Why You’re Stressed 

I am a recovering stress eater, so I know how hard this can be.

Working to understand who or what is stressing you and then exploring other ways to feel relaxed can be a huge tool in letting go of needing to stress-eat.  Some of my favorite ways to de-stress are: journaling, being in nature, cuddling with my dog, a gentle yoga class, and disconnecting from my phone. 

13. Incorporate Fiber-Rich Foods Into Your Diet

Play around with integrating fiber-rich foods into your meals, like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes.

Fiber helps support digestive health, regulate blood sugar levels, and keep you full, reducing the likelihood of overeating.

14. Establish a Routine of Regular Meals

Aim to eat every 3-4 hours to begin a regular cadence of fueling your body.

From that timeframe, you can start to tune in to when you need to eat sooner and/or what timing works for your body. 

15. Track Your Food Intake With a Journal for a Few Weeks

Keeping a food journal for a few weeks can help you become more aware of your eating habits and identify patterns that may contribute to overeating or bingeing.

No need to weigh, measure or have it feel diet-y–it’s meant to be used as a tool to help you identify patterns and stuck points so you can work to shift out of them. 

Keeping a food journal for a few weeks might help you become more aware of your eating habits and discover patterns that may lead to overeating or binge eating.
Keeping a food journal for a few weeks might help you become more aware of your eating habits and discover patterns that may lead to overeating or binge eating.

16. Share Meals With Friends who are “Normal Eaters”

I used to “study” one of my best friends who ate totally normally.

It was inspiring to have someone who left food on her plate, didn’t stress about food and enjoyed the company of the people around her instead of obsessing over what she was or wasn’t eating. I worked to be more like her! 

17. Increase Protein Intake for Satiety

Increasing your protein intake helps regulate your blood sugar, slow digestion, and diminish cravings.

Play around with adding lean meats, eggs, dairy, and plant-based sources such as tofu or legumes to your meals and notice its impact on your satisfaction. 

18. Stabilize Blood Sugar Levels to Control Hunger

The way to balanced blood sugar is eating every 3-4 hours (ish) and adding protein every time you eat.

This will help steady your blood sugar levels, reduce cravings and promote a more sustainable approach to eating.

19. Monitor Alcohol Consumption to Prevent Overeating

Since alcohol can lower inhibitions and lead to overeating, explore your relationship to drinking.

I work with many women on finding a healthy balance to wine. I know some of my biggest binges coincided with drinking a lot, so journal about your relationship to wine, beer or liquor if it’s something you are concerned about. 

20. Stay Mindful by Checking In With Yourself

Tune in to YOU. What does your internal landscape look like?

Are there emotions, thoughts or fears? How do you feel?

Take a look at how you are really feeling inside, as this helps give us clarity on what we need to address, express or look at (so we don’t eat over it!)

Share Meals With Friends who are “Normal Eaters”

21. Plan Ahead So You Have Snacks on Hand

I am the queen of snacks–I keep “just in case” snacks in my purse, car and backpack when I’m out or when I’m traveling.

Having snacks like protein bars, trail mix, apples or nut butters can help you not reach the “hanger” levels where you’ll eat any and everything. 

22. Try to Reduce Sugary Drinks that Can Cause Cravings

Take a look at what you’re drinking.

If you’re drinking a lot of soda or other drinks with a lot of sugar, see if you can try herbal teas, seltzer, or infused water instead. Sometimes what we drink can contribute to cravings.  

23. Let Go of Dieting and Embrace Holistic Nutrition and Balanced Eating

Letting go of restrictive diets and working towards your “normal” can help you have a more positive relationship with food.

Dieting is tempting, as it offers “quick results”–but it never really gives us what we truly want: peace and freedom around food. 

24. Become Aware of the Diet Tapes Running in Your Mind  

The more restrictively we eat, the more we end up overeating later.

Explore what diet tapes come up for you as you move forward on this path. Get curious instead of critical–this can help you look at what’s keeping you stuck with a compassionate mindset rather than a punishing mindset. 

25. Think about What Sustainable Eating Habits Look Like for You

Everyone has their own path and their own “normal.”

What is sustainable for you? Get honest with yourself about what way of eating would really work for the long haul. Remember, you can always refine and tweak as you go. 

26. Include Healthy Fats in Your Diet

Many of us have been conditioned to think fat is “bad.”

In reality, our bodies need healthy fats to feel satiated and nourished. Incorporating fats like olive oil, nuts, seeds, and avocado in moderation can help improve satiety, promote nutrient absorption, and contribute to a balanced way of eating.

27. Get Help By Working with a Health Coach or Therapist who Gets It

One of the biggest gifts on my own journey was working with someone 1:1 who had lived the path and understood the battle with food.

Seeking support from someone who “gets it” is a huge gift! 

