How To Stop Overeating

Compulsive overeating is an unhealthy habit that can develop over time due to reasons like boredom, stress or emotional issues.
By Corina Tan

Eating too much occasionally is normal, especially during special events or festive seasons, but if overeating becomes a continuous habit and you find that compulsive eating is part of your life, then its time to reign it in. There are many reasons why people overeat. It can be as simple as a mindless habit that develops slowly over time when you’re not even thinking about it. Other reasons can be food addiction, restrictive dieting that ends up in a binge, or even eating as a comforting tool for emotional issues. Some people have a clinical disorder called Binge Eating Disorder where they compulsively eat a large amount of food over a short period of time and then feel shame or guilt afterward.  Whatever the reasons may be, it is good to identify the cause of overeating and seek help for it.

If you feel you fall within the category of people who simply overeat out of boredom or habit, here are some effective ways to curb your appetite and eat only as much as you need.

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Get out of the habit of stopping by a bakery for pastries or a newsagent stall for a bar of chocolate or ice cream. If you stop to buy a magazine or some other essential item, resist the temptation to purchase sweets, chips, biscuits, cakes or any other salty or sugary snack. People tend to eat these tasty snacks compulsively, but you can learn to live without them and reserve the right to indulge only at social events or as a special treat.


Compulsive eating is often about boredom, stress or other issues but nuts in their shells require you to crack them open and extract the contents making it a therapeutic and distracting activity. Walnuts, almonds, pecans, and hazelnuts are also healthy and nutritious.


When you find yourself food hunting, do something else for 20 minutes. Drink a large glass of water as thirst is sometimes confused as hunger. Write a letter or listen to a podcast. Go for a walk or do something that you really enjoy. Come back after 20 minutes and assess if you are still hungry. If the urge has passed, then you would have avoided an unnecessary snack.


Allow yourself to be picky with food and set some food standards. Don’t eat leftovers if you can help it, and don’t consume or try anything that doesn’t look good to you. If you are offered something on a plate, don’t feel obliged to eat it. Choose your food based on your health needs rather than eating just for the sake of it.


Put an end to super-sized portions and resist the temptation to pile food onto your plate. Select a modest portion for yourself and eat slowly. Deliberately take time to chew your food well as that helps with proper digestion too. People often overeat by taking a bigger portion than they need and end up finishing it with the excuse that they don’t want food to go to waste. Resizing your portion will give you the chance to reassess how much you actually need to eat to feel full.

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Having a break between a meal and dessert gives your brain time to receive the fullness signal and makes you more likely to refuse a sweet treat. As soon as you feel the first signs of satiety, remove your plate from the table telling your brain that food time is over.


Have something healthy to eat an hour before your meal so you don’t pig out later. Nibble on some nuts, a piece of fruit, a small chunk of cheese or a few spoons of yoghurt. Do the same before you head out to eat so that you resist the temptation of the breadbasket while waiting for food to be served.

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Photos: Getty Images

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