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!
- Wholegrain breads
- Healthy baked treats or healthy raw treats
- Dark chocolate or raw chocolate
Basically all my favourite foods!
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!
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?