10 Strategies to Cope With the Urge to Overeat

Consider the following suggestions to help you cope with the strong urges to overeat.

  1. Give Definition to your Mealtime. Have regularly scheduled meals with healthy varied menus.  Set an eating schedule that suits your needs (such as 3 main meals per day at set times or more frequent smaller meals.)  Have a special place to eat along with a table setting so that your meals have a clear beginning and ending.  If possible, include others in your meal time.  Eating with others makes the meal more of a social event and less about the intake of food.
  2. Give Yourself Positive Statements While You Examine Your Struggle to Overeat Such as: “This urge is strong now, but I know it often goes away in a few minutes.  Hunger signals come and go and increase over time.  I’ll rate the intensity now and again when it returns.”

“I’ll trust myself.  I’m confusing my emotions with my urge to overeat.  I’ve already eaten enough regular meals.”

“What am I thinking and feeling?  What do I need to do with these emotions now, other than overeat?”

    1. Do Not Immediately Turn to Food. Keep to your regularly scheduled meal plan.  Focus on helpful coping statements such as:

“My hunger and full food cues are confusing to me now, so I must eat according to my schedule.”

“Smaller meals at regular intervals are more satisfying.”

“I must take in food to nourish my body just like I would give my children or a friend medicine and good food.”

    1. The Next Time You Feel a Food Urge, Take a Deep Breath and Relax. Keep a daily journal and take a moment to jot down any thoughts or feelings you are having surrounding this urge.  Is there something besides hunger that is urging you to eat? Are you stressed?  Sad? Bored? Angry? Lonely?  Was there anything in particular that stimulated the urge to eat?  You can use this technique to gain time to make better decisions about eating and to gain a greater awareness of what is driving your urge to eat.
    2. Break Your Old Dietary Rules Slowly. If you have a rule that says you can’t eat breakfast, try eating a little bit.  Leave the eating area at the point when you begin feeling discomfort.  Gradually increase the amount you eat and the length of time you stay in the eating area until you’ve eaten a healthy meal.
    3. Eat smaller portions of the foods you have been overeating. Since these foods will no longer be forbidden, you’ll probably not dwell on them or become anxious and guilty after eating them.  Pay attention as you eat, and when you are truly satisfied stop eating.  Remember you don’t have to eat everything on your plate if you’re already satiated.
    4. Try to eat moderate portions, and let go of diet myths that might have controlled your eating behavior. If you’re unsure what a standard portion is, use one cup, one-half cup, and one-fourth cup measuring cups, and you’ll learn how much satisfies your hunger.  You can also use a portion control plate, which will help you see and manage proper healthy portions.
    5. If it is difficult for you to digest normal portions remind yourself that it may be easier for you to eat smaller meals through the day rather than three larger meals. Knowing that your next meal is just a couple of hours away can help you eat less at each small meal.  Also, eating smaller more meals more frequently can add a lot of variety to your diet.  Be sure to drink water and other beverages throughout the day, and particularly before meals.  Including low fat dairy foods in your diet is a good way to get low fat protein and milk has been found to be a good appetite suppressor.
    6. Think of ways to involve yourself in other activities once you’ve finished a meal. Keep a list of activities and refer to them often. Try to involve other people in some of these activities.  Get out and enjoy nature.  Go for a walk in the nearest park. Take a hike with a friend.  Try some new activities like birdwatching, bowling, or swimming.  Start a puzzle, write a letter, get out and garden, take a class, join a book club, or volunteer in your community.  Get involved with your church.  Join a Bible Study or a community sports team.
    7. Pamper Yourself. Plan things you enjoy doing each day, even if you have a limited amount of time. Take a leisurely bubble bath.  Give yourself a hair masque or a face masque.  Splurge by getting a pedicure.  Take some time to read that book you’ve been meaning to read.  When you’re well-nourished emotionally, you’ll be less likely to turn to food.

Is there something besides hunger that is urging you to eat? Are you stressed?  Sad? Bored? Angry? Lonely?  Was there anything in particular that stimulated the urge to eat?

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New Life Ministries, founded by Stephen Arterburn, is a nationally recognized, faith-based, broadcasting and counseling ministry offering hope and healing since 1988. Our radio show, New Life Live!, is #1 nationally syndicated Christian counseling radio talk show heard and watched by over 2 million people each week on nearly 200 radio stations nationwide, on XM and Sirius radio and on NRBTV. Our newest launch is TV.NewLife.com, an internet-based television channel offering over 1,000 teaching segments by highly respected psychologists and therapists on topics relevant to navigating the challenges and struggles we all face in life.

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