What Is Overeating?


Overeating means eating more food than what your body needs. This cycle can occur when you’re eating in response to physical, environmental, or emotional cues.


You may be in an overeating cycle if you:


  • Eat due to external and emotional triggers
  • Are food-focused
  • Eat to excess
  • View exercise as punishment for overeating.


We will examine overeating in more detail shortly.


But first …



Introducing the Mindful Eating Cycle


The Mindful Eating Cycle is the mindfulness approach I use in my 1:1 health coaching sessions and my mindful eating group workshops.


I love it for its power and its simplicity.


Just by watching and noticing what is happening around your food intake, you might find that significant healthy shifts just start to happen on their own. And that’s just the beginning!


The Mindful Eating Cycle was developed by Dr. Michelle May as a way to understand the way we eat. It provides the necessary structure for us to work on making gradual changes in our lifestyle.


We investigate our eating habits with a series of questions:



Why? Why do I eat?

This is the major underlying purpose or motivation driving the eating cycle. In other words, what is driving your cycle at any given time?


When?  When do I want to eat?

When do you feel like eating? What causes an urge to eat?


What? What do I eat?

What food do you choose to eat from all the possible options?


How? How do I eat?

How does food get from the plate or container into your body?


How Much? How much do I eat?

How much fuel do I give my body?


Where? Where do I invest my energy?

Once I have chosen and eaten the food to fuel my body, where do I spend that energy (includes physical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual energy).




Applying the Mindful Eating Cycle to Overeating Patterns


Firstly, I want to strongly state that this is not about labelling or shaming. You can find yourself in different cycles of eating throughout your life. These cycles do not define you. You may or may not have a desire to change them!


Ok, now let’s use the Mindful Eating Cycle to explore overeating.



Why Do People Eat In An Overeating Cycle?


In an overeating pattern, the cycle drivers are triggers (i.e. to satisfy some other need). Eating provides temporary pleasure or distraction.


When Do People Eat In An Overeating Cycle?


In an overeating pattern, you often eat when external triggers occur:


  • Physical triggers (other than hunger) such as
    • Thirst
    • Fatigue
    • Pain
  • Environmental triggers such as
    • Seeing or smelling food
    • Advertising, cooking shows, recipes in magazines
    • Seeing other people eating
    • Time of day or year (holidays, seasonal)
    • Popcorn at the movies
    • Doughnuts in the break room
    • Children’s unfinished lunch
  • Emotional triggers such as
    • Stress
    • Boredom
    • Frustration
    • Loneliness
    • Sadness
    • Anger
    • Happiness, love, celebration, reward
    • And, importantly: Restriction and deprivation – driving the Overeating Cycle!


What Do People Eat In An Overeating Cycle?


In an overeating cycle, food choice is driven by the trigger.


If you eat because you are sad, mad, glad, stressed, bored, or lonely, what do you feel like eating?


Answers: sweet, fat, salty, crunchy, fast, convenient, forbidden foods.


Why you’re eating determines what you eat.


How Do People Eat In An Overeating Cycle?


  • Fast, speed-eating
  • Distracted, doing something else at the same time (working, watching TV, driving, or reading)
  • Alone, in secret, feeling guilty.


Many of these behaviors are simply habits.


Eating this way backfires because it’s impossible to fully enjoy food in this manner. As a result, you’re less satisfied so you eat more.


How Much Do People Eat In An Overeating Cycle?


Since hunger didn’t tell you to eat, what will tell you to stop?

  • Food is gone
  • Bag or container is empty
  • TV show, movie, or other activity is over
  • The rows of cookies are even
  • The ice cream in the container is even and smooth on top
  • Someone comes home or something else interrupts your eating
  • Feeling miserably full, “stuffed,” or physically sick
  • Feeling numb.


Where Does The Energy Go When People Overeat?


  • What energy?!
  • When your body has to digest the extra food, you might feel more sluggish so you may be less active.
  • Food consumed when you don’t need it will be stored for later. Since your body didn’t tell you it needed the food, your body has no choice but to store it.
  • Mental energy used for “beating” yourself up, feeling guilty, feeling shame and regretful, and/or trying to find the next diet.


This is a cycle because when you eat food your body didn’t ask for, you won’t feel as good or have the energy you could.


More importantly, eating can’t meet needs other than temporary pleasure and distraction so your needs go unmet and drive your Overeating Cycle.


What Are The Other Eating Styles?


You can learn all about Instinctive Eating [COMING SOON] and Restrictive Eating [COMING SOON] on my blog.


How To Stop Overeating Using Mindfulness


In my experience, people who get the biggest results from mindful eating practices are those who go deep into the method. I would love to guide you through this process:


Join me for a FREE online masterclass to learn the basics of mindful eating, how it can radically transform your health, and even help you to lose weight.





Mindful eating masterclass

I would love to guide you in a way that is personalized to your unique circumstances with a free 20-minute health breakthrough session. Book yours now.


I also run mindfulness eating workshops and seminars! My new Mindful Eating Program is now open for enrolments! I would love for you to check it out now.


Please feel free to reach out to me for guidance around mindful eating.


Read more about mindful eating on my blog.