10 Psychological Reasons for Overeating: How to Master the Psychology of Eating

The psychology of overeating explained: 10 reasons for eating past fullness rooted in our thoughts, feelings, & beliefs

Delving into the psychological reasons for overeating can provide us with profound insights – far more insightful than focusing on food or exercise. While eating well and moving our bodies are undoubtedly helpful steps for overall wellness, it does not address the psychology behind overeating tendencies.

Someone can have all the knowledge they need to make healthy, informed dietary and exercise choices, and yet compulsively do the opposite of what they intend. To me, this describes the ‘compulsion’ behind compulsive eating. To gain traction on the path to overcoming compulsive eating patterns, it is far more insightful to turn to the psychology of overeating instead of dieting. 

By shedding light on the underlying factors that drive overeating, we can embark on a transformative journey towards long-term behavior change. After all, clinical studies have shown that diets don’t work long-term. It is time we turned our attention to the elements that motivate our actions: our thoughts, feelings, and beliefs — aka, our psychology.

The Psychology of Overeating Explained

Before we dive into the list of psychological reasons for overeating, I’d like to hone in one of the most prevalent topics: emotional eating. While there are many types of emotional eating such as boredom eating or guilty eating, a defining characteristic of emotional eating is using food to cope with difficult emotions rather than addressing them directly.

For example, compulsive snacking is a common problem, especially in the workplace where there are a bounty of stressors such as deadlines or micromanaging. Individuals in high-stress workplaces often cannot take a break (though they should) which means that these difficult emotions have no time nor space to be expressed. 

Instead of constructively and productively coping with these emotions, it is common to feel pushed towards food – either consciously or subconsciously – to avoid or “numb” negative emotions. When the drive towards food in order to avoid emotion happens subconsciously, individuals may berate themselves as having low willpower or “weakness” around food. 

However, when we look at the psychology of overeating, we often find that individuals that struggle with overeating have plenty of willpower; they just lack the right tool to demonstrate it.

Many of us have been told to use diets to control our eating behavior, but diets don’t work and only fuel the belief that we are “weak-willed.” It is far more effective to address the psychology behind overeating instead.

While there are also biological drivers that cause us to consume large amounts of food sometimes, the psychology of overeating closely revolves around the nuances of emotional eating. In fact, all of the psychological reasons for overeating listed below can be boiled down to some sort of strategy to avoid negative emotion.

Fortunately, the good news is that developing tolerance for negative emotion is a skill that can be learned. There are also many other productive strategies that you can employ to cope with your emotions without food and improve your ability to listen to your body’s true hunger and fullness cues.

Psychological Reasons for Overeating: Mastering Your Mindset

Exploring the various psychological reasons for overeating can provide you with a deeper understanding of your own behaviors and motivations around food. By gaining insights into the underlying factors that contribute to overeating habits, you can pave the way for effective interventions and long-term behavior change.

Here are some of the most common psychological reasons for overeating:

1. Self-Sabotage Around Food Often Has an Emotional Root

Let’s dive straight into the the biggest psychological reason for overeating, which that we are somehow getting a greater positive benefit from struggling with food than from being without the problem. Often subconsciously, food is providing protection or some other benefit — and we usually aren’t aware of it.

But when overeating causes emotional and even physical distress, it can seem unimaginable that there would be any kind of positive benefit. That’s why I recently refilmed my YouTube video on this topic, because it’s really important (and quite mind-bending).

Personally, when I was struggling with overeating and binge eating, I might have thought someone was truly misinformed if they suggested that overeating was serving me in a positive way. It felt like the bane of my existence, and I would not have been open to the idea that it was somehow serving me in some backwards way.

However, through my work with eating psychology, I’ve found this to be true. “People pleasing” is the perfect example. If someone identifies as a people-pleaser and cringes at the idea of someone being upset with them, that might be the positive benefit of struggling with food.

Many of us don’t realize that “skinny shaming” is a real phenomenon. That said, does the so-called ‘positive benefit’ of avoiding skinny-shaming outweigh the positive benefit of overcoming fat-shaming? While the answer may seem obvious on the surface, the truth is that there’s much more to it.

One person might subconsciously hold onto extra weight in order to avoid skinny-shaming because they have a close group of friends that also share the struggle with being overweight. If that person was to then lose weight, they might risk losing a sense of camaraderie with those friends.

