Eating too much healthy food? Read this…

Mindset, wellbeing

Eating too much healthy food? Read this…

Mindset, wellbeing

I love eating and I love food. It’s like a hobby. I have no shame in sharing that I very much enjoy everything about food: planning it, shopping for it, preparing it, eating it, tasting it, everything! To me, food will never just be fuel. It will always been something to be enjoyed, and sometimes, I enjoy it just a little too much!

Back before I ‘got healthy’ I didn’t have a love of good food, I wouldn’t actually eat that much, it was just the wrong kinds of foods i.e. processed crap. When I first started losing weight I did reduce how much I was eating, but I also ended up eating a lot of bland boring food (think chicken with broccoli and steamed carrots). During my vegan phase I started to enjoy food again, but I still wasn’t eating enough for the amount of exercise I was doing. When I realised I needed to gain weight, and slowly let go of the grip I’d had on my appetite, I binged on healthy foods like there was no tomorrow. At that time, I needed those extra calories a lot, and I believe my bingeing was in response to my body’s need for nourishment. Not long after that, I had reached a healthier weight, but I still found it hard to reduce how much food I was eating. ‘But it’s healthy right! I can eat as much as I want and I’ll be fine’ had started to slip into my mindset.

That’s really why overeating healthy foods can be so troublesome, our brains justify it by saying it’s ok because it’s healthy.

I know I’m not alone in sometimes eating a little too much of the healthy stuff. A tablespoon of almond butter before bedtime would often become several spoonfuls, a handful of nuts and seeds would become 4 handfuls, one homemade nut butter cup would become 6 and those 2 squares of dark chocolate would become the whole bar. Thankfully, I now have really good sense of fullness and balance, although breastfeeding does sometimes throw that off occasionally! 

How do you know you are eating too much of the healthy stuff? 

  • You feel sick / bloated after eating a lot of something
  • Unwanted weight gain
  • You snack more than eat meals

It you feel comfortable, don’t have any weight issues etc, then even if you are eating a few tablespoons of almond butter before bed, if it’s not negatively affecting you then it’s ok! Remember what is un healthy and troublesome for one person will be healthy and work well for another!

I think the theory with healthy eating goes like this: when you eliminate processed foods your body will adjust and you’ll intuitively be able to eat the right amount of food for your body. Unfortunately I don’t believe it’s always as simple as that. As I wrote in my Mindfulness v Management post, for many of us intuitive eating can be difficult.

There is such a thing as too much healthy food as generally speaking I do believe in the energy in / energy out theory. If you are seeking to lose weight, it’s something you need to consider.

When I work with clients and in my e course (currently under going reconstruction but coming back soon) I talk about foods in a ‘lots of’ ‘some of’ and a ‘little bit of’ terms to help show how healthy foods can be balanced. Those healthy foods that need to be enjoyed in moderation, and the ones I know a lot of us struggle with, are the calorie dense and delicious foods like:

  • Nuts and especially nut butters!
  • Hummus
  • Avocado
  • Wholegrain breads
  • Healthy baked treats or healthy raw treats
  • Fruit
  • Dark chocolate or raw chocolate

Basically all my favourite foods!

Almond coconut cacao cookies 6

So how do you stop overeating these foods? Here are my tips…

Don’t eat them mindlessly 

Basically stop eating any of these foods standing up in your kitchen – you guys know what I’m talking about right?! If you are going to have them, make them part of a meal or balanced snack and enjoy them, sitting down, without interruptions or distractions. So often these foods are shovelled in and not even tasted. Sit down and savour them!

Measure

Instead of just dolloping out the nut butter or sitting with a full pot of hummus and veggie sticks, measure out a portion. Decide in advance what a portion should be for you. Generally that’s 2 tbsp of nut butter, small handful of nuts, 1/4 cup of hummus etc Small chocolate bars are helpful when you just can’t not finish a big bar. Just try and buy one small bar at a time to avoid the trap of just eating another bar!

Use the freezer

This is a good one for those healthy baked or raw foods treats. I know so many people that struggle with eating just another muffin or cookie after making a batch. Once you have made it, portion it out, wrap in foil and freeze it. In my experience most things can be frozen well and it’s a great way to stop eating all the cakes! 

