I Can't Stop Eating: How To Stop Compulsive Eating

I Can't Stop Eating: How To Stop Compulsive Eating

I Can't Stop Eating: How To Stop Compulsive Eating

Table of Contents

Written By:
Jennifer Lefton, MS, RD/N, FAND

Key Takeaways

  • Overeating is normal on some occasions.
  • For some, compulsive overeating followed by negative emotions and guilt could be an eating disorder known as binge eating disorder and professional help is recommended.
  • Restrictive diets can lead to overeating.

There are many reasons why we occasionally overeat. This article reviews how over restricting, labeling foods, and distracted eating can all contribute to overeating. Keep reading to learn how to change these habits. 

Why Can’t I Stop Eating?

Overeating on occasion is normal. For example, many people overeat on the Thanksgiving holiday; an event that is focused around dining. 

There may be several other reasons that someone overeats:

  • Some people may overeat out of boredom. 
  • Others may over restrict foods due to extreme diets but eventually crave and give in to eating those restricted foods. 
  • Some may be emotional eaters. They may find comfort in food when they experience negative emotions or stress.
  • Some may suffer from binge eating disorder. Binge eating disorder is the most common eating disorder. When overeating becomes compulsive and is followed by feelings of shame and guilt, it becomes a problem and is known as binge eating disorder. In this case, professional help is needed by a therapist and registered dietitian.

What to Do When You Can’t Stop Eating

If you feel like you can’t stop eating, there are several things you can do to help.

Don’t over restrict

When you over restrict foods or entire groups of foods, you may find that you crave that food even more, which can lead to a binge.

Allowing yourself to eat “forbidden foods” will eventually make those foods less desirable. You can also learn how to enjoy those foods within moderation. For example, eating slowly to help you feel satisfied after a single serving of ice cream instead of eating past the point of fullness. 

Skipping meals is another method of over restricting and can lead to overeating later in the day. Stick to a routine which includes a healthy breakfast with carbohydrates, fiber, protein, and healthy fats to help you feel full until your next meal.  

Diet culture plays a big role in over eating and eating disorders because it promotes restrictive eating. If you break the rules of the diet, you are more likely to experience negative feelings such as shame and guilt. Eventually another attempt at the same diet or a new restrictive diet ensues and it becomes a vicious cycle. 

Many fall victim to this cycle for years until they are able to work through their emotions, body image, and relationship with food. Nourish offers personalized nutrition counseling and accepts most popular insurance companies. If you suspect you have an eating disorder, consider booking a virtual appointment with a Registered Dietitian. 

Avoid distractions while eating

Distractions are a common cause of mindless eating. As a result you are not able to pay attention to the amount of food you consume, and you miss the feelings of fullness. A common distraction is watching TV or scrolling social media while eating. 

Instead, make a point to eat your meals free of distractions by doing the following:

  • Enjoy eating in the company of friends and family. Use mealtime to strengthen the relationships within your family. Discuss the highs and lows of your day and what is coming up in the week ahead that excites you or offers a challenge. 
  • Take your time to enjoy the meal; don’t rush through it. 
  • Take time to pause while eating. Consider putting your utensil down in between bites and taking time to drink water between bites of food. 
  • Be sure to chew your food well and don’t rush through the meal.

Be mindful of nutrition habits

A good way to understand your meal time habits is by keeping a journal of the food you eat, and how you feel before and after. Keeping a food journal may help you to realize what influences your eating habits.

In the case of binge eating, a food journal is used to explore your eating patterns and how this relates to your thoughts and emotions. It is not meant to track calories or the nutritional value of what you eat. A journal that tracks the what, where, when, why, and how much you ate will help to recognize patterns. 

Mindful eating is when you use all of your senses to experience and enjoy what you are eating. You are free from distractions and can listen to your body's cues on fullness. Research on mindfulness based interventions has led to improvements in symptoms associated with binge eating disorder. 

Address the stress in your life

If stress is leading you to overeat, you will need to learn new ways to cope outside of eating. Taking time for meditation or yoga can help to reduce stress. There are several apps that can offer 5-10 minute meditations or a 20 minute yoga session that can be done at home.

Unmanaged stress levels can negatively affect your health. Exercise, like yoga, can help to reduce both stress and disease risk. 

Try meal planning 

Some people do meal planning and prep over the weekend so they have food ready to grab and go during the week. This can be done for breakfast and packed lunches.

Find support

If you find yourself stuck in a pattern of overeating, poor emotional health, or suspect you have a binge eating disorder, you should seek professional help. Research has found that food addiction was prevalent in 19% of study participants that were overweight or obese. Therapists and registered dietitians can help you work through your eating disorder and find a plan to help you move forward.  

Nourish can connect you with a registered dietitian today that can provide personalized nutrition advice. 


There are many reasons why you eat what you eat and how much of it. Overeating can be a result of restriction, distractions, or stress. If overeating becomes compulsive followed by negative feelings such as guilt or shame, you may be displaying warning signs of binge eating disorder. A binge eating disorder is a serious mental health condition that requires therapy.

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