In this specific example, the avoidance of skinny-shaming is just one layer of the psychological reasons for overeating. Beneath that motivation is another: the desire to feel a sense of belonging, which is one of the most basic human needs.

Not everyone will relate to this example. There are many people that are willing to let go of some friendships, especially if those friends can be happy for you and your successes, in order to let go of the struggle with overeating. But when we get truly honest with ourselves, we may find that we are in the camp of craving a sense of belonging and camaraderie with others over the craving for a “thin body.”

This is where workbooks like Why We Do the Things We Do can help. We need to fully understand the beliefs that we hold about thinness, belonging, and body image in order to also fully understand our so-called ‘positive benefits’ of self-sabotage around food.

2. Emotional Hunger Can Be Confused with Physical Hunger

Confusion between physical hunger and emotional hunger can be a significant psychological reason for overeating. This problem is commonly seen in individuals with long histories of dieting, where habitual patterns of listening to external rules “overrides” a person’s innate ability to know what true hunger feels like.

Physical hunger is the body’s biological signal for energy replenishment. It typically develops gradually and can manifest as physical sensations such as an empty feeling or growling in the stomach, light-headedness, or difficulty concentrating. 

Emotional hunger, in contrast, is driven by emotions rather than the body’s need for sustenance. It can emerge suddenly and intensely in response to strong emotions, whether negative or positive. 

Physical hunger can be accompanied by a craving for a specific food, but it can be quelled by any type of substantial, nourishing food. Emotional hunger, however, is often associated with specific cravings for comfort foods high in sugar, fat, or both – and sometimes it can persist if the specific craved food is not eaten. 

3. Stress Triggers Hormones That Make You Want to Eat

Stress is a significant psychological factor that can contribute to overeating. When individuals experience stress, their bodies release hormones such as cortisol that can influence eating behaviors. Cortisol, often referred to as the “stress hormone,” is known to stimulate appetite and increase cravings for high-calorie, comfort foods.

One way stress hormones affect hunger and eating behaviors is through the impact on insulin, a hormone involved in blood sugar regulation. When stress triggers the release of cortisol, it can lead to insulin resistance, where cells become less responsive to insulin’s effects. 

As a response, individuals may experience increased hunger and cravings for high-carbohydrate, sugary foods as the body requires more glucose to function properly.

This is a great example of how something that starts as a psychological cause of overeating (stress) can have a biological impact on the body.

Additionally, chronic stress can disrupt the balance between other hormones involved in appetite regulation, such as ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin is a hormone that stimulates hunger, while leptin is a hormone that signals satiety and fullness. 

Prolonged or chronic stress can lead to an increase in ghrelin levels and a decrease in leptin sensitivity. This hormonal imbalance can result in heightened feelings of hunger and reduced feelings of fullness, making individuals more prone to overeating.

As you can see, the psychological impact of stress on overeating is twofold. Firstly, stress can lead to emotional eating, as individuals may turn to food as a means of comfort or stress relief. Secondly, the hormonal changes caused by stress can disrupt the body’s natural hunger and satiety cues, making it more challenging to regulate food intake effectively.

4. The Restrict-Binge Cycle & The Psychology of Overeating

Many individuals who struggle with dieting and overeating have experienced the restrict-binge cycle. This pattern involves periods of strict dieting or food restriction followed by episodes of uncontrollable overeating or binge eating. While it may seem like a result of low willpower, the restrict-binge cycle is actually caused by a complex cascade of biological and psychological triggers.

When we chronically diet or restrict our food intake, our bodies undergo physiological changes that contribute to the restrict-binge cycle. Ghrelin, often referred to as the “hunger hormone,” plays a key role in this process. 

Ghrelin levels increase during periods of food restriction, triggering intense cravings and making us feel even hungrier. This hormonal response is a survival mechanism, driving us to seek out high-calorie, high-reward foods to ensure our energy needs are met.

Behind the scenes, however, there’s psychology at play too. One of the psychological reasons for overeating when restriction is involved is deprivation. When we restrict ourselves from certain foods or entire food groups such as carbs or sweets, it creates a heightened desire for those foods and even leads to a preoccupation with them.

If you’ve ever eaten pizza when you weren’t hungry and beat yourself up for it because you were trying not to eat carbs, that could be the very reason why it happened in the first place. The allure and temptation of the foods that we make off-limits makes us want it more than if we were allowed to have pizza whenever we want.

