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Tips for Stopping Eating

  • Eating

Of all the rules of “normal” eating, the one that gives overeaters the most trouble is stopping when they’re full or satisfied. When food tastes delicious, it can feel like agony to lay down your fork. “Normal” eaters, as well, sometimes continue eating although they’ve had enough food or just because it tastes so darned good. However, they also know how to quit while they’re ahead. Here are some tips to learn and practice.

When overeaters consume too much food, it may be because they only consider the negative consequences of overeating after they’ve done it—how yucky they feel physically and the weight they’ll gain. They’re scared, but the fear of consequence comes too late to change behavior. The time to get in touch with anxiety about being stuffed or gaining weight is before eating. If you only connect to fear after eating, you’re putting the cart before the horse and won’t make progress. So, make a list of negative consequences and keep them out where you can see them as you eat.

When food is tasty, how do you decide to call it quits? If you’re not in touch with satiation through eating slowly, chewing thoroughly, and allowing food to sit on your tongue, you might miss when flavor depreciates. You can still stop eating if you think this way: I have to stop eating sometime in the future and whenever it happens is going to bum me out. Even if I wait ‘til the food is gone, I’ll still have to come to that end point I dread. Because I know I’ll have to stop sometime, I’ll do it sooner rather than later. The idea is to recognize that you will have to face the music, and choose a time that is healthy for you physically and mentally, that is, stopping before you’ve overeaten.

Another thought that runs through the heads of overeaters is that they hate to say no to themselves. “Normal” eaters reframe that no into a resounding yes to health, physical comfort, pride, and maybe another meal or two out of the food before them. Overeaters get hung up on not having enough in the present or feeling they should stop but don’t want to. “Normal” eaters focus on having more in the future—they’ll have leftovers for another meal or can order, buy, make, or have whatever they’re eating pretty much whenever they want it. Mental retraining takes practice, but turning thoughts of deprivation into thoughts of abundance makes stopping eating a whole lot easier.

Practice these three techniques for the next week. Keep a “stop eating when full or satisfied” journal to chart your progress. See if all three strategies work equally well or if one works better than the others, and keep using whatever leads to success.