Cupids Health

How To Stop Overeating {4 Steps To Food Freedom}


If you have been trying to lose weight and find food freedom from emotional eating and more, I’ve laid out how to stop overeating for good in 4 steps.

Last week in my email newsletter, I talked about how freeing it is to be able to be surrounded by a house full of junk food (we took home lots of leftovers from a family trip) and not be tempted to eat it at all.

A woman responded who was clearly sick to death of dieting. She wanted to know how I possibly could have lost 100 pounds by calorie counting and how on earth was I able to be around junk food without being tempted when she has been tracking and counting calories for years and she’s still just as stuck as she was a decade ago.

My heart goes out to her because I’ve felt that frustration so many times before. The one that nags at you saying, “I’ve been doing everything right for so stinkin’ long. How have I not reached my goal weight yet? I’ve put in the hard work! Why am I still battling the same food cravings?

Calorie counting is important, but it’s not the end. That is not food freedom. It gets so much better!

The 4 steps on how to stop overeating are simple but not necessarily easy.

Woman eating an apple - How To Stop Overeating {4 Steps To Food Freedom}

If you are trying to lose weight, you are going to want to rush through these 4 stages. You are going to want to reach your goal weight as soon as possible and push the easy button wherever you can.

Don’t do it. That’ll defeat the purpose and keep you stuck in the same old cycle that has frustrated you for so many years.

This isn’t about flying through this as fast as possible. It’s about really taking the time to not only learn all of these skills, but practice them, as well.

You can’t count calories for a week and expect to have a good feel for them enough to eat intuitively for the rest of your life.

Take the time to put in the work and do this right.

Each stage builds on the last so if you don’t have one mastered, you’re not going to find the same success at the end.

This is a quick overview of each stage, but there is so much to this process.

In our Faithful Finish Lines 2.0 Christian Weight Loss program, we walk you through this entire process step-by-step and so much more.

But until then, here’s the general breakdown of how it goes.

4 Steps For How To Stop Overeating

Step 1 – Learn Your Eating Boundaries

The first step is the step that will feel the least like food freedom. Instead, it is commonly thought of as “dieting.”

This is the step where you have to confront that you have been overeating and re-learn what healthy limits look like for you.

It involves looking at where you are now (your current weight, BMI, daily calories, etc) and also seeing what the healthy numbers are for your age and body.

Some people look to specific diet plans like keto or intermittent fasting to set their healthy boundaries for them, but those don’t tend to be sustainable for most people.

Some of the typical tools for this stage include:

  • calorie counting (you can read more of my thoughts on calorie counting for weight loss here)
  • food tracking (like My Fitness Pal, Lose It, or Weight Watchers)
  • weighing yourself
  • checking BMI charts (here’s a BMI calculator to see where you are)

So many dieters get stuck here, get fed up because they feel so incredibly deprived, and they just give up.

Nobody wants to count calories and track their food every day for the rest of their life!

But then they gain enough weight that they decide they need to go back on a diet and they repeat this process over and over again.

There is no denying that tracking food and counting calories is tedious (especially in the beginning), but shifting your perspective on them can really help.

Counting calories is not a “diet.”

It’s a tool to help you see how much you have been eating and show you a healthy amount of food your body needs.

That’s it! You can get mad at the numbers but that’s all they are – numbers. They are not mocking you by showing you that you ate a day’s worth of calories in chocolate cake for breakfast.

They are merely a tool to help you see.

And this stage typically produces some great weight loss!

How To Succeed In This Stage

Use this stage to learn and be curious about your eating. It’s not about beating yourself up for the bad habits you’ve had until now.

It’s just about coming to terms with the fact that the way you are eating now isn’t serving you and figuring out a way that it can.

  • check all of your portion sizes to see how accurate they are (check out these 5 tips for better portion control)
  • learn the calorie counts on the foods you eat regularly
  • look for unhealthy patterns in your eating (like skipping breakfast and overeating lunch or binging on chips at night)
  • play around with what foods you can eat to feel full and still stay under your daily calorie goal (here is a long list of over 50 filling, low-calorie foods)
  • see how many vegetables you are actually eating in a day (try these 10 ways to eat more vegetables)

Before You Move To The Next Stage…

Before you move onto the next stage, you should have not only learned what your food boundaries are (how many calories you should be eating in a day), but you should be eating within those boundaries regularly.

Not perfectly 100% of the time, but eating the appropriate number of calories should be your normal.

Step 2 – Get A Handle On Your Emotional Eating

Now that you are eating within your calorie boundaries, you can start focusing more on the “why” behind your eating patterns instead of the “how much” you are eating.