Although many of us, myself included, reason that if we just had more willpower to lose weight, we would be able to resist the pizza. After all, many of us have also had too much pizza during times where pizza was allowed whenever we wanted.

The key here is that the psychology of overeating requires a comprehensive approach. We can’t just focus on Permission to Eat and forget about other factors like emotional eating. Addressing the psychological reasons for overeating must be a holistic, comprehensive approach.

5. Seeking Foods High in Fat, Sugar, or Carbs Could Be “Hedonic Eating”

Hedonic eating, also known as eating for pleasure or sensual self-indulgence, is deeply intertwined with the psychology of the reward process in our brains. When we consume high-reward foods, such as those rich in fat, carbs, or sugar, it triggers a release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and reward.

The reward process in the brain plays a significant role in hedonic eating. When we engage in this type of eating, the brain associates the consumption of high-reward foods with a pleasurable experience, creating a strong desire to repeat the behavior.

This is partly the reason why we find it challenging to resist or stop eating foods rich in fat, carbs, or sugar once we start.

The reward process also contributes to the formation of habits in relation to hedonic eating. Each time we indulge in these foods, our brain commits the experience to memory and associates it with pleasure. This creates a reinforcing loop that can lead to a habit of reaching for high-reward foods in response to certain cues or emotions.

Fortunately, there are plenty of steps you can take to address the psychological reasons for overeating, including hedonic eating. For example, you can take steps to decrease any chronic stress in your life and also increase your participation in pleasurable hobbies. Though it may take time to implement these steps, it can decrease the psychological drive to reach for high-reward foods, whether or not your brain has developed a habit of it.

6. The Fear Wasting Food Is One of the Biggest Psychological Reasons for Overeating

Many of us overeat not because of dieting or restriction, but because we feel a deep-rooted sense of guilt if we don’t eat every last bit of food on our plate. The fear of wasting food can be significant; and with most restaurants serving portions that are larger than necessary, this can lead to frequent overeating due to psychological resistance to food waste.

Hedonic eating, driven by the pursuit of pleasure and sensory experiences, also contributes to the fear of wasting food. Individuals may resist wasting food to preserve the flavor and enjoyable experience associated with indulging in certain foods (i.e. fear that foods won’t taste as good if saved for later).

More often than not, however, the fear of wasting food is driven by early childhood experiences to finish your entire plate before you’re excused from the table. Family dynamics can heavily reinforce the fear of wasting food and even cause us to push guilt upon others for wasting food into our adult years, perpetuating one of the biggest psychological reasons for overeating.

7. Sugar Addiction May or May Not Have a Place in Eating Psychology

Sugar addiction is a controversial topic when it comes to overeating. While some studies argue that sugar possesses addictive qualities stronger than drug addiction, other studies question the validity of food addiction as a reason for overeating. Let’s explore both sides of the argument.

Proponents of the idea of sugar addiction argue that consuming sugar can trigger a release of dopamine in the brain similar to addictive substances like drugs. This reinforces the desire to seek out more sugar. Over time, individuals may develop a tolerance to sugar, requiring larger amounts to experience the same level of satisfaction. 

On the other side of the argument, a study published in the European Journal of Nutrition reviewed the evidence surrounding sugar addiction and found “little evidence” for its existence in humans. After all, most studies conducted on sugar addiction were conducted in rats.

The study suggested that addiction-like behaviors associated with sugar, such as overeating, occur from intermittent access to sugar rather than as a result of the neurochemical effects of sugar itself. In a way, this validates the theory that restricting certain foods causes us to seek them out even more.

Because the science is split, I am an advocate for shifting the focus away from whether or not sugar is addicting. Instead, we can use the desire to overeat sugar as an indicator to look more closely at the emotions that drive emotional eating. I talk more about this in my workbook, Stopping Sugar Addiction the Psycho-Spiritual Way, which dives deep into the psychology of sugar cravings.

8. Eating Too Fast Can Make You Eat Past Fullness Without Realizing It

Eating too fast is a common habit that can contribute to overeating without us even realizing it. When we eat quickly, we don’t give our body enough time to register feelings of fullness, leading us to consume more food than necessary. This can be especially problematic for individuals trying to manage their weight or practice portion control.

