Even with the best intentions to make healthy eating part of our daily lifestyles, we all stray from the plan from time to time. Occasions like birthdays and holiday celebrations are usual culprits for overeating, with the sheer abundance of high-calorie, high-fat foods that make it easy to go overboard. But eating too much, too often can quickly derail your health and weight loss goals. Whether you’ve gotten off track and overindulged for a meal, a day or even a week (say, summer vacation?), the good news is there are easy steps you can take to get back to your routine and begin making progress toward your goals again. The bottom line: Overeating happens to all of us, but that doesn’t mean your weight loss progress is undone. Use these helpful tips to move forward and get back on track with your weight loss goals.
1. Eat healthfully the rest of the day.
If you overeat at one meal — say, you grabbed a doughnut (or two) from the office break room midmorning, after eating your breakfast — it might be tempting to skip lunch to account for those additional calories. While you should still listen to your body and hunger cues, don’t feel like you need to forgo your next meal to “make up” for your earlier actions. Instead, plan to get back on track at your next meal, and enjoy a healthy, satisfying lunch or snack when hunger calls.
2. Walk it out.
Sustainable weight loss typically includes a combination of diet and exercise.1 Although exercise may be the last thing on your mind after eating a little too much, getting some simple movement, like walking, could be just what you need to get back into a healthy mindset. Plus, studies show that getting out for a stroll about 15 minutes after a meal may aid with blood sugar control.2 A post-meal walk may also help with digestion.3
3. Don’t fall for a “quick fix.”
Photo by Hermes Rivera on Unsplash
A juice cleanse or fad diet may seem like a quick way to bounce back after overeating — but the reality is they’re not healthy — or a sustainable weight loss solution. Taking extreme measures to lose weight quickly isn’t just unsafe; it can also set you up for weight regain. Avoid the gimmicky detoxes and stick to eating a variety of vegetables, fruits, lean proteins and whole grains.
4. Go to bed early.
Sleep deprivation can impact certain hormones like ghrelin and leptin, which are responsible for regulating your appetite. Not getting sufficient rest may be associated with an increased desire to eat less-than-stellar food options to help keep your energy levels up.4 If you’ve happened to overeat after a night of unrestful sleep, try turning out the lights a little earlier than normal to help your body reset. There are many other positive benefits to good sleep, too, like boosting your immune system, reducing your stress levels and supporting your weight loss.5
How to prevent overeating
It can be tempting to forget your healthy meal plans for the rest of the day after overeating — but getting back on track is one of the best ways to support your weight loss efforts. Pause and reflect on the progress you’ve made so far toward bettering your health. Then, focus on making your next choice a healthy one. If you’re at home, head outside for a walk; if you’re at a restaurant, ask your server to box up the rest of your meal. Here are some of our top tips to help prevent overeating.
1. Eat healthy meals and snacks throughout the day.
Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash
We get it: mornings can be hectic — but skipping breakfast or lunch can set you up to overeat later. If you’re not eating enough during the day, it’s easy to become extremely hungry, which may lead to overeating at night. There’s a good reason to avoid late-night snacks and large meals: it may increase your susceptibility to weight gain and other health complications.6 To prevent this cycle, ensure you’re eating balanced meals throughout the day. Jenny Craig recommends eating six times a day, three meals and three snacks, to help you feel satiated and balance blood sugar levels.
2. Stay hydrated.
Not only is staying hydrated important for your overall health, but it may also prevent you from overeating at your next meal. One small study found that people who drank two cups of water thirty minutes before a meal ended up consuming fewer calories and tended to feel fuller than the control group who did not drink water.7
3. Scale back on social media.
Photo by Helena Lopes on Unsplash
Your Instagram feed is likely filled with images of delicious-looking food, either from accounts you follow or sponsored posts. Ever seen a photo of a decadent dessert, and suddenly felt the urge to eat something sweet — even if you weren’t previously hungry? That’s because simply seeing appetizing foods can influence cravings for them.8 The fix: Try to minimize your scroll time during times of the day when you may be more easily influenced to reach for unhealthy snacks (like the “afternoon slump”). If you’re in the mood for a snack, grab a healthy alternative like an apple with a teaspoon of nut butter or some carrot sticks with a tablespoon of hummus. And if you need a break — try listening to a podcast or reading a chapter from your favorite book instead of picking up your phone.
4. Monitor your thoughts and feelings.
Beyond hunger, other emotional factors can prompt us to eat: stress, boredom or loneliness, to name a few.9 If you think your emotions may be influencing your food choices — try to monitor your thoughts and feelings to identify reasons you may be inclined to overeat. A great way to do this is to try food journaling — take note of how you are feeling before, during and after each meal. Try to see if you notice any trends — do you tend to snack on candy at the office when you’re bored? Perhaps you regularly enjoy ice cream while watching television out of habit. Try journaling for a week to see if you can identify any habits that aren’t serving your health.
Overeating happens — but it doesn’t have to thwart your weight loss efforts. We hope these tips help you stay on track with your healthy eating habits.
If you need help creating healthy meal plans you can stick with, Jenny Craig can help. Get started today!
Kelsey is a Chicago-based journalist specializing in wellness and travel who writes for publications like Shape, Cooking Light and The Wall Street Journal. When she's not working, she loves trying out new healthy recipes and traveling as much as possible.
Favorite healthy snack: Plain Greek yogurt with a few chocolate chips
Reviewed by Briana Rodriquez, RDN
Briana is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Personal Trainer for Jenny Craig, based in Carlsbad, California. She is passionate about utilizing food as functional and preventative medicine. Guided by a simplistic and optimistic approach, Briana’s philosophy is to help people improve their health and achieve their goals through the development of sustainable habits to live a healthy life. In her free time, you can find her strength training, indoor cycling, coffee tasting, and at local eateries with her husband and two dogs.
Favorite healthy snack: peanut butter with celery alongside a grapefruit-flavored sparkling water (so refreshing!)
This article is based on scientific research and/or other scientific articles and was written by an experienced health and lifestyle contributor and fact-checked by Briana Rodriquez, RDN, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist at Jenny Craig.
Our goal at Jenny Craig is to provide the most up-to-date and objective information on health-related topics, so our readers can make informed decisions based on factual content. All articles undergo an extensive review process, and depending on topic, are reviewed by a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) or Nutritionist, to ensure accuracy.
This article contains trusted sources including scientific, peer-reviewed papers. All references are hyperlinked at the end of the article to take readers directly to the source.
Edited by Elisa - Jenny Craig