Make sure you are nourished

Overeating those kinds of foods can happen when you aren’t fully nourished or have a deficiency of some kind. Make sure you are eating enough for your body size and activity well spaced out during the day. If you come home from work starving and hit up the peanut butter jar, perhaps try and eat more at lunch and for your afternoon snack. It can also be worth tuning in with yourself to see if you are experiencing any other issues that highlight a vitamin or mineral deficiency which is causing your body to crave these foods. It’s also worth noting that most of these foods are high in fat. Making sure you eat enough good fats balanced throughout the day might help. 

Assess if it’s a bigger issue

Generally I think there are several issues why we overeat, but the main ones are boredom, emotions / stress, not being mindful when we are eating or having an actual binge eating disorder. If you are overeating a little bit of healthy stuff occasionally when you know you are stressed or board, then try and address those issues – find other things that make you feel better and relaxed, or occupy yourself in new ways. If that overeating is a lot, like full jars of nut butter, several bars of chocolate, slices upon slices of bread etc and at times that aren’t often associated with boredom or stress like the middle of the day etc then it could be more of a binge eating issue. Binge eating is a really complex issue and is definitely something you should seek help with, it’s not something you should have to live with. However if you have previously had a restrictive eating disorder, binge eating can often be part of recovery and none of those healthy foods listed above should be restricted. If that is you, then disregard this post because you’ll be needing those extra calories and nourishment!

Keep them out of sight or not in the kitchen

Sometimes there’s only one thing for it if you really feel like you have an issue with them, and that’s getting rid. There has been times in the past where my mindset was well off and the best thing for me to do was to not have any nut butter in the house. There has been other times when just moving the nut butter to the top shelf in the cupboard has been enough as out of sight has been out of mind. Many of these kinds of foods are classic ‘trigger’ foods and sometimes the best thing to do is just break up with them!

Do you ever eat too much of the healthy stuff? What kind of food do you tend to over indulge in? What are your tips for dealing with it?

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46 Comments

  1. Tom

    Great post, all foodies/health foodies need to read this!! Tom :)

    Reply
  2. Laura

    Oh Laura, you’ve spoken to me here. Nut butters, hummous avocados are thing I *can’t* stop eating to the point I no longer have them in the house. For shame! Thanks so much for this post.

    Reply
  3. Louise @louliveswell

    Great post Laura! That list is all my fave foods as well! I often worry I eat too many nuts and avocado. How much is too much avocado though?! I have half of one a day which I put in my smoothie. I always have a handful of nuts during the day at work and probably some nut butter on oatcakes as well. But it’s just so good and fills me up and stops me eating anything sugary, so that’s not a bad thing surely?! :)

    Reply
    • Laura Agar Wilson

      Definitely not a bad thing at all, as I said in the post, it’s only a problem if you are experiencing any of those three points, if you feel good then that’s the right amount for your body, enjoy!

      Reply
  4. Emma Potts

    You totally hit the nail on the head here Laura! I was just thinking last night that I’ve been going a bit crazy on the nut butters/nut-based treats lately and it’s leaving me feeling physically uncomfortable and guilty.
    These are great tips to get a handle on the issue.

    Reply
  5. Kezia @ Super Naturally Healthy

    So good laura -hit the nail on the head. If you have a habit of binging that we don’t deal with then then it will rear it ugly head on healthy or junk food. It so true that we need to find out own balance too but I have had to learn even a homemade healthy brownie is still a brownie at the end of the day and its probe best not to eat 4 of them!! :) xx

    Reply
    • Laura Agar Wilson

      Thanks Kezia, you are absolutely right it’s an issue either way x

      Reply
  6. Lucy

    How funny, I just uploaded a post all about the Importance of Indulging and I think we must have been thinking on a similar wave length! Moderation is the key word and I think you’ve outlined perfectly how to realise you’re over-doing it and then how to keep those foods moderated. It’s all too easy to think ‘well this is natural/considered a healthy food, therefore it won’t do much harm if I over do it’.
    It’s comforting to see that nut butters are one of those things lots of people seem to have struggled with at one point on their quest to live a healthy lifestyle, as once upon a time, I really struggled!

    She’s So Lucy

    Reply
    • Laura Agar Wilson

      Thanks Lucy, yep moderation is the thing so many of us struggle with, just off to read your post now x

      Reply
  7. Nicky

    Absolutely LOVE this post Laura! I’ve been there on the whole binging thing, even if it was all on healthy clean food at the time, I still gained weight because my body was asking for it…but then it continued when I got to a healthy weight but I was still in the mindset that ‘oh it’s healthy, it’s fine’ until I got to a heavier weight than I was comfortable with because people forget that healthy food does have calories in that make you gain weight just like any other food!