Mindful eating is often recommended as a solution to combat the habit of eating too quickly. By paying attention to our food and being fully present during meals, we can enhance our awareness of satiety cues and better regulate our food intake. However, emotional eating can make practicing mindful eating challenging and I find it ineffective for addressing compulsive eating.

Emotional eating involves turning to food for comfort, stress relief, or distraction from unpleasant emotions. When we’re in an emotional state, our attention becomes focused on the emotions themselves rather than the act of eating. 

In such instances, mindful eating may feel inaccessible because our emotions take precedence over our ability to be present and attentive while eating. Emotional eating can disrupt the connection between our mind and body, making it difficult to slow down and engage in mindful eating practices.

However, it's important to recognize that our eating habits are not isolated behaviors. As renowned author in the field of emotional eating, Geneen Roth, says, “The way we do one thing is often the way we do everything.”

This means that slowing down other aspects of our lives can have a trickle-over effect and positively influence our eating habits as well. To me, this is the epitome of addressing the psychological reasons for overeating without resorting to ineffective dieting.

9. Satisfaction Is a Critical Element in Stopping Overeating

Satisfaction plays a critical role in our eating experience. It goes beyond mere physical fullness and encompasses mealtime enjoyment, pleasure, and contentment. When we feel satisfied at the end of a meal, both physically and emotionally, we’re more likely to stop eating and move onto the next activity.

However, when dieters continuously deprive themselves of the foods they find satisfying, they create a state of dissatisfaction. Even if they are physically full, the lack of satisfaction after eating can leave them unfulfilled and craving the very foods they have been denying. This psychological response can trigger episodes of overeating as they seek to satisfy their cravings and find the pleasure and contentment they have been missing.

This is something that I personally experienced time and time again while I struggled with compulsive eating. For example, burritos used to be one of my forbidden foods, because I knew that I could not stop halfway – I would always eat the entire thing regardless of hunger and fullness.

When faced with a craving for a burrito, I’d have something else for dinner like a calorie-controlled Lean Cuisine, which is highly unsatisfying to me. After finishing a meal feeling unsatisfied, I’d set out to find healthy and well-meaning snacks – like pita chips with hummus or rice cakes – to take the edge off my emotional hunger.

However, after all was said and done, I’d still feel unsatisfied and would go out and get the burrito I was initially craving and eat the entire thing. The end result was eating more food overall – the Lean Cuisine, crackers with hummus, rice cakes, and the burrito – than if I had just eaten what I wanted to begin with.

If you relate to this story but fail to see how allowing yourself to eat the foods you want won’t end in overeating – because you’re like me and struggle to stop eating when you’re full – rest assured that all the other tips in this article will help. Addressing the psychological reasons why we reach for food when we aren’t hungry is how I finally stopped overeating. It is a process I call Psycho-Spiritual Wellness

10. Beliefs: The Hidden Psychological Reasons for Overeating

For the longest time, I believed that my struggle with overeating was simply a result of low willpower. I thought that if I could just resist certain foods, I would finally achieve my weight loss goals. 

The truth, though, is that diets don’t work, and dietary restriction triggers both biological and psychological reasons for overeating. Beyond the layer of restriction, however, is something equally important: our beliefs. 

To truly understand the psychological reasons why we turn to food when we aren’t hungry, we must explore what we believe about food, body shape, and how both influence our values.

For example, I once had a coaching client that used to be much thinner when she was younger, but she was also the target of jealousy back then for having a slender body. The previous experience of both being thin and stirring up jealousy in others can actually lead to limiting beliefs like: “being thin means getting bullied.” 

This is an example of how our beliefs can, consciously or subconsciously, drive our behavior around food. Uncovering our hidden beliefs around food and body image is crucial in understanding the psychological reasons for overeating. 

Furthermore, from my experience as an eating psychology coach, I’ve found that the deeper – even spiritual – root of weight gain is actually a need for protection. In the previous example, no longer being thin served as protection from being the target of unwanted jealousy from others. 

Even though my client already knew what good food and exercise involves, she struggled with eating past fullness anyways in order to avoid the unwanted scrutiny that she previously experienced. This wasn’t her only trigger for eating past fullness, but it was a significant one.

