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Pacific Behavioral Health 

Compulsive Overeating

Regaining Control

Stopping an unnecessary habit that you don't need, like drinking alcohol, is difficult enough.  Gaining control over a behavior necessary for survival, like eating, can be much more difficult.  Below are some things that can aid in eating helthfully.

1) Understand the habit of eating:

- Most overeaters eat unconsciously 

   - Do you eat visually (to finish all the food on your plate)?

   - Do you eat while watching TV or playing games?

   - What is the sequence of events that trigger overeating?

       - simply mealtime?

       - stress?

       - distress?

2) Make Eating Conscious and Enjoyable

- Rather than eating unconsciously, slow down and enjoy every bite

- Taste fully (pay complete attention) to at least the first bite you put into your mouth

- Put your utensils down between each bite

- Swallow each bite before taking another

   - Eating mindfully will help you eat less while enjoying the food even more

   - It's not necessary to be at war with your food - enjoy eating

3) Eat for health and enjoyment, not compulsively.

- Understand the Hunger Rating Scale:

  -3                 -2                  -1                  0                +1                  +2                 +3

Starving    Low               Hungry:         Neutral      Full:               Stuffed         Over

                 blood             Stomach                          stomach                             stuffed,

                 sugar             growling                          and blood                          sick

                                                                                sugar content

- Eating three healthy meals / day, and if you need to some light healthy snacks at mid morning and mid afternoon, you will find yourself moving between a -1 and a +1.  However, If you skip meals and end up -2, then you will be so hungry that the pendulum will swing and you will need to stuff yourself to a +2.  And if you stuff yourself to a +3, then you will probably skip a next meal and end up out of sync.  Understand what your feelings are at each of the stages, so that you can avoid going below a - 1 or above a +1.  

4) Learn to Self-Soothe:

- Most people overeat to reduce stress and self-soothe.  Learn healthy methods of self-soothing, such as meditation, Tai Chi, exercise, self-hypnosis, or other self-help skills that you can use whenever you need to.  If you do a five minute relaxation before each meal, you will find yourself eating less, and enjoying it more.  

- Most compulsive overeaters have difficulty:

a) tolerating stress/distress

b) postponing gratification

c) self-soothing (in a healthy way)

     - Learning to self-soothe can reverse these deficits and not only help you control your eating, but also help you improve your overall quality of life

5) Live a healthy lifestyle:

- It is not necessary to weigh yourself.  Your weight does not matter. What matters is that you are living the healthiest lifestyle that you can:

   - Exercise at least at 30 minutes every day (moderate exercise means that you are breathing heavily and perspiring slightly over your entire body)

   - Eat three healthy meals each day.  Healthy eating means about 4oz of protein, a cup of starch, two cups of fruits and vegetables.  Of course, avoid refined carbohydrates (sugars, white flour, potatoes), and fried foods, and snack foods.  If you must have a mid morning or mid afternoon snack, eat a piece of fruit and a bagel or non-sweetened protein bar.  

   - Do a healthy enjoyable activity every day

       - If you are living a healthy lifestyle in this way, then you are doing all you can and will attain your healthy weight, obtain optimal health, and enjoy life more fully.  

6) Seek psychological support for your compulsive overeating if:

- you have low self-esteem

- have depression

- suffered trauma 

   - It is necessary to overcome these issues in order to successfully employ the above strategies