Are you always overeating?
Do you mindlessly snack all day long?
Do you crave sugar when you are upset or salty snacks late at night?

Same.

overeating

 

At the start of this New Year, we asked Charlotte therapist Rebecca Glavin about the reasons why this might be happening.

Below are 5 Common Overeating Obstacles Rebecca sees in her practice, along with her suggested solutions to help you overcome them.

Obstacle 1: Mindless Munching

Why does it happen?

• Mindless eating or munching is when you eat without thinking about what you are doing.
• It happens when you put food in your mouth but are not present to the action. Maybe you are eating because you are bored? Eating while multi-tasking?
• Sometimes it happens when you are eating out of routine or habit instead of hunger.

Possible Solutions

• First and foremost, become present. Notice your bodily sensations and emotions. Notice whether you are feeling hunger or feeling something else. Bring the attention of all five of your senses to the act of eating. Notice how each bite tastes, smells and feels in your mouth. Eating in this way will help you to stop the endless munching pattern.
• We all love “finishing things” – especially snack foods. Instead of eating until you finish the bag of popcorn or chips, put one portion aside and finish just that portion. When you are done, take time to assess your hunger and fullness cues and decide if your body still wants more.

Obstacle 2: Afternoon/Evening Temptations

Why does it happen?

• It is the end of your workday, and you are tired. And when you are tired, you are more vulnerable – sometimes, more vulnerable to food. Your mind seeks out foods that are easily digestible such as simple carbohydrates, even though they are not the most nutritious or filing. Also, if you have restricted your caloric intake or been too busy to eat throughout the day, you are likely malnourished and over-hungry by the time you get home at night.
• Afternoon eating can also relate to loneliness at night. Are you eating to fill a void left by a lack of personal contact? Coming home to an empty house night after night can be lonely, and often, people turn to food to keep them company, to “fill them up” and to entertain them in the evenings.
• Lastly, there is a medical condition named Night Eating Syndrome, which is often associated with depression, anxiety and other mood disorders. This medical condition leads people to eat throughout the night and even eat while sleeping.

Possible Solutions

• Make sure to nourish yourself by eating wholesome meals and snacks throughout the day. If you restrict yourself during the day, it is extremely likely that you will over-eat at night.
• If you are hungry at night, eat! Just be more mindful of where or how you are eating at night. Do not eat in front of the TV or the computer where you are not paying attention to what you are putting into your body. Listening to your body’s hunger and fullness cues is the foundation of mindful eating. And, you cannot truly hear or understand your body’s cues if you are not tuned into to them because you are distracted by something else.
• Additionally, if you are feeling anxious, lonely, or depressed, work to identify the feeling and become aware of its impact on you. Eating at night to distract yourself from an emotion will not take the emotion away.
• And lastly, seek medical help for Night Eating Syndrome if you think you could have it. Please start by contacting your Primary Care Physician for more information.

Obstacle 3: Non-stop Snacking

Why does it happen?

• Are you eating full meals? Are you hungry and not listening to your body? Both of these can lead to non-stop snacking.
• Non-stop snacking can also relate to mindless eating. Have you snacked all day, but not paid any attention to the food you have been putting into your mouth?
• Or, are you trying to distract yourself from other emotions or sensations by eating?

Possible Solutions

• First, try not to eat ‘on the go’. If you are going to eat a meal or snack, do it; and do it well. Whether you are standing or sitting, do not type on the computer or gaze at your phone. Focus on the physical sensations as the food enters your mouth; focus on all the tastes and smells that it involves. If you do this, you will end up eating less and enjoying the meal more.

Obstacle 4: If You See It, You Eat It

Why does it happen?

• Research indicates that seeing nearby food triggers a neurological impulse to dig in regardless of how hungry you are. Thus, if you see it, you eat it because it is a reflex; and a reflex is even more ingrained than a habit.

Possible Solutions

• Slow down. The brain needs something external to focus on, so when you see food, it focuses on that. Become aware of what your brain is telling you regarding your hunger cues versus the need to attend to an external stimulus. You can try to switch your attention and focus on something else that will engage you. If you are truly hungry, you will know it regardless of whether you see the food or not.
• Here is an out-of-the-box idea: try eating with chopsticks instead of a fork and knife. Chopsticks force you to slow down the process of eating and give you time to notice how full you are feeling.

Obstacle 5: Stress Cravings

Why does it happen?

• Emotional eating is when you eat to change the way that you feel. It is eating regardless of whether or not you are physically hungry.
• Eating when you are stressed often happens because it distracts you from you thoughts and physical experience of anxiety or feelings of unsettledness.

Possible Solutions

• When you are stressed, your body releases hormones that lead you to seek calming influences. Food can often be a source of calm, so you seek it out when you are anxious or overwhelmed even if you are not hungry. Instead of using food as your calming influence, try doing something relaxing like yoga or deep breathing to address the feeling you are having.
• In the end, know that food will not solve stress and the emotion will be there regardless of what you eat or when you eat if you do not address it outright. So, take care of yourself in other ways, maybe by taking a walk outside, calling a friend, listening to music, taking a bubble bath. . If you are still hungry afterwards then eat something nutritious and healthy.

♦♦♦

 

Overeating is common and something that we all struggle with in one-way or another.

Your work is learning to listen to your body especially your hunger and fullness cues. It is difficult, and it takes practice, time, and attention. But, learning to eat mindfully and feed your body what it wants and needs is a lifelong goal that we can each take steps towards starting today.

 

RG-Headshot-1
Rebecca Glavin, MBA, MSW, LCSWA is a therapist in Charlotte who specializes in working with women with body image and self-esteem concerns as well as eating disorders.
Rebecca also works with women who struggle with infertility, women who have miscarried, and women who have terminated a pregnancy.
Rebecca lives in the Cotswold area with her husband and young daughter. To learn more about Rebecca, visit her website www.rebeccaglavin.com or find her profile and information on the Psychology Today website here. Rebecca spoke on a local TV program recently about the five common overeating obstacles that many of us struggle with, and you can view that segment here.