The Psychology of Overeating Is Best Explained by Someone Who’s Been There

Now that you understand some of the biggest psychological reasons for overeating, we can discuss the steps you can take to overcome unwanted eating patterns. While I have plenty of tips to help, I first need to set the record straight about some unfortunate advice on this particular topic from Psychology Today

In their article the author states, “From speaking to adults and children, I came up with 40 rationalizations for why individuals justify their overeating. They include ‘watching what I eat is too hard,’ ‘it’s low-fat/fat-free,’ ‘I will make up for it later,’ ‘I’ll burn it off later,’ ‘I don’t usually eat this,’ ‘it’s free,’ ‘everyone else is eating it,’… ‘healthy food doesn’t taste as good’…” The list goes on (last accessed June 26, 2023).

I was shocked when I read this article, which was written by a psychologist. That quote is unrelatable at best and offensive at worst. The author accuses overeaters of using rationalizations to “justify” overeating behavior — as if overeating is something that we want to be doing.

While many psychologists are compassionate, that article was not written from a point of compassion. It was written from a place of disconnection and a lack of empathy. In all my years as an eating psychology coach, no one has ever shared rationalizations like that with me.

In fact, the problem I see most frequently is that people are trying too hard to “eat perfectly” and they are restricting their diets too much. Then, the restriction causes unintended biological backlash in the form of compulsive eating.

From what I have seen, overeaters don’t think that watching what they eat is too hard; they arguably care about it too much, to the point of preoccupation and obsession with food.

They don’t focus on low-fat/fat-free; they are petrified of carbs and yet they struggle with craving carbs so much that they binge.

They don’t struggle with not “making up for it later,” they might be using overworking as a coping mechanism for their emotions and so they run themselves ragged at work and have no energy left over for even basic self-care.

From what I have seen in my line of work, we almost know too much about what good food and exercise entails, and it motivates us to push measures too far, push our bodies too far, and focus all our energy on diets that don’t work instead of the psychology behind overeating.

Perhaps the psychologist who wrote those disconnected words only came to that conclusion because many compulsive eaters struggle with shame. When talking about something as personal and vulnerable as overeating, we might “armor up” to protect ourselves from judgment by sharing “rationalizations” to deflect ownership of our problems. 

In short, I vehemently disagree that most overeaters “rationalize” their eating habits. Most overeaters berate themselves and are their own worst critic when it comes to eating past fullness.

Steps to Address the Psychological Reasons for Overeating

The best path forward to overcome the psychological reasons for overeating is to be met with compassion from both ourselves and others. When we feel true empathy – which can come from someone that has been there, or from someone willing to put themselves in your shoes – we can open ourselves up to true change.

A compassionate approach to stopping overeating is essential for addressing any underlying emotions or struggles that contribute to the pattern. As mentioned before, it’s essential to address the psychology of overeating in a holistic and comprehensive manner. 

Here are some steps you can take to address the psychological reasons for overeating and develop a healthier and more balanced relationship with food:

Cultivate Emotional Tolerance

psychological tools to stop overeating: emotional tolerance. practice sitting still with edgy emotions to develop resilience and tolerance

Emotional eating often arises from a desire to avoid or numb difficult emotions. To address this, it is crucial to cultivate emotional tolerance and develop healthier coping mechanisms. Instead of turning to food as a way to suppress emotions, practice holding space for difficult emotions. 

Emotional tolerance does not mean ‘wallowing’ in our negative emotions. Rather, it means allowing life to have a natural ebb and flow. What we resist, persists. Many people will find that when they resist negative emotion, it makes the emotion stronger and the desire to overeat also grows stronger.

By developing tolerance for negative emotions, we allow ourselves to develop resilience, which in turn reduces the desire to numb negative emotions with food. Up next, I will share my best tool for developing emotional tolerance.

Utilize the Stop, Drop, & Feel Technique

psychological tools to stop overeating: stop, drop, & feel®️. even if you still eat after the SDF, you also put a marble in the bucket and you're still building emotional tolerance

The Stop, Drop, & Feel technique is a powerful tool to interrupt the automatic response of turning to food during emotional distress. The premise behind this tool is that whenever there is a desire to eat when you aren’t hungry, there is an emotion that you are resisting. By training in feeling that feeling, you can develop emotional tolerance.