Get Help By Working with a Health Coach or Therapist who Gets It

Bonus Tip: Seek Guidance from an Emotional Eating and Binge Eating Coach

I found that working with a coach was a game changer for me when I was overcoming overeating, emotional eating and binge eating many years ago.

That’s one of the reasons that I became a holistic nutritionist and emotional eating coach. No matter who you choose to work with, getting support can speed up the process and allow you to experience lasting change. 

Common Questions About Overcoming Overeating

What is binge eating disorder and is it the same as overeating?

Binge eating disorder is a mental health condition characterized by recurrent episodes of uncontrollable overeating, accompanied by feelings of guilt, shame, or distress.

It’s not the same as overeating, as BED can be associated with various physical and psychological health consequences. 

Is skipping meals bad for me? Will it cause me to overeat later?

I recommend eating every 3-4 hours and working to eat regularly!

Skipping meals can disrupt your body’s hunger cues and lead to overeating later in the day because your body needs the fuel. It’s important to maintain a steady rhythm of eating to support your body’s needs and prevent overeating later in the day. 

What are some healthy snacks that can help me feel full and satisfied?

My favorite snacks are nut butters on ezekiel muffins, hard boiled eggs with sriracha, greek yogurt with oatmeal and berries and an apple with cheese.

Aim for any snack that has 12 grams of protein or more to help keep you satisfied. 

Should I stop eating before I feel full?

Explore until you are comfortably satisfied rather than waiting until you feel completely full.

In this journey, we redefine “full”–it’s not so stuffed we can’t move, but a comfortable level of satiation that fuels us for about 3-4 hours. 

What do I do if I have poor eating habits? 

The first thing to do is to be gentle and kind to yourself! If you’re reading this post, you’re already working towards change, so that’s a big start.

Pick 1-2 tips from above and work to incorporate them into your day to start. 

What is food intake memory and does it affect overeating?

Food intake memory refers to the ability to recall what and how much we have eaten.

It can influence overeating by affecting our perception of hunger and fullness, potentially leading to misjudgments in portion sizes and contributing to overconsumption of food. (+)

What are some healthy snacks that can help me feel full and satisfied?

Special Circumstances that Cause Overeating

While all of the tips we just went over will help in any circumstances, it can help to have some extra context when dealing with overeating within a particular context.

How To Stop Overeating When Stressed

I used to overeat if I got really stressed at work or if I was trying to make a difficult decision.

I would find myself halfway through a bag of cookies, wondering what just happened! To overcome stress eating, I’ve incorporated a habit of journaling about my emotions and what’s bothering me every single day.

How To Stop Overeating When Bored

Boredom was a big trigger for me. I used to get super bored in the winter, especially on the weekends.

This would lead to a binge more often than not. I worked to create a list of “10 things to do besides eat” and put it on my fridge to help me remember I had other options. 

How To Avoid Overeating When Tired

I don’t know why we resist going to bed, but we do! I worked with a woman who binged every night at 8 pm.

When we began exploring the “why” behind it, she realized she was actually just exhausted from a long day of teaching 1st graders and then raising 3 kids. When she gave herself permission to go to bed that early, the binge started to subside.

Depending on the time of day, give yourself permission to go to bed, take a nap or lie down for 20 minutes to recuperate.

How To Stop Overeating When Depressed

Food can feel comforting when we feel depressed.

I struggled with anxiety and depression before I got help for my food “stuff,” and would work to find other things to comfort me in the moment. I would call close friends, journal, let myself cry, and nudge myself to get outside for fresh air. 

If you do struggle with eating disorders and/or depression, I encourage you to seek professional help with someone who specializes in these areas. 

How To Stop Overeating at Night

I call the hours post dinner the “witching hour.” This is when most women struggle with overeating (myself included.)

To help me not overeat at night I would make sure I ate enough during the day, didn’t skip meals and journal before I sat down on the couch. Take a look at how much protein you’re eating with your meals, how long you’re going in between eating, and what emotions cropped up during the day that need to be addressed. 

More Articles About Overcoming Binge Eating

The Biggest Cause of Overeating at Night
How To Stop Overeating At Night
Should You Give In To a Craving? (Here’s What To Do!)

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About the Author: 

Jenn Hand has been helping women like you become normal eaters since 2015.

She’s worked with thousands of women, helping them to balance their bodies, end bingeing, stop obsessing over food, and start feeling amazing again.  As a board-certified health coach and holistic nutritionist, Jenn knows how to support you in making real positive changes that last.

Her articles have been published on Mind Body Green, Tiny Buddha, Thrive Global and other local and global media platforms. She’s the author of How to Be a Normal Eater and the creator of The Normal Eater’s Club program. Listen to Jenn’s advice and tips on the Cake Doesn’t Count Podcast, or read more of her articles for free on the Food Freedom Blog.

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