5 Common Overeating Triggers and How to Avoid Them

Filed in Diet & Exercise by on December 11, 2014 0 Comments

Girl eating cakeI’ve been fortunate to be able to maintain a healthy weight most of my life. There are a few things I’ve learned along the way that have helped me accomplish this, so I’ll share with you what works for me.

There are triggers to overeating that we all experience. If you can avoid succumbing to these, you will be much less likely to gain unwanted weight. Here are the 5 triggers I have found to be the most universal, and how I address them:

Boredom This can manifest itself anywhere and anytime, but I find that for me and most other people the single biggest problem is at night when we sit down to watch TV. The snack cabinet starts calling your name! I used to try to keep healthy snacks in the house to eat at these times, like natural applesauce and low calorie popcorn, but it never seemed to work. I would either eat too many of my low cal snacks, making them “high cal,” or I would succumb to a more tempting choice like ice cream. It just never worked for me. So for the last several years I have a rule that I eat nothing after dinner, period. Once I was able to adopt this healthy habit, I no longer even think about snacking after dinner. My craving has ended, and I have been able to avoid this common source of overeating.

Stress Many people experience a lot of stress in their work and home lives. Another key source of stress is emotional problems, like anxiety or depression. A common response to these stressors is overeating. As I discuss in my book, I maintain a list of activities I like to do that have no productive component and that I enjoy just for the sake of doing them. I call this my “fun” to-do list. It includes things like going for a peaceful walk, visiting the pet store to play with the puppies, and getting a massage. If you can create a list like this that does not focus on eating, you can use these activities to look forward to and use when you are stressed, rather than resorting to stress-induced eating. If you want to maintain a healthy weight, it is vitally important to be able to find fun things you like to do that are not focused on food and drink.

Reward This is similar to “stress” above, in that reward-based eating is often a response to stress, and the solution is the same. A lot of people reward themselves for a difficult morning meeting with a fast food lunch, or a job well done during the week with several drinks and a big dinner on Friday night. Use your “fun to-do list” to reward yourself rather than overeating. I have found that many things on my fun list actually burn calories, like going for a long walk in a park or on a hiking trail.

Lack of energy I know, sometimes you are just so exhausted that it seems the only way to find some energy is to have your favorite Starbucks coffee or a high calorie meal. Lack of energy is almost always due to a lack of adequate sleep. Try to schedule 7 – 8 hours of sleep most nights, regardless of what is happening in your life. You will be much more productive during the day and less prone to sleep-deprived overeating. A nap on a Saturday or Sunday can also be a great way to avoid exhaustion and recharge your batteries for the week ahead.

Holidays It is now the holiday period, and it seems to be a great American tradition to gorge ourselves during this time of the year. Food, especially sweets, is everywhere! My way of avoiding this source of overeating might be a bit arrogant, but it works. At a holiday party, I look at everyone devouring all of the decadent, high calorie food they can get their grubby little hands on, and I adopt the attitude of a total contrarian. I think to myself, “Go ahead. Eat anything and everything! I’m just going to have my Diet Pepsi and some turkey breast, and maybe a little dab of mashed potatoes as a treat. None of that food tastes as good as thin feels. Also, since I exercise regularly, I’m an ‘athlete,’ and athletes don’t eat that kind of crap.” As I said, this is a little smug, so I don’t share any of these thoughts with anyone. As they say, better to be thought a jerk, than to speak and remove all doubt!

To explain all of this in terms of what to do, rather than what not to do, you can think of it as “eating to live” rather than “living to eat.” Especially if you exercise regularly, you can view food as “fuel” for your body, and less as a source of pleasure and reward.

Anyway, these are my methods for dealing with common overeating triggers. My solutions might seem a bit extreme (weird?), but they work for me. You might want to think for a moment about the specific eating triggers you most often encounter, and develop methods for addressing them. Don’t allow yourself to be unconsciously trapped!

About the Author ()

TIM MCINTYRE retired in 2004 from his position as president of Applied Systems after facilitating a successful sale of the company. At only forty-six years old, he made the unusual decision to fully retire to pursue other interests and simply enjoy free time. As a hard-driving Type A personality, this turned out to be a significant challenge for the Notre Dame and University of Chicago-educated MBA, CPA, and Certified Cash Manager.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *