Can’t Stop Overeating? Here Are 3 Reasons Why (and how to fix them!)
There’s nothing worse that wanting to lose weight but feeling out of control with your eating. Here’s how to end your struggle with overeating and lose weight once and for all
If you’re struggling with your weight (or have struggled in the past), then you probably know what it’s like to have intense and uncontrollable urges to overeat…
Don’t worry, I’m right there with you, too! Overeating and binge eating are things that I’ve struggled with for nearly my entire life.
Because of my experience, I understand how defeating it is to feel out of control with your eating habits…
That’s why, in this article, I’m going to help you identify the reason WHY you’re overeating and then provide a solution to the problem!
We’ll start by outlining common reasons why most of us overeat, and then reverse engineer that reason with a strategy plan for overcoming it once and for all!
If you’re like me, then you’ll probably be able to identify with one or multiple “causes”…
But the good news is you’ll now be aware of what’s causing you to overeat and have a solution for correcting it! That way, you can have long-lasting weight loss results.
Before I jump into those causes and solutions for overeating, I want to briefly tell you about my relationship with overeating and losing weight.
If you want to skip ahead to the advice, feel free to do so…
But if you want to know the “WHY” behind my advice in this article, then take the extra couple of minutes to read the section below.
You’ll likely discover that we share a lot in common when it comes to overeating and weight gain…
How Losing Weight Led Me To Struggle MORE With Overeating…
It all started at age ten when I first started getting “chubby.” My weight continued to climb all the way to my sophomore year of high school where I eventually topped the scales at 305 pounds!
To me, food was a friend…
When I was sad, food was there to pick me back up. When I was happy, my good ole’ pal food was still around to celebrate alongside me!
It didn’t matter what emotional state or mood I was experiencing…
Food ALWAYS made things better
Of course, priorities changed when I started losing weight, and because of how determined and focused I was on losing, I ended up radically alter my diet and exercise choices.
Those changes are what ultimately lead me to lose 100 lbs in under ten months!
But here’s the interesting bit…
I was STILL overeating.
In fact, my struggle with overeating and bingeing got worse as the scale was going down…
You might be wondering, how is that even possible? How could my overeating and bingeing get worse and my weight on the scale go down?
Even though I didn’t STOP overeating, I did change HOW I was doing it…
You see, when I was heavy and gaining weight, I would guess that I was only overeating 200-400 calories at a time. Those extra calories were coming from simple things like an extra slice of pizza, or a second helping of Mom’s famous nacho surprise…
The problem, though, is that I was mindlessly overeating 200-400 calories consistently with every meal.
As you can imagine, the 200+ extra calories I took in from choosing the “Biggie” size value meal or grabbing seconds (or thirds) was enough to keep me in a constant state of weight gain.
But when I was LOSING weight, everything switched…
While dieting, I was incredibly strict with my day-to-day eating plan. Because of this extreme attention to detail, my frequency of overeating went down tremendously.
But when I did overeat, it would turn into an all-out bingeing massacre…
Sometimes I’d make it an entire week—two weeks tops—without a single slip-up in my diet. Eventually, though, I’d have a day where I would lose all control over my eating restraints.
And I’m not talking about some cute, “Oops! Looks like I ate the whole pint of ice cream instead of just half… silly me! ????“
No, no, no… I’m talking about a no-holds-barred feeding frenzy that involved ferociously sucking down anything and everything I could get my greedy little hungry hands on…
Chips, cookies, crackers, chocolate, candy… You name it. I ate it without reserve.
My “favorite thing to do” (for lack of a better phrase) was to purchase an entire package of Double-Stuffed Oreos (none of that single-stuffed bull crap), a pint (sometimes two) of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, turn on Netflix, and shut myself off from the world…
I share all this to say I know what it’s like to feel out of control around food – especially when you’re trying to lose weight!
I also know that losing weight isn’t the cure to overeating either…
It’s something we can’t change on the scale. It can only get fixed change from within us!
Overcoming your urge to overeat is about making mindset and habit changes. It’s these changes that alter your relationship with food (in a good way) and make losing weight and staying lean easier than ever before!
I took me a LOOOOOONG time to realize the truth in that paragraph above…
But once I identified the psychological reasoning behind my overeating (listed below), I started slowly but surely improve my relationship with food.
Through consistent practice and attention, I dramatically reduce how often I overate (and how intense my overeating episodes were).
Before long, my relationship with food had improved ten-fold, and maintaining a healthy body was easier than I ever thought imaginable!
I was in control of food – Not the other way around.
3 Reasons You Can’t Stop Overeating, and How To Stop Them Once and For All
What follows are 3 of the biggest reasons I see folks struggling with overeating, all of which I’ve battled with myself!
Reason #1 – You Don’t Know How Much You’re Actually Eating
This reason seems obvious enough, especially for people who are not actively dieting or paying attention to their food choices…
Unfortunately though, many dieters still end up overeating unknowingly despite paying attention to their food choices.