Here are the steps you can take to practice the Stop, Drop, & Feel:

how to stop a binge in its tracks with the Stop, Drop, & Feel®️

When you feel the urge to eat without hunger, do the Stop, Drop, & Feel by following these steps:

  • Stop: Pause for a moment and bring awareness to your current state. Promise yourself that you can still eat exactly what appeals to you once the SDF is over. This element of permission is key to making the tool work, otherwise it just becomes another form of restriction.
  • Drop: Release any judgment or resistance to your emotions and surrender to how you’re currently feeling. Get curious and practice compassion with what comes up.
  • Feel: Allow yourself to fully experience and explore your emotions. Don’t analyze why you’re feeling that way you’re feeling. Just let yourself feel what you’re feeling without judgment or resistance.

The Stop, Drop, & Feel is the bread and butter of my approach to stopping compulsive eating called Psycho-Spiritual Wellness. It directly addresses the emotions behind emotional eating and provides you with an excellent tool for coping without turning to food.

Stop Dieting and Eat What Satisfies You

psychological tools to stop overeating: no more "diet food". opt for foods that nourish and satisfy you so that you don't seek additional food after eating

Emotional tolerance can also help us develop the courage to stop dieting. As previously discussed, dieting itself is a significant contributor to the psychological reasons for overeating. However, many people are afraid that giving up dieting will lead to weight gain. 

Along similar lines, some people are afraid to give up dieting because it feels like giving up control. Fortunately, when we develop emotional tolerance, we will be able to hold space for the groundlessness that naturally occurs when we take the leap and give up dieting for the sake of better mental and physical health.

If you need more guidance on the process of giving up dieting, I have plenty of resources that can help:

Challenge Restrictive Beliefs

psychological tools to stop overeating: challenge limiting beliefs. use pen and paper to separate your conscious thoughts from subconscious beliefs

To truly master the psychology of overeating, you need to address your emotions (which the Stop, Drop, & Feel will help with), the element of permission (which giving up dieting will help with), and your beliefs.

Many of us are holding subconscious beliefs that trigger self-sabotage around food. Because they are subconscious, we cannot discover them by thinking things through in our heads. We need to either speak it out loud or write it down.

This is where self-inquiry tools can help, like my bestselling workbook, Why We Do the Things We Do. Through provocative prompts, the workbook asks you to explore what you believe about a variety of topics such as thinness and worthiness, and how social dynamics affect our relationship with food.

Awareness is the first step towards change. Once you can identify any limiting beliefs that you’re holding, you can work on healing and releasing them.

Some say “feel it to heal it” and this workbook takes it a step further and helps you “see it to heal it.”

When I completed the workbook (like any good chef that tastes their own cooking) I still had some epiphanies because that is the power of separating your thoughts onto paper. You can discover thoughts that you didn’t even know you had!

Seek Support and Professional Guidance

psychological tools to stop overeating: talk to an expert. seek support from someone who will treat you with empathy and understanding

Reaching out for support can greatly aid your journey to address the psychological reasons for overeating. Connect with trusted friends, eating psychology coaches like me, or support groups who can provide encouragement and understanding. 

If you struggle with an eating disorder or suspect that you might, seek professional guidance from a healthcare professional that specializes in eating disorder treatment. They can provide the right kind of support and personalized strategies to help you navigate your relationship with food.

Engage in Self-Care and Stress Management

psychological tools to stop overeating: take care of yourself. even Netflix can be a form of self-care if it's what you need after a long day

Finally, taking care of your overall well-being is essential in addressing the psychological reasons for overeating. Engage in activities that bring you joy to prevent hedonic eating. Practice meditation or relaxation techniques if your job is contributing to excessive stress. Do whatever necessary to feel calm and grounded. It will help you find the mental space to practice these other tips.

Addressing the Psychology of Overeating

Addressing the psychological reasons for overeating is a journey that requires a comprehensive approach. Make sure that you’re addressing the root cause of overeating by practicing the Stop, Drop, & Feel. Give yourself permission to eat what appeals to you and give up dieting to prevent the restrict-binge cycle.

Finally, use tools like my workbook, Why We Do the Things We Do, to discover what you truly believe about food, body image, and social dynamics around eating. By implementing these steps and adopting a holistic approach, you can create positive changes in your eating patterns and slowly overcome the tendency to eat past fullness.

Keep It Going: Get "The Spiritual Seeker's Guide to Stop Binge Eating" (Free Ebook)

The Spiritual Seeker's Guide to Stop Binge Eating

The Spiritual Seeker’s Guide to Stop Binge Eating will show you even more insight into the subconscious reasons why we eat past fullness — even when we really don’t want to! (It’s a free, 13-page, beautifully-illustrated PDF.)

