How to Stop Overeating– By Traci Baxendale Ball, LMSW, CAADC
You will find lots of articles on my website about food, meal plans, nutrition and mind-body food approaches. In addition, I regularly post on social media about healthy food choices and provide outreach with my newsletter. Sign up here:
This article gives you a breakdown of the protocols that I use when treating clients with diagnosed eating disorders OR when coaching clients to have a healthy relationship with food. The purpose of the article is to provoke thought and point you in the right direction if you’re overeating.
Food gets out of whack for us when we are stressed. Those stressful reactions that have us grabbing for food can become default behaviors leading to years of overeating. Our food industry does not help! Greasy, salty and sugary foods taste great. They are also cheap, fast and smell so good. They cause the kind of cravings seen in the brain for other powerful addictions such as cocaine, lust, and alcohol! No wonder we get into trouble with food.
1. Belly breathing for mind-body integration and relaxation (10 minutes per day minimum). This mindfulness and body integration will be necessary as you learn to resist urges to eat and stay present at all times with food. Mindfulness is important to go from eating on autopilot to making a choice.
2. Mindful eating/conscious eating training (slower pace, smaller portions, deliberate eating behaviors, chewing food thoroughly, avoid multitasking when eating, stopping when full). *Please ask for emotional hunger vs physical hunger printout.
3. Food structure > meal plan. Weight Watchers is a great tool for persons that have a weight loss goal. Otherwise, decide on the type of foods you want and need to eat. Design a meal plan with your therapist. Food rules may or may not be appropriate. One example of a healthy food rule is not eating after 7:30 pm to let the digestive system rest and reset.
4. CBT for negative self-talk and body-shaming.
5. Movement plan – dispel anxiety/body integration by moving 10 minutes per day minimum.
6. Short-term elimination of trigger foods that are responsible for a massive dopamine or pleasure rush that does not mimic the normal response to natural food. Typical trigger foods are sugary foods, simple carbs and processed food (fries, chips, pizza).
7. Regulate appetite through meals. Increase exposure to hunger (desensitization) to increase tolerance of physical sensations through intermittent fasting. *Discuss with a therapist (it may elevate obsession with food).
8. Food journaling and calorie counting might help, but it could hurt. *Discuss with a therapist (it may elevate obsession with food).
9. Food = fuel. Reframe eating not as a need to quell something, but as stoking the fire, giving Qi (life energy) a chance to be vitalized rather than dowsed with food. Food needs to feed your fire for life, not extinguish it.
10. Some people do need short-term medication to reduce appetite and improve willpower.
There are many articles on food, food addiction, meal planning, healthful eating, whole-food, plant-based research and other related topics on the website! Click below:
Helpful mantras to strengthen your resolve:
I will not be a hostage to food.
I am in control, food is not.
I am stopping the cycle.
Note: If weight loss is necessary for health reasons and your therapist feels like this is a reasonable strategy or goal, consider asking for my Weight Loss Toolkit (a free article about how to lose weight). Note that losing weight alone will not fix the symptom of overeating. The origins of the problem must be resolved.
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