You see, most people start losing weight by simply making “healthier” food choices (or at least what they think are healthier).
And while eating healthier is a great first step, it doesn’t guarantee weight loss as there’s still the potential of taking in sneaky calories…
For example, say you’re out to eat with your friends at your local Applebee’s restaurant. You’re trying to lose weight, so your usual half-rack of ribs & fries order probably isn’t the best choice.
After scouring the menu for a few minutes, you land on the Oriental Chicken Salad. And they have a grilled version too!
Perfect, right?… not quite:
(This was posted on my Instagram page along with all of my other comparisons and graphics).
As you can see from the Calorie Comparison above, the seemingly “healthy” Oriental Chicken Salad comes with a whopping 1290 calories!
Granted, a large percentage of the extra calories come from the dressings and toppings used…
But without knowing the nutrition information, most people would have never guessed they were taking in so many extra calories unknowingly.
The Solution: Keep a Food Log & Track Your Food
The simple act of journaling your daily food intake has been shown time and time again to improve weight loss results… even in folks who aren’t actively dieting! (study)
That’s because it creates awareness and accountability around your food choices.
You see, logging requires you look up the nutrition information for the foods you’re eating (at least if you want to be accurate!).
That step alone will provide numerous insights into what food choices may be leading to a higher-than-expected calorie intake.
It may also reveal how some of the “healthy” foods you’re eating come packed with sneaky calories that have been keeping you from losing weight.
For journaling, I like to use MyFitnessPal (both the app and the website) to track my clients’ nutrition as well as my own.
However, the exact tracking method/software you use isn’t as important as actually doing it. Pick a method and do it as accurately, honestly, and consistently as you can.
Now that we’ve talked about how we can unknowingly eat more calories than we realize, let’s look at a couple of reasons why we knowingly overeat despite our weight loss goals…
Reason #2 – You’re Overly-Restrictive With Food
Most people assume that losing weight requires complete abstinence from foods that are sweet, salty, or really anything described as being a “comfort food.”
(I’m looking at you, Oreos.)
Think back to the last time you tried losing weight…
I bet one of the first things you did was significantly reduce how many “junk” foods you were eating… If you’re like most people (me included), then you probably tried to eliminate ALL “bad” foods entirely!
Forced to survive on nothing more than salads and lemon water. 🙁
Well… how long did that last? Exactly – not long at all.
The biggest issue with overly-restricting food is that it regularly leads to senseless polarization of nutrition, such as labeling specific foods as “good” and “bad” for your health.
That, in turn, leads to an even worse relationship with food—often worse than the one you had BEFORE dieting.
Then it starts to seep into other areas of your life…
You skip hanging out with friends all because they’re going to a restaurant with “bad” foods. Family gatherings turn into anxiety attacks waiting to happen from all the “dirty” foods available…
Sure, you may be getting healthier physically, but now your social and emotional health is taking a hit…
You’re “robbing Peter (your mental health and social life) to pay Paul (lose some weight).”
The Solution: Become a Restrained Dieter
Where a Restricted Dieter eliminates foods they think are unhealthy or “bad” for them, a Restrained Dieter understands the truth about the healthiness of different food…
They understand that there’s no such thing as “good” and “bad” foods. Rather, foods can be MORE or LESS nutritious that others…
For example, just because a cookie is less nutritious than kale doesn’t mean it’s automatically unhealthy.
Obviously, a “cookie-only” diet probably isn’t the best idea for your health or weight loss… but having a cookie every once in a while is totally okay!
As long as you’re:
- Eating in a Calorie Deficit
- Eating Plenty of Protein
- Eating Mostly (~80%) Whole Foods
Then the occasional cookie or treat won’t negatively affect your health or weight loss.
In fact, you’ll likely end up having BETTER mental health as a result of less stress and worry from your food choices.
When you become a restrained eater, you can go out with friends and enjoy yourself knowing that eating less nutritious for that day isn’t a big deal in the grand scheme of things.
Wanna Know The Truth About “Good” and “Bad” Foods and Why They Don’t Exist? Click Here to Find Out!
Reason #3 – You’re Going TOO LOW in Calories
Once you understand the importance of calories for gaining and losing weight, a new problem can arise…
If weight loss is simply a game of Calories In vs. Calories Out (CICO), then wouldn’t it be the case that, the fewer calories I eat/more calories I burn, the quicker my results will be?
Intuitively, this idea makes sense…
If you start eating less and less food and adding more and more exercise, your body will have no choice but to dig deeper into its own fat stores for fuel.
The issue with that thinking, though, is naively thinking our bodies are nothing more than a simple machine that takes in energy, uses that energy, and then craps out the rest. ????