When you sign up, you’ll also get a free 5-part crash course in Psycho-Spiritual Wellness to catch you up to speed. It’s perfect if you’re new to my blog. Sign up below:

You're On a Roll: Take the Eating Psychology QUIZ!

Even if you struggle with overeating, I bet I can guess your strength around food.

If you think food is your weakness, take the quiz and give me the chance to change your mind. There are just 8 questions.

Once you finish, you can either skip the email part (because I hate quizzes that force you to enter one!) or you can sign up to get a free 5-day crash course on Psycho-Spiritual Wellness. It’s perfect for beginners!

You're Really on a Roll: Get a Handle on Self-Sabotage

Bestseller: Why We Do the Things We Do

If you’re ready to take things even deeper, check out my most popular workbook, Why We Do the Things We Do: A Workbook to Curb Self-Sabotage.

By actually putting pen to paper, you’ll be surprised by what comes up. This is how you can discover your unique psychological blocks to compulsive eating.

I swear by workbooks!!! There is something about separating our thoughts onto paper that allows us to dig DEEP at our subconscious blocks around food and weight.

If you like everything you’ve read so far, this is the perfect place to make massive progress. (It’s my bestseller, after all!)

Since you're here, I would LOVE it if you dropped a comment on this post.

I read and reply to every single one! Just like I do with my emails. Since I don’t use much social media (outside of Pinterest and YouTube), I very much enjoy this opportunity to hear your thoughts and connect ✨

20 thoughts on "10 Psychological Reasons for Overeating: How to Master the Psychology of Eating"

  1. Marysays:

    I am finding this post today, and it is making a lot of sense to me. I’ve never heard of you before, but I like how you write and explain things. It’s a Sunday morning, and I am reading anything I can find on the emotional reasons for overeating. Yesterday was extremely tough for me, with uncomfortable emotions swirling around – lots of self-doubt, self-recrimination, lack of self-love. Lots of tears of anguish. Today I know I have work to do, and I found your pages and I am understanding what I am reading. I will go on to read all of your posts. You are doing a good thing. Keep going. There are those of us who need it. It is helping. Thank you.

    1. Kari Dahlgrensays:

      Oh my goodness Mary thank you so much for your comment! It means so much know that this helped you. These are the lessons that took me a long time to figure out, and I’m SO happy to hear that they’re what you needed to.

      I completely get your struggle, both with overeating and lack of self-love. It’s intimately connected with the reason why we compulsively and emotionally eat. Thank you for sharing part of your story with me. We are in this together!

  2. Dianesays:

    Thank you so much for this encouragement. It can be very difficult to stop dieting. I always seem to need some form of guideline to eat by. I can never keep it up for long though, then I binge. I’ve sort of resigned myself to that fact as I’ve been doing this for over 40 years.
    I know de o down that dieting isn’t the answer but I can’t seem to help myself sometimes.
    These suggestions you’ve given seem good, reasonable and sensible. I will give it a try and let you know how it goes. Diane

    1. Kari Dahlgrensays:

      I completely understand you Diane. Thanks for the comment 🙂 I will be very interested to know how it goes for you! Please do keep me posted.

  3. Georgiasays:

    Hi Kari!
    I’ve recently started this whole psycho spiritual, intuitive eating thing for about a week. I’m having trouble determining whether my cravings for eating are my body actually telling myself to eat, or if they’re the urge to eat to emotionally numb myself or if its hedonic eating. How do you read your hunger cues?

    I’ve also read Geneen Roth’s book ‘When you eat at the refrigeraor pull up a chair’, and she talks about ‘fat and ugly attacks’. I’m wondering how you deal with this?


    1. Kari Dahlgrensays:

      The confusion around hunger is totally normal. I would actually encourage you to start focusing on emotion whenever you’re confused by your hunger. In time, you’ll get back in touch with the physical sensations of hunger, and focusing on emotion (right now) will help you untangle emotional hunger from hunger-hunger. (Also, hedonic eating is the same as emotional eating, except the main emotion is boredom or void.) As far as the ‘fat and ugly attacks’ I’m not exaaactly sure because I haven’t read that particular book : ) but the insecurities around body image tend to unwind as we unravel the food rules and find peace with ourselves. I hope this helps!!!

