Why Overeating Isn't Bad + What To Do When You Overeat

I shared some about this on Instagram the other day, but I think it’s time to talk about overeating. Overeating gets a bad rap in our culture, I think because it’s associated with “failing a diet.” But overeating is a natural part of being human, and while it’s not the most comfortable feeling, there are some practical and compassionate ways you can meet yourself rather than falling back toward restricting or binging. Here’s some thoughts on why overeating is normal, as well as what to do when you overeat.

What even is overeating?

First of all, there is no set amount of food over which you’re eating “too much.” The amount you eat is influenced by a ton of nuance, including: how hungry you are, how well you can sense and respond to hunger/fullness (this can be impaired by dieting & disordered eating but healed over time), how filling your food is, if you’re distracted, how close your points of satisfaction and fullness are to each other (sometimes they’re the same and sometimes not).

So when it comes to overeating, a better term would probably be “past full” because if we’re using our internal cues to decide an amount to eat, you’ll know based on how full you are - rather than diets where it may be defined as past your portion size or calorie level, etc.

Overeating is normal

It’s normal to eat past fullness sometimes because food is more than fuel and sometimes it takes more to be satisfying... like at county fairs, I tend to get pretty dang full because it’s not every day you can find gyros and loaded fries and corn dogs and fair donuts all in one place. This can also feel more common around holidays or celebrations involving food, where there may be more options or you may be more distracted than you usually are - which is also normal. To say that overeating is to be avoided at all costs is to reduce food down to fuel and a weapon to use against our natural body size, which does a disservice to the culture, celebration, and bonding that food is and can be.

If you find yourself uncomfortably full frequently, it may be helpful to examine the factors influencing the situation. Do you frequently eat distracted or so quickly it’s hard to check in with your body? Is eating your primary or only form of comforting yourself? We’ll examine those things in future posts, but in the meantime - try to meet yourself with compassion and non-judgment.

What to do when you overeat.png

What to do when you overeat

It can be helpful to have strategies in place for when overeating happens ahead of time rather than trying to find strategies in the moment. Here are some ways you can care for yourself when overly full:

  • Make a self care box so you have a tangible set of options at your fingertips

  • Call a friend and talk about something other than overeating (one helpful tool may be turning the conversation to something happening with your friend or something in the world)

  • Take a walk and listening to some calming music

  • Watch something funny videos

  • Drink some ginger or peppermint tea, or something warm to help settle your stomach

Above all, remember that your body still needs to be fed regularly and that being overly full in one instance doesn’t mean you’re not “worthy” of respecting hunger cues the rest of the day/week/etc. If you find yourself regularly overly hungry full at certain times of the day, like dinner, it might be helpful to try eating a little more throughout the day so your hunger level pairs with your meal in a way that feels more fitting.

Have a question about overeating? Leave it in the comments below and I’ll answer it in a future post!