19 September 2017Last updated

Features | People

Ask the expert: I can’t stop overeating!

Overeating is, in my view, the easiest dietary bad habit to fall into

Russell Hemmings.
23 Sep 2016 | 12:00 am

I’m a 27-year-old woman and extremely overweight. Although I’ve been warned by my doctor, I can’t stop overeating. I’m suffering from hypertension. I don’t want to be like this anymore. I can’t even go out as I don’t look nice and feel people will stare.

The old saying ‘the night is darkest before the dawn’ definitely applies here. Your lifestyle sounds unsustainably unhealthy, but on a positive note you’ve already taken the first step towards a slimmer you; you’ve clearly recognised the reasons why you are overweight and you have made the firm decision to change your life.

To start with, I think it’s always essential to have input from your doctor – I recommend consulting with them before you begin altering your lifestyle.

The most effective changes are the ones that start out small, but remain permanent. Understand and keep track of your health so you can ensure the changes you are making to your food intake and exercise output are having a positive effect on your well-being, not just your weight.

Now, the second thing to do is to stop being so hard on yourself. An important step on your journey towards stronger self-confidence is to accept that we are all different and that even though the media might have you believe there is a right and wrong way to look, this is simply just not true.

Don’t expend energy and head space on worrying about what others think – this is about you and what you want.

Overeating is, in my view, the easiest dietary bad habit to fall into. If you’re someone who lacks self-confidence and feels uncomfortable in your own skin, you may be prone to comfort eating, where you overeat unhealthy foods in bulk to try and drown out negative emotions. This in turn creates a vicious cycle; the more weight you gain the less confident you feel about your appearance, so you comfort eat, repeating the process.

There are a couple of strategies you could try to get your portion sizes under control. First, start by keeping a food journal. Try to eat as you normally would and be as detailed as possible, including writing down all the thoughts you have and the emotions you feel surrounding eating. Keep it for a week and this way you will collect a great deal of information about how much you eat and your thinking processes and triggers.

Next, try and cut back on those portions. As overeating has become more and more commonplace, the average size of our dinner plates has increased too. The ‘Mind Diet’ advice is; never serve your meals on a plate any larger than the two open palms of your hands. As your plate shrinks, your portions will too, and you’ll trick your mind into thinking it has eaten far more than it has. Throw in some healthy swaps and you’ll be on your way to curbing overeating, and most importantly, lowering that blood pressure!

Your mind is where it’s at. Change your thinking processes and you’ll change your behaviour. Think small; small adjustments, small steps forward, smaller portions, and you’ll end up with a smaller healthier version of you… but that’s the most important bit – do it for you and no one else.

Got a problem?

Email your queries to

Russell Hemmings.

Russell Hemmings

Life coach, and clinical and cognitive behavioural hypnotherapist. More info: / 04 4273627 / 055 2867275.