How to stop eating when you’re full

We’ve all been there, you take the last bite of food and realise you went just a little too far. Maybe your stomach feels a little painful to the touch, or you’ve got some abdominal pain as a result.

And you think to yourself, “I shouldn’t have eaten that much.” Perhaps you start thinking about how often you overeat, and you feel pretty rubbish.

This blog will help you to stop over eating, and stop eating when you’re full.

How does overeating differ from binge eating?

What is overeating?

Overeating doesn’t have a specific definition. It is generally accepted as eating past the point of fullness, often to the point of feeling uncomfortable.

Overeating is not necessarily a bad thing…

Overeating might happen when:

  • You might eat a large dinner
  • You eat in front of the TV and don’t notice that you became full
  • Feel a little emotional and eat more ice cream than you ‘needed’
  • When in recovery from an eating disorder eating. What others consider ‘normal’ might seem like overeating – it’s all relative

Overeating is inevitable sometimes. It’s actually a normal part of eating, do you believe that?

Overeating applies to if you feel uncomfortably full after eating, not if you think you should have eaten less. Or if you ate less than a friend of yours, or more than the recommended serving size.

Overeating might make you feel a little uncomfortable but isn’t often associated with strong feelings of guilt or shame, this is more common in binge eating. Overeating and binge eating are often confused.

What is binge eating?

Binge eating is associated with a lack of control over the amount of food being consumed, whereas often we overeat when distracted but are in control of what we’re consuming.

We have an article on binge eating vs. overeating here to read more about this.

Why do you keep eating when you’re full?

There are so many reasons you keep eating when you’re full. We could name 100s, but let’s keep the list to the most common we see in our clients.

10 reasons you are overeating:

  • You’re dieting or trying to eat healthy. This causes an increase in mental hunger. You might not be physically hungry, but your brain believes there’s a lack of food and so it wants to eat as much food as possible.
  • The What-The-Hell-Effect. Eating one ‘forbidden food’ makes you think screw it and overeat.
  • You’re planning on going on a new diet – a fancy term for this is impending restriction or Last Supper Eating.
  • Emotional eating or stress eating.
  • Eating while distracted. This may mean don’t realise how much you’re eating – such as watching TV.
  • Side effects of medication.
  • Because it’s on your plate and you don’t want to leave food. This links to being apart of the Clean Food Club in childhood. Or experiencing food insecurity or an eating disorder previously.
  • Because you’ve paid for the food and you don’t want it to go to waste.
  • Because others around you are overeating.
  • You’ve accidentally left a huge gap since your last meal so you’re super hungry.

The list above is just some of the reasons, hopefully you can see how common this is. You are not alone in overeating.

Blaming yourself for overeating will keep the cycle going. I’m sure you’ve noticed, huh? It can really get you into a never ending cycle of overeating then feeling guilty.

How Intuitive eating can help with overeating

Intuitive Eating is a framework focused on listening to your body’s internal cues to guide you on what, when, and how much to eat. You can read more about Intuitive Eating here.

When you feel hungry Intuitive Eating prompts you to ask “what does my body need at this moment?”

Intuitive Eating has 10 principles, 5 of which actually relate to overeating:

1. Honour your hunger:

This includes physical sensations of hunger such as:

  • Sleepiness in the body
  • Aan ache in the stomach
  • Effects, like changes in mood and concentration
  • Thinking about food and what you will next eat

Honouring your hunger sets the stage for rebuilding trust in your body’s natural signals. We work with a lot of people who feel totally disconnected from their bodies – so working on Intuitive Eating is truly life-changing.

2. Make peace with food:

No foods are off limits. You have unconditional permission to eat.

This stops restriction and then overeating when this food is re-introduced. If you could eat pizza everyday, you’re less likely to overeat when ordering in as you know you can always have some tomorrow if you wanted.

3. Feel your fullness:

If you’re overeating on the regular, we’re guessing that you’re ignoring feeling full and pushing past it.

To overcome this, we recommend these 3 things:

  • Feel you’re fullness by noticing how fullness feels in your body. Can you start to notice sensations of how fullness feels before you’re stuffed?
  • Do certain foods cause you to overeat? Do you never overeat on vegetables, but always takeaway food? If so, I recommend re-reading the make peace with food principle above. Or getting in touch with us for 1-1 support.
  • Pausing mid-meal and checking in with how full you feel. You might look out for how extended your stomach feels and if you’re still thinking about food?

4. Discover the satisfaction factor:

Enjoy the food you are eating and know how much satiates you.

Imagine you really want some ice cream, but it’s a ‘bad food’ so you have an apple instead. Five minutes later you’re hungry again so you have an orange.