  4. Audreysays:

    This is very insightful and makes sense. I am going to practice it. Thankyou.

    1. Kari Dahlgrensays:

      Thanks Audrey! ????

  5. Joy Walkersays:

    I read your article in October 2019 and practiced it for the last 2 months. I was in tune with my desire to eat. It was definitely the effort to soften emotional pain. Since then I’ve gained an additional 10 lbs. it hurts to see the real you. I’m practicing self-love and willing to be uncomfortable. I’m determined to resolve the deeper problem. I can’t find your info on stop dieting, please share the link. Thank you for helping us avoid being miserable from now on. I needed this.

    1. Kari Dahlgrensays:

      Joy this is amazing! I know the early stages are tough, but keep going.

  6. WendyL ????says:

    I just started to follow your blog. Moment ago, I had peanuts quite an amount (I love nuts it makes me crazy) . Think back, due to my still undergoing IBS symptoms, I stop eating peanuts for more than 4 years… after almost finish I felt yuck… I always felt so and den my desire over the comfort food was gone. Lately my intakes was abit haywire due to anxiety… sigh

    1. Kari Dahlgrensays:

      It’s not an easy time for many of us, so this all seems quite understandable right?! I hope you can find compassion for yourself, and also, do the SDF. ????

  7. Heidisays:

    I’m new here as well and I’m trying to dig deeper into my why’s of my eating and weight gain. I’ve really never been at my ideal weight and have always LOVED sugar and truly feel addicted to it. I know it holds me back from feeling my best but yeah I feel addicted to it and have a hard time eating it in healthy ranges. I did the whole conversation with my fat exercise thing and am hoping to be inspired by it but I’m also nervous that my many years of habit will prevail. I want to have a healthy relationship with sugar but not sure that I can because I definitely enjoy the pleasure of eating it. I’m not sure that my convo with my fat went as it should have but I just kinda let the pen roll across the paper. Anyway. I intend on checking out more of your work. I have paid for the Eat Right now app which sounds like it may have similar roots but I didn’t stick with it. I want out of the cycle but my addiction makes me feel like I don’t. Help! Haha

    1. Kari Dahlgrensays:

      Hi Heidi, I wish I could coach you so that I could learn more about how the dialogue with Fat went. Do you have my book or workbook? The workbook is probably the most powerful option for you, because it helps us understand why we do all the things that we’re frustrated about doing. I personally don’t think sugar addiction is the real problem — it always comes back to a feeling or a belief. Once we get the psychology taken care of, the “sugar addiction” becomes very easy to overcome.

  8. Heidisays:

    I am just finding you today. I have never been willing to tackle my overeating as an adult because I eat for love, I think. I was the correct weight as a child as I was a swimmer. But, I was never loved as a child, never nurtured, never touched. It continues today despite my best efforts searching for a male partner for decades. I have a true sugar addition and now having medical issues, but it change my behaviors.

    1. Kari Dahlgrensays:

      Oh Heidi! I wish I could reach through the screen and give you a big hug right now!!! You are a true warrior for going through what you have gone through, and I admire your strength. And I hope you can see how strong you are too <3

  9. Nancy Johnsonsays:

    I have purchased the workbook, etc. but it does not let me type into the blocks provided. Do I have to print it out and then write by hand in response to the questions?

    1. Kari Dahlgrensays:

      Hi Nancy! I emailed you directly with some extra help here. Thanks for supporting my work 🙂

  10. Cheyennesays:

    Hello 🙂

    This article was really helpful. I never really did any kind of diet, because I didn’t want to struggle with food the way I struggle with other problems life has to offer. But I am now at a place in my life where I want to adres all my emotional problems and to do so I have to start with the way I cope with these emotions, which is eating. So this article is exactly what I needed!

    Everytime I try to become the person I know I am I get stuck, because I can’t seem to get rid of this cycle I created to keep myself safe. But now it’s time so realize I’m safe and stop resisting the emotions and feel and understand them.

    Thanks to this article I have got a place to start.


    1. Kari Dahlgrensays:

      I am so glad you found this article helpful Cheyenne. I was considering condensing it because it is one of the longest posts that I have, but it sounds like it’s helpful as it is 🙂 so thanks for your feedback, and I wish you the best of luck on this brand new journey! Keep me posted. Feeling the feels is one of the hardest decisions I ever made (and repeatedly have to make) but also the most rewarding.

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