In the battle to lose weight, stop overeating, or break free from emotional eating, it’s important to pay attention to the things that trigger your eating to go awry. Simply focusing on what to eat misses an essential point–Your eating choices may be strongly affected by your emotions and your environment. And your food plan is useless if something is preventing you from following it.
Here are five common overeating triggers that you can take control of by taking some smart, proactive action before they sabotage your weight loss efforts.
1. Getting too hungry
Do you stick to your plan through breakfast and lunch only to find yourself irritable, craving carbs, and ready to eat everything in sight by the time late afternoon or evening rolls around? The end of the day tends to be stressful for many. The transition between work and home, mealtime decisions, and other peoples’ hunger or tiredness can push a busy woman over the edge. When I start coaching a new private client, it’s not unusual to hear that this is THE most difficult time of day.
The key here: take control of what you can. This means doing what you can so that you don’t arrive at the end of the day feeling exhausted and starved. Too many women who are trying to lose weight, eat too little in the middle of the day and, as a result, lose control and overeat before, during, or after dinner (or all three). Make sure you are eating a balanced lunch (with protein) and then calculate the hours you are expecting yourself to last before eating again. Most women do well with a small snack midafternoon. Again, adding in protein can make all the difference.
2. Evening eating
Evening (and late night) is a strong overeating trigger time for many busy women. If you are working hard all day long, it’s easy to come to see the quiet of the evening as your reward. And if you are too tired and depleted to really enjoy it, food and emotional eating can become a big part of the evening ritual. “I eat in the evening because I want to treat myself.” “It’s my me-time.” “It’s the only time of the day where no one expects anything of me.” Women also overeat in the evening because they are tired (but don’t want to go to bed because this is the only alone time they have).
Breaking free of the evening overeating triggers can be challenging, but it’s essential. Start by creating a policy for yourself about eating after dinner. Be realistic but be firm. Now, identify the bedtime you need to honor so that you are getting a minimum of 7.5 hours of sleep a night. This alone can make a huge difference in your overeating. Trust me. Create a new wind-down ritual that includes some nice things for you but that doesn’t include food. Finally, start carving out some me-time (even ten minutes) on the front-end of your day. You might need to get up earlier, but you’ll be focusing on you when you have the energy to do it.
3. Snacking on treats at work
Are you overeating or grazing at work on the sugary treats that your coworkers leave all over the office or the break room? Make it easy on yourself by making one decision instead of hundreds. Set a policy with yourself about your eating at work. Make sure it’s a policy you can stick with. Sometimes something as simple as “I’ll only eat homemade food that is truly a treat that I can’t easily have any time” will do the trick. Spend a bit of time strategizing how you will avoid temptation and how you will reward yourself for doing so. And don’t forget to enlist support. If you are putting on pounds at the office, I guarantee that you aren’t the only one being haunted by the food.
4. Stress eating and overeating
Emotional eating—using food to cope with feelings—is one of the biggest causes of overeating and weight gain. Smart women take this one seriously! Take the time to check in with yourself before you eat. Try to identify how you are feeling. Become aware of patterns. Are you a stress eater? Comfort eater? Boredom eater? The key to taking control of emotional eating is to create better strategies—ones that really address the emotions you are having. Start creating ways of addressing your feelings that you can use INSTEAD of turning to food.
5. Too much on your plate
When you are too busy, stressed, and overloaded, overeating can seem like an easy way to sneak in a reward, some comfort, or a much-needed energy boost. The problem is that any benefits tend to be short-lived and the costs and negative consequences aren’t. If you want to take control of your weight, your eating, and your relationship with food, you MUST take control of your life. Learn to say no, cut back your schedule, carve out time that’s just for you and start practicing the art of asking for help.
The best part of addressing overeating triggers is that when you take charge of what drives your overeating and emotional eating, you are almost always fixing a problem that’s bigger than food. When you get to the root cause of your overeating and address it head-on, the triggers often lose their power. When you find strategies for dealing with stress, overeating, and overload, you are also creating strategies for living a better life.