May - Jun 2011

Coping with the Temptation to Overeat

By Laurel Brundage, PsyD


Coping with temptations to overeat is one of the most challenging issues bariatric surgery patients face after surgery.  Immediately after surgery hunger decreases and portion control is physiologically enforced, but as time goes by, the temptation to overeat returns.

Overeating will usually happen when a person becomes overly hungry, bored, or emotionally upset.  These situations make it difficult to resist temptations to eat too much and/or the wrong thing.

Episodes of overeating frequently occur when more than four hours have elapsed since last eating.  As hunger intensifies, it becomes harder to make healthy food choices.  Social and environmental triggers contribute to this type of overeating episode.

Most boredom triggered overeating occurs when a person is at home and others are not present.  Sedentary activities such as watching television are usually involved.

Emotional triggers may be the hardest to deal with.  When a person is angry, depressed, or anxious, they may turn to food to help them feel better, and their judgment may be impaired by intense emotions.

Active coping techniques can help a person resist temptations to overeat.  Using mental strategies like distraction and rational self-talk, combined with behavioral strategies like leaving the area where the temptation is or physical exercise works the best.  Plan ahead and eat at regular intervals to avoid becoming overly hungry.  Avoid eating while you watch television and do something physically active instead of eating when you are bored.  When you are emotionally upset call a friend or exercise until the intense emotion subsides.  Integrating strategies such as these into your life will help you overcome the urge to overeat and begin to lay the foundation for a healthier you.