How to Stop Overeating and Binging

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stop overeating

In The Appetite Awareness Workbook (New Harbinger Publications, 2006), Linda W. Craighead, PhD lists seven points of intervention on overeating, bingeing, and obsessing with food. By becoming more aware of the some of the physical and emotional triggers for overeating, an individual can eliminate their need to eat more food than their body needs.

Overeating Trigger – Getting Too Hungry

When restricting calorie intake, it can become too easy to become too hungry between meals. Even individuals who have dieted excessively in the past may have learned to tune out feelings of hunger and therefore no longer recognize hunger before it becomes severe.

Craighead’s appetite awareness training has an individual rate their level of hunger on a scale of one (too hungry) to seven (ignored fullness) before they start eating. Although it can take some time before learning how to judge one’s hunger, it can show a pattern of waiting too long to eat. It can also identify if the reason for eating is because of feelings of deprivation instead of hunger.

Overeating Trigger – Breaking Food Rules

If an individual eats something not on a diet’s list of permitted foods, the person may say, “What the heck,” and overeat or binge. After following a restrictive diet, a person may look at any small deviation as permission to binge and start over another day. Acknowledge a need for flexibility in one’s food choices.

Overeating Trigger – Ignoring Fullness

It is easy to overlook the stomach’s signals for fullness. By the time an individual notices that they are full, they may really be stuffed, having overeaten. Overeating on a regular basis may mean that an individual doesn’t feel uncomfortable with too much food in his or her stomach it has become a normal sensation.

Overeating Trigger – Eating When Food Is Available

Scheduled snacks and mealtimes can be useful cues to eat. However, when food is available at other times, it may become socially and emotionally uncomfortable. The problem with these times is that a lack of hunger when eating makes it harder to notice sensations of fullness. Craighead encourages mindful eating at these times so an individual can enjoy special foods without overeating them.

Overeating Trigger – Emotional Eating

Eating can be soothing and distracting. Although not a problem if it occurs occasionally, it is an issue if it happens frequently. Feeling full usually has no part in stopping an emotional eating event. Overeating while trying to lose weight may set off a binge that makes an individual upset, which then leads to emotional eating – a vicious cycle.

Overeating Trigger – The What the Heck Response

For whatever reason, if more food is consumed than an individual feels they should have eaten this can lead to a response of “What the heck?” that then leads to permitted overeating for a period of time. However, an individual can acknowledge the negative feelings associated with overeating before they permit a binge. A 300-calorie slice of chocolate cake is nothing compared to taking in 3000 extra calories after determining “What the heck?” and consuming much more food.

Overeating Trigger – Plan to Binge or Overeat

Planned overeating usually occurs occasionally at celebrations and doesn’t threaten overall weight loss or gain. Planned binges connect to “what the heck” responses and unplanned bingeing. However, planning regular binges with the thought of “correcting” it with excessive exercise or purging can lead to long-term health problems.

Each of these triggers is a point “where you can learn to make different eating decisions.” By becoming aware of times when overeating can occur empowers an individual with the ability to plan in advance for ways to avoid sinking into one of these situations.

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