    I can’t remember the last time I binged because as people will see on my Instagram, I eat a bowl of treats every night. It won’t work for everyone, but for me, that bowl stops me binging because I know I can have it again tomorrow if I stop at that one bowl. Measuring things have helped me so much, again not for everyone but even if you just start doing it to get an idea of portion size, it can really put things in perspective with how much has how many calories in…particularly with things like nuts and nut butters! Also keeping the fridge stocked with lots of berries and Greek yogurt is a better option for when you get sweet cravings as they’re relatively lower calorie so will do less ‘damage’. But, I also believe that indulging every so often is also perfectly healthy, as long as you’re in control of it and it’s not a every night thing :)

    Reply
    • Laura Agar Wilson

      Thanks Nicky I LOVE your approach, I think it’s a great way to manage things and enjoy treats sensibly :-)

      Reply
  8. Anna @AnnaTheApple

    I used to be so guilty of eating waaay too much fruit. Not good for my tummy at all! So I swap and change and try to eat proteiny things instead which won’t jump my blood sugar but will fill me up and leave me satisfied. But I have to be careful around roasted nuts as I find them so moreish. I try to stick to pistachio nuts at work as they involve a bit of effort to get into so I can’t just throw them down my neck!

    Reply
    • Laura Agar Wilson

      I think having proteiny snacks on hand is really useful as you say. I do love some pistashios!

      Reply
  9. Lara

    I am totally guilty of eating too much healthy foods. Last week is a point in case but I excused myself because I was cutting out sugar and mindfully I kept myself full with the healthy stuff rather than hit up carbs and sugar; this week I’m getting into more of a normal routine of portions, times I eat & stopping when I’m full.

    I had to giggle reading “ASSESS IF IT’S A BIGGER ISSUE” …. for me, a jar of almond nut butter has saved me from stringing up the kids and leaving them out for the buzzards on many occasions ;-)

    Reply
    • Laura Agar Wilson

      Haha I think almond butter is my saviour after a rough nights sleep with Fin!

      Reply
  10. Ceri @ Natural Kitchen Adventures

    Yep. Fully identify with a lot of that! A great post Laura, really nicely put. PUT THE JAR OF CASHEW BUTTER DOWN AND GET OUT OF THE KICTHEN. Familiar times ;)

    Reply
  11. LilyLipstick

    Great read, Laura. When I first tried losing weight I wondered why despite swapping chocolate bars for dried fruit and nuts the scales weren’t changing – calories are still calories even if they were less junk-based! These days I’m careful with things like hummus and nut butters and they are high calorie and so good that I want to keep on eating them. I do sometimes overeat healthy foods but I think this could be due to my meals not being substantial enough and being too hungry for snacks – I did eat an entire batch of raw brownies last week which I didn’t feel great about doing but it beats eating a load of processed rubbish. Getting the balance right is not easy (especially while training for the marathon and trying to eat properly and lose a bit of weight at the same time) but your tips are really helpful – bookmarking this! x

    Reply
    • Laura Agar Wilson

      I bet it’s so much harder with all that running but it sounds like you are able to be mindful enough and have a good approach :-)

      Reply
  12. Lauren (@PoweredbyPB)

    Great post Laura. I am definitely a grazer, and during marathon training I do tend to grab anything I can get my hands on, and nuts/nut butters, dried fruits and energy bars are my go-to! Lately I’ve been getting home from work at 9pm absolutely famished having not had any dinner until that time and I tend to want to eat everything in the fridge- I need to start taking some sort of snack to have before I leave work. I think focusing on eating maximum amounts of fruit/veggies before anything else is a good place to start.

    Reply
    • Laura Agar Wilson

      Thanks Lauren, that’s always my danger time – when I get home starving I almost always overeat in response. Upping the veg is always a good strategy.

      Reply
  13. Maria @ runningcupcake

    Great post Laura. I think at times I have eaten too many snacks during the day. I don’t think I am too bad- I don’t have trigger foods as such, but I do have a sweet tooth, although half a slice of cake is usually enough as I get sugared out quite quickly too.

    Reply
    • Laura Agar Wilson

      Thanks Maria, I’ve always thought you have one of the healthiest balances out there!