You should still be eating within the appropriate calorie range. If you still need to be counting and tracking to do that (it’s likely that you will), then make sure to continue using those tools.

When I bring up this topic, half the time I get people who know they are emotional eaters who desperately want help. The other half of the time, I get people who are adamant that they are NOT emotional eaters (“I’m not an emotional eater! I just eat when I’m bored.”).

If you are eating for any reason other than physical hunger, you have experienced emotional eating.

Maybe it’s because you are:

  • bored
  • tired
  • trying to appease a food pusher (try these 3 Kind Ways To Respond To A Food Pusher)
  • stressed
  • lonely
  • celebrating (birthdays, holidays, National Donut Day, a new job)
  • trying to relax/unwind
  • overwhelmed
  • …or you just really love food (*raises hand*)

Emotional eating is a huge topic that would be impossible to address fully in one blog post, but here are a few things to pay attention to.

How To Succeed In This Stage

It is really important to be a non-judgemental observer of yourself right now as you pay close attention to your habits and uncover the why behind them.

Before You Move To The Next Stage…

Before you move onto the next stage, you should be much more aware of the emotions behind your eating, whether it’s boredom or grief.

You should be trying different ways to respond to your emotions in a more productive way.

You should be able to say no to your food cravings most of the time.

Step 3 – Learn Your Hunger Signals

Now that you have learned to respond differently to your emotions (continue working on that during this stage, too), it’s time to focus on learning your body’s signals.

In stage 1, your hunger signals probably couldn’t be trusted. When your body is used to overeating, it takes some adjusting to recalibrate it back to expecting the appropriate amount of food.

Back then, your body probably felt like it was legitimately hungry even when it really wasn’t because you had trained it to expect food at certain times and it had grown accustomed to overeating.

Now that you have been eating within your appropriate calorie range for a while and you can now separate your emotional hunger from your physical hunger, it’s time to start paying attention to your body’s signals.

How To Succeed In This Stage

  • Pay attention to how things like junk food, processed food, and artificial sweeteners affect your hunger (these foods can really mess with your body’s hunger signals so they should be limited)
  • Focus on feeding your body more nutrient-dense foods (vegetables, lean protein, whole grains, fruit)
  • Make sure you drink lots of water (your body can respond to thirst with hunger signals when it’s not actually hungry)
  • Eat when you are hungry (before you hit the point of feeling starving)
  • Stop eating when you are full (even if there is still food on your plate)

Before You Move To The Next Stage…

Before you move onto the next stage, you should be eating a diet that consists of mostly whole foods.

You should be able to recognize your body’s hunger signals and stop eating before you are uncomfortably full most of the time.

Step 4 – Intuitive Eating

Now that you are feeding your body lots of nutrient-rich foods, you have your emotional eating under control, and you are able to eat when you are hungry and stop when you are full, the fun part begins.

Intuitive eating is where you experience food freedom.

This is the stage when you have practiced the other skills so much that they are practically second nature.

You don’t have to count calories because you have practiced eating within those boundaries so often that you do it without thinking.

Food isn’t your primary response to dealing with any of your emotions anymore so you don’t have to worry about losing control when you are around your favorite foods.

You are listening to the signals your body is sending you on when to eat and, more importantly, when to stop eating.

Food temptations are still there, but you are making your food decisions, not your cravings.

If you reach this stage, it’s likely you’ve also reached your goal weight.

How To Succeed In This Stage

In this stage, it’s not really about learning anything new. It’s mostly about living out all of the skills you’ve taught yourself in the previous stages.

If each stage were a grade in school, this stage would be your graduation. You’ve done the homework, the studying, and the class time to be able to live in food freedom.

  • Weigh yourself every so often to make sure you are still eating within your appropriate calorie goals (I weigh myself once every few months or so in my weight loss maintenance)
  • Keep tabs on your emotions and be aware of any emotional eating
  • Check in every so often to make sure you are still eating when you are hungry and stopping when you are full (not 10 bites afterward)

A Note On Backsliding

It’s always possible to backslide. Maybe a stressful event comes up in your life that sends you spiraling back down into your old, unhealthy habits.

Be watchful and if you see it happening, follow these steps to get back on track.

Show yourself grace, be aware of what’s happening and why, follow the other steps in between, and reach out for help.

If you do backslide, feel free to go back in the steps as far as you need to. Maybe you just need to back up one step. Maybe you need to go back to the beginning for a few weeks.

Just because you go back to stage 1 does not mean you are starting from the beginning. You have already practiced these skills. You just need a refresher. There is no shame in that.

The steps will always take you back to the freedom you want to experience.

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Woman eating an apple - How To Stop Overeating {4 Steps To Food Freedom}





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