When is Overeating Warranted?

Not sure if I can call this title clickbait per se, but it’s certainly not an article you’d expect to see from most online coaches. But that’s exactly why I wanted to write an article on it because it’s such a nuanced discussion. A short post wouldn’t do this topic justice.

First, let’s define overeating for the purposes of this article:

Overeating would be considered anytime someone actively chooses to eat past their normal calorie goals with intention. These meals are typically calorie dense.

Notice how I used the words ‘chose to eat’ to distinguish it from binge eating. Binge eating is very different than overeating. Bingeing certainly has a physical component i.e. generally a lot of calories but also has the accompanying mental component i.e. felt compelled to eat, felt out of control while eating.

So, why am I even bringing up overeating? When would this even be relevant? Doesn’t living a healthy, balanced and flexible lifestyle mean you never have to overeat?

Yes, and no.

Yes, because if you are truly satisfied with what you’re eating and you have a great relationship with food, the chances that you want to overeat are much less. No, because sometimes… well you just want to eat (more than normal) based on the circumstance.

You might want to try a new restaurant that just opened up.

You might want that ridiculous burger and fries from your favorite spot.

You might want to celebrate with some friends and grab one too many drinks.

Regardless of the specific reason, there will be times in your life where you will choose to eat more than normal simply because you want to, not because you were pressured to eat more or because you felt compelled to binge. Knowing how to navigate these situations will set you up for success and will completely change the narrative from an uncontrolled binge fest to a fun night out.

From my coaching experience, these are three most important components that warrant overeating:

  1. The client didn’t restrict beforehand.
  2. The client didn’t binge after.
  3. The client didn’t look at the meal as something that was out of their control.

Now, let’s break those down.

Not restricting beforehand

Like most words, ‘restriction’ (within the dietary community) has many connotations. Restriction to one person might look like eating their normal high protein meals but keeping the carbs and fats tighter, while restriction to another person might look like fasting predominantly all day before their meal. The former is a great approach, and one we recommend, the latter is not.

Physiologically, going into any meal starving is setting you up for poor decisions. Mentally, it creates a negative mindset around any sort of ‘off plan’ eating which is the exact downfall of dichotomous thinking in general. So yes, I encourage employing some moderate restriction before you know you’re going to eat a large meal but don’t fast the entire day out of fear.

Not bingeing afterward

Another common issue we see with dichotomous thinking around food is the inability to regulate food intake even after someone is full. Using the above example, if you go enjoy a burger and fries you’ll like be full when you get home. So why are you going to the pantry to grab a snack or raid the freezer? If you’ve done this, you are not alone, but it’s something that needs to be worked on.

This type of “fuck it I’ve blown my diet” thinking is a hallmark of an unhealthy relationship with food. In this situation [ occasional, planned overeating ] clients who eat said meal and then continue their day or night as normal, with no subsequent bingeing, often suffer from no negative psychological issues from the meal where they overate.

Didn’t look at the meal as out of their control

Out of the list, this is the most important component by far. Whenever a client looks at something as out of their control, there are negative consequences. In the context of food, viewing it as ‘out of their control’ takes away the power from the client and gives it to food.

 Food does not control you. You are always in control of what you eat or don’t eat.

This can be a huge hurdle for many clients, and something that might take months, and even years to correct, but always viewing yourself as in control of what and how much you’re eating is absolutely essential for a healthy relationship with food. This also allows the occasional celebratory meal out or epic brunch without deleterious effects afterwards.

I’ll close out the article with an example of what this looks like in practice. Say for example I’m visiting a city I love with great food, somewhere like Chicago or Vegas. Not every meal will be an extravagant spread of high calorie choices, but you bet your ass I’m going to eat a few big meals and have a few drinks (okay, a lot of drinks… you guys know how I roll). I don’t unnecessarily restrict before the trip or start to binge after and I certainly go into meal feeling empowered with my choice on what to eat at each restaurant. Remember, everything you eat is a choice.

Struggling with knowing how to balance your intake without going to extremes is hard and is something that takes a lot of deep work to correct. This process is something Team LoCoFit works hard to educate and coach our clients through. If you need help on this journey, apply for coaching here. We look forward to helping you!

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