In reality, the human body is an incredibly complex system with all kinds of different gizmos, doodads, doohickeys, and thingamajigs that make the whole CICO thing go a bit wonky at times…
For example, as you decrease your calories and/or drastically increase cardio, your body will likely react by downregulating other mindless movements throughout the day (i.e. fidgeting, twitching, tapping, walking, etc.) and increasing your appetite.
(The degree to which your body makes these adjustments will depend on your genetics, time spent dieting, age, and current level of leanness)
Here’s an example that’ll hopefully explain phenomenon more clearly…
Let me introduce you to Sally.
Sally is a mother of two young boys and also the CEO of her own online business (Look at Sally go!). She’s 5 ft. 4 in. (64 total inches), weighs 160 pounds, lifts weights 4x per week, and her goal is to lean down to ~140 lbs.
Using those stats, she follows the guidelines outlined in my article on how to determine calories for losing weight and comes up with a starting daily calorie target of 1,700 and a protein target of 120g.
After a few weeks of tracking accurately and staying consistent, she finds her average weekly loss to be around .8 pounds (which is within my recommendations of losing .5-1% of total body weight per week).
There’s something else you need to know about Sally, though…
She isn’t exactly “patient” with her body, and anything less than 2 lbs per week seems too slow to her.
Since she’s unsatisfied with the speed of her results, she decides the obvious next step is to restrict calories even further… After doing some math in her head, she figures out that she’ll need around 1,100 calories to lose her desired 2 lbs per week.
For the first two weeks, she starts dropping weight HELLAFAST! (<– that’s how the kids nowadays say “real fast” ????) Her hunger isn’t too bad either, and she actually feels like she has more energy!
Over time, though, things start to go sour…
Starting week three, her hunger is out of control, she’s moody, and her energy is essentially nonexistent despite doubling up her coffee intake.
The worst part, though, is she’s not losing any more weight…
In fact, she’s STOPPED losing weight altogether!
At the end of week 3, Sally is so discouraged that she says “Screw It!” and goes on a weekend-long “Stuffz-all-the-foodz-in-my-mouthz“ Fest. The next week, she’s so upset that she restricts her calories even more—starting the same cycle all over again.
Sally’s experience is not an uncommon one.
Many dieters get excited about seeing results, and out of that excitement make drastic changes in hopes to see faster and faster results.
Unfortunately, this shifts their body into “Hell No! Mode” where it starts decreasing metabolic functions and sends the brain signals to eat more and move less.
The Solution: Use a Moderate Calorie Deficit, and Be Patient
Before you even start thinking about losing weight, you need to realize that there are NO weight loss quick-fixes.
None, nada, zero, zilch.
If your plan is to “trick” your body into losing weight quickly by severely restricting calories and doing ridiculous amounts of cardio exercise, you’re setting yourself up for TOTAL FAILURE.
Even if that works at first, it’ll only end up pissing your body off more and make weight loss harder than it needs to be.
Stick to a moderate calorie deficit of around 20-25% below maintenance. That’ll be enough to create a sufficient deficit for losing WITHOUT going so low that your body starts seriously downregulating your metabolism.
For exercise, try to make it cause as little stressful as possible.
For most people wanting to lose fat, I recommend training with weights 3-4x a week and increasing daily activity from low-intensity cardio (like walking).
In my opinion, those two types of exercise are the best for long-term weight loss results, sustainability, and enjoyment.
Want Help Building an Effective Fat Burning Workout Plan? Click Here
Overeating is no fun, and not a single person likes doing it.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t change the fact that many people find themselves in a situation where they feel out of control with their eating habits…
That’s why, when it comes to nutrition and stopping overeating, I whole-heartedly believe that knowledge is the gold-ticket solution.
Having a basic understanding of how calories and macros work, how the body responds to food, why no food is inherently “unhealthy,” and how YOU feel when eating certain foods gives you complete control over your health.
You don’t have to resort to FAD diets, food labeling, crazy restriction, or total isolation from social events…
Instead, you can be flexible and adjust your diet in accordance with your specific goals.
And the best part is that overeating becomes less of an issue the more you learn about energy balance and practice nutrition flexibility.
You won’t accidently take in sneaky calories every day, and 300-calorie slips won’t turn into 3,000 calorie binges.
Join My Free 7-Day Fat Loss Course and Take Command Over Your Eating Habits
Like I talked about in the start, it took me a long time to reach a point where I felt I was in complete control over my body and food choices.
But through hard work and resilience, I developed nutrition and exercise strategies that made losing fat and staying lean simple.
My 7-Day Fat Loss Freedom course is the cumulation of all those things I learned about losing fat, building lean muscle, and sustaining my results in an enjoyable way.
So if you want to start losing weight in a way that’s going to last, then click the button below to sign up for my FREE Fat Loss Freedom course.
See you on the other side 🙂
7-Day Fat Loss Freedom
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What's Your "Dieter Type"?
Use The FREE Dieter Type Tool To Discover How To Lose Fat (& Keep It Off) Based On Your "Dieter Type"