Five minutes later you’re still unsatisfied so you had another snack… eventually you may eat the ice cream.

After overeating a whole load of other things in an attempt to avoid the ‘bad food’.

Discovering what satisfies you, both physically and in terms of what food we may fancy will help prevent this from occurring. Even when you’re physically full, you may find if a craving isn’t met then hunger will keep popping up and overeating happens.

When you know you’re satisfied you may find yourself thinking ‘that hit the spot’, ‘i’ve had enough to feel full now’ and other comments before you hit the point of overeating.

5. Cope with your emotions without using food:

Eating because we feel emotional, whether that’s positive or negative, is a normal part of eating. But asking ourselves what am I feeling right now? And what do I need to deal with this feeling?

This may help you check in, and reduce the need for food to act as an emotional crutch, or distraction.

What does “feel your fullness” mean in intuitive eating?

Fullness is not just the absence of hunger. Fullness feels different to everyone, and so we can’t tell you what you will feel like when full. For some it’s feeling a little heavier, or the physical feeling of a full stomach.

How to check in with how fullness feels for you:

  • How is my stomach feeling?
  • Am I satisfied with the amount I’ve eaten so far?
  • Has how I’m feeling changed since the start of the meal?
  • Is there a lack of hunger sensations?
  • How is your food feeling – taste, texture, smell, temperature… use all the senses

Our top tips to stop overeating:

1. Explore your fullness

Spend time exploring:

  • What fullness really feels like for you
  • What level of full feels good for you, and less good
  • Any patterns that happen. Do you always overeat with certain foods? Certain tastes? Certain days?

It might be a good idea to keep a journal to notice patterns over time.

By engaging with your fullness, you’re increasing Interoceptive Awareness. This is important in engaging with your needs and responding to them. People with healthy relationships to food often have have higher levels of connection to their body.

2. Focus on eating mindfully

Sometimes overeating can happen when you’re distracted. Perhaps you might eat separately from watching TV, or sitting on your phone. Or check in with your hunger and fullness while you’re doing so.

A note: There’s nothing wrong with eating while distracted. In fact, this might be healthy for you.

3. Check in with yourself – is something triggering your overeating?

Maybe you find that you tend to overeat after a certain event or stress. Maybe it’s when meeting up with family members, or having your weekly office meeting.

Knowing the things that might cause you to overeat helps you to mentally prepare and maybe arm yourself with things that will help you.

A big trigger for overeating is dieting.

Are you dieting? Any form of restricting will inevitably trigger overeating as you lower your intake and so your hunger levels rise.

Are you making certain foods forbidden? Or do you think of them as ‘bad foods’? These will most likely be the foods you overeat when they are consumed. Think cookies, cake and anything diet culture tells you not to eat. It’s the all or nothing response – “I’ve already eaten one cookie why not finish the pack? Screw it.”

4. Know that many things affect how much you eat

How much you eat is not simply down to your hunger levels. Day to day things such as how much you slept last night, your daily movement, how you’re feeling, if other people are around and also stage of the menstrual cycle (if you experience one.)

Next time you think “I feel uncomfortably full, why have I done this to myself!?” – Think about what factors are affecting you right now.

Perhaps if you wake up and find you only slept a few hours, know that you’re normally more hungry on these days – and add some snacks into your day to help with this.

5. Check in with your stress levels

We live in a world of constant stress. Stress causes overeating not only due to food as comfort. But also through the increase in hunger hormones in the body when stressed.

If you find you’re constantly stressed either try and add in some stress releasing movements such as yoga, meditation and breathwork – or more hardcore like boxing and gym workouts. Or re-evaluate what’s making you stressed and see where you can make some changes.

Note: therapy and counselling is recommended for longer term, chronic stress. Or if you have a lack of coping skills. We also don’t recommend exercise for coping with stress if you’re experiencing disordered eating. Especially where exercise is a big role in your disordered eating or eating disorder.

7. Leave a little on the plate

It might sound random, but it can be hard on the brain to leave leftovers at a meal if you’ve been raised to always clean the plate.

But you can leave some, or take away if eating out. And if it’s a home cooked meal then you can use the leftovers the next day.

8. Know that overeating will happen, it’s how you react to it that matters

We know we’re meant to be helping you stop overeating but it must be acknowledged that it will happen.

And if you deal with it in a positive way, accepting it and moving on then you will minimize your stress and negative feelings – thereby preventing the all or nothing effect.

9. Work on your relationship to food

If all of the above doesn’t help and you find yourself constantly overeating, maybe you need to work on your relationship to food and why you’re overeating.

Working with us at Ease Nutrition Therapy may be beneficial to you on your journey.


Ease Nutrition Therapy x

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