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Why do I still overeat?

By Michelle May, M.D.

Mindful Eating Question from Jodi: I’ve been trying to eat mindfully for more than six months, but I still find myself over eating at times and I don’t know why. Any suggestions?

View this new #AskAmIHungry video to learn more below about overeating and learn some questions to ask yourself to find out why you may be feeling uncomfortable after eating.

#AskAmIHungry Video Transcript:

Thanks for writing Jodi! First, congratulations on practicing mindful eating! And remember, mindful eating IS a practice, not an endpoint!

The first thing I want you to know is that overeating IS part of normal eating, so there is no need to be concerned about occasional overeating.

In fact, there are many reasons why people who have a healthy relationship with food will eat more than they need at times.

For example, they might choose to eat to the point of discomfort for pleasure—like a celebratory meal with friends—or because the food or situation is rare, like enjoying a particular food while traveling. Perhaps they sometimes overeat because they are looking for temporary comfort or distraction.

The difference is that although they might regret eating too much, they don’t feel guilty or ashamed, so it doesn’t feed an eat-repent-repeat cycle. Afterward, they just wait to eat until they get hungry again.

Without knowing the exact circumstances that lead to overeating for you, my suggestion is for you to cultivate curiosity!

As you know, in Am I Hungry? we use the Mindful Eating Cycle to explore our eating decisions. It is also helpful for deconstructing an overeating episode by reflecting on your last eating cycle to try to understand why you overate. So it you feel uncomfortable after eating, you could ask:

  • Why was I eating in the first place? Was I in an Instinctive, Restrictive or Overeating Cycle?
  • When did I get the urge to eat? What physical sensations did I have? What was I thinking? What was I feeling? What else was going on?
  • Am I able to identify hunger? Was I hungry? How hungry was I? Was I too hungry?
  • If I wasn’t hungry, what was the physical, emotional or environmental trigger? (The same triggers that cause you to eat when you’re not hungry can cause you to continue eating past fullness.)
  • What did I choose to eat and why? Did that affect how much I ate? Did I like it? Was I afraid I wouldn’t get to eat it again?
  • How did I eat? Was I mindful or distracted? Did I eat fast or secretly?
  • How much did I eat? Did I set an intention for how full I wanted be when I was done eating?
  • How much food did I have in front of me?
  • Where have I been investing my energy lately? Have I been practicing self-care? Do I feel out of balance? Could that be why I overate?

What Will I Do Differently Next Time?

Once you understand what led to overeating, you’re able to make a plan for what you’ll do differently next time.

In other words, turn the experience into a learning opportunity.

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About the author

Michelle May, M.D. is a recovered yo-yo dieter and the founder of the Am I Hungry?® Mindful Eating Programs and Training. She is the award-winning author of Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat: A Mindful Eating Program to Break Your Eat-Repent-Repeat Cycle , winner of seven publishing awards. She is also the author of Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat with Diabetes, Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat for Binge Eating, and Am I Hungry? Mindful Eating for Bariatric Surgery. Michelle shares her compelling message and constructive keynotes with audiences around the country, offers workplace wellness programs, and has trained and licensed hundreds of health professionals to facilitate Am I Hungry?® Mindful Eating Programs worldwide. She has been featured on Dr. Oz, the Discovery Health Channel, and Oprah Radio, and quoted in Diabetic Living, Fitness, Health, Huffington Post, Parents, Self, USA Weekend, US News & World Report, WebMD and many others. Her personal success story was published in Chicken Soup for the Dieter's Soul. Michelle cherishes her relationships with her husband, Owen and grown children, Tyler and Elyse. She regularly enjoys practicing yoga and hiking near her home in Phoenix, Arizona. She and Owen, a professional chef, share a passion for gourmet and healthful cooking, wine tasting, photography, and traveling.

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