      Reply
  14. India

    I love this post, it is so easy to get in a mind frame of ‘well it’s healthy so…’ I’m running a half marathon Sunday so this week I’m just eating when I’m hungry as I want to be fuelled, but afterwards I’m going to try lose weight so I’ll have to retune my body to am I actually hungry or am I just ‘peckish’?

    India / Touchscreens & Beautyqueens | UK Lifestyle Blog

    Reply
    • Laura Agar Wilson

      Sounds like a great approach, and good luck with the half I hope it went well!

      Reply
  15. Lucy

    Great post I really relate to this. I do have binge-eating disorder, and recently it does tend to be foods like dried fruit, Nakd bars, nut butters, smoothies, porridge etc. I don’t really have many processed foods, but I am gaining weight, as I overeat on these healthy foods. It is a bigger issue for me as you mention. I’ve had many years of treatment, but it’s still something I struggle with, I haven’t really found a solution through therapy, CBT, counselling as yet.

    Reply
    • Laura Agar Wilson

      Thanks for sharing that Lucy, I really hope that you find a solution someday soon. Sending hugs your way xxx

      Reply
  16. Alice Barnes

    Nut butter is my biggest vice! It’s just so damn good. I have been enjoying it in moderation recently though and seeing it more as a treat.

    x

    Reply
  17. Clémentine

    Hello Laura! Regarding this post I am totally guilty of juicing too much. Too many fruits, too much sugar. I throw in some carrots to make it all better but I know I should add more green veggies to my morning drinks.

    I was commenting today because I have been nominated for A Lovely Blog Award that I know is obviously to get to know new bloggers, but thinking about my favourite blogs, I could not do without mentioning you.
    Your blog is lovely, Finley is lovely, I admire your work ethics and just you actually.

    Don’t feel obligated to participate, I just wanted to say I love your blog, I get very inspired by your healthy journey. Here’s my contribution and infos if you’re interested: http://ravacholle.blogspot.be/2015/03/oh-my-ive-been-tagged-nominated-even.html

    x

    Reply
    • Laura Agar Wilson

      Oh thank you so much for this Clem! Those are very kind words indeed, thank you!

      Reply
  18. Claire @ Flake and Cake

    I LOVE this post Laura, it’s definitely something I’ve struggled with. All your tips are super helpful, I think measuring out portions is a really good idea instead of just putting the spoon back into the nut butter jar time after time ;)

    Reply
  19. Alex

    Having started an Intuitive Eating program recently I can confirm it is really bloody hard. It’s brought out anxiety in me that I never knew I had about trusting myself when it comes to food. I’m sure not many people would understand why that’s scary, but it is! I am enjoying the freedom though.

    Reply
    • Laura Agar Wilson

      I bet that’s an interesting experience, I think when you’ve lost a lot of weight, trusting yourself to ‘let go’ with food is definitely scary. Good for you going for it though x

      Reply
  20. Abby Seamus

    I too also struggle with over indulging on snacks, especially in the evenings. Your tips are great, hopefully I will remember them next time I’m grazing

    Reply
  21. Tamzi

    I eat to much full stop! Definitely guilty of eating too much of anything, not always of course but I do love food like you everything about it pleases me!

    Reply
  22. Sophie

    This is all so true, Laura! A great informative cool post! x

    Reply
  23. Petra

    Such a great post Laura! It’s so easy to overeat on healthy foods if you don’t make some kind of ‘plan’ beforehand and your post is exactly that ‘plan’. I always go by ‘everything in moderation’ and this includes healthy foods too. When I eat nuts I don’t eat them out the bag, I actually let myself have only a handful of nuts at once and not more than that. Sometimes I even count them so I don’t have too many (but that’s mostly because I think too many gives me bad skin).
    It’s so true – it’s important to be nourished and you won’t have those cravings and you won’t feel like eating more of those calorie dense healthy foods. But sometimes when you are tired and haven’t slept enough it can be difficult not to overeat on these. So yeah, sleep is important too!

    Reply
  24. Nikki @ The Road to Less Cake

    This post totally hits home with me. I’ve been guilty of eating a handful of nuts and dried food here and then and then another and then another. And I justified it because it is ‘healthy’. I’ve realised that I maybe wasn’t eating enough at work for say lunch and then I’d come home and be hungry and graze before my fiance gets home from work. So in the last couple of weeks I’ve tackled my grazing and I’m doing it half as much as I’m eating a salad and a yogurt or something for lunch, so that when I get home from work I don’t feel like I want to eat everything.

    Reply

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