Ate Too Much? Here's What To Do Next

So you ate too much. What can you do to repair the damage? Here are 5 steps to get back on track and feel better fast.

While I was out running some errands by the 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica, I passed a woman walking out of a restaurant. As I passed by she said out loud to herself and the man that was with her as she patted her stomach, “I ate too much. I am so full!”

I thought, this is such a common thing. It’s almost considered normal to eat too much when we go out to at a restaurant or even to a family gathering, for example. (Hello holidays!)

Today I am sharing my top 5 steps to get back on track and feel better fast after you’ve eaten too much.

What To Do After You've Eaten Too Much

1. Do Not Beat Yourself Up

So you ate too much. I know it feels terrible emotionally (I can’t believe I did that, I should know better) and physically (omg, I have to undo my pants) but let’s take a step back and look at the big picture.

When it comes to food, related to calorie consumption and energy expenditure, the reality is that sometimes we eat a little more and sometimes we eat less. Sometimes we move more and sometimes we move less.

I call it the squiggly line effect, which I first heard from my friend Kath on her blog

She shared a graphic that I think illustrates this really well.

The Squiggly Line Effect

Image Source: KathEats

This helps us to see that in the grand scheme of things, as long as things balance out, it’s not the end of the world if you have a meal here and there where you overeat.

The best thing you can do is to not beat yourself up over it. We tend to think that when we do something “bad” like overindulging on "junk food", we need to bully or shame ourselves so that we never do it again.

I think we learn this from childhood. We do something wrong and we’re told we are bad and have to go sit in the corner.

Punishing yourself is not going to help. In fact, it actually has a negative effect on your metabolism. To make a long story short (this is something I cover in my ROCK Your Dream Body courses in-depth) our emotions actually have a direct physiological effect on our body’s ability to function optimally.

Emotional stress puts physical stress on the body, causing it to hang out in “flight or fight” mode, which shuts off or slows down all functions that are not directly related to survival… ahem, metabolism and digestion!

What to do instead?

2. Learn From It (Act, Analyze, Adjust)

At this point, you can’t do much about what’s already happened but you can take notes and make adjustments for the next time you are in a similar situation.

One of my favorite phrases is Act, Analyze, Adjust.

When we look at it from a broader perspective, it’s easier to see that everything is forward progress, because every experience helps us to gain clarity on what it is that we DO and DO NOT want for our lives.

This situation of eating too much is simply a learning experience. It’s an opportunity to expand and become stronger.

Ask yourself questions like:

  • What triggered me to eat too much?
  • Was I in my head worrying about something beforehand?
  • Was I was eating to comfort myself or stuff my emotions?
  • Did I not plan well enough ahead of time so that I didn’t show up to the event really hungry?
  • Did I drink enough water throughout the day (sometimes dehydration feels like hunger)?
  • What can I do to set myself up for success, so that next time this doesn’t happen again?

Answering these questions can be a game-changer in breaking the chain of overeating and yo-yo dieting.

The trick is to aim for progress, not perfection.

You and I both know, it takes quite a bit of focus to change behavior. It's like a muscle, you have to work it consistently to build it up. And let’s be honest, you probably have been doing what you have been doing for a while, so it makes sense that it will take some time to change.

When I first started traveling more often, there were many times when I was unprepared, didn’t have access to healthy foods, and ended up overeating food that sounded good at the time, but ultimately left me feeling not so great.

I had to give myself permission to take action, analyze, and adjust too. Over time, I found my balance the same way that you will too.

Here are some Action/Adjustment examples to get you started:

You showed up to the party starving: Next time, make sure that you have some sort of meal with a decent amount of protein and healthy fat 1-2 hours before the event. That way, when you get to the event you don’t start picking at whatever food is in front of you because you are extremely hungry and will eat anything. My favorite pre-event meal is a superfood shake.

You know you didn’t drink enough water earlier in the day: Now you know how important it is to hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! Put pop-up reminders in your phone calendar every hour on the hour if you need to. Then at the event, make sure you start with a tall glass of water and also have a full glass of water in between each cocktail or course.

You had a stressful phone call and went straight to the refrigerator and binged on your favorite comfort foods: It’s time to get to the root of what is really going on here. There is a void inside that you are trying to fill with food. And it doesn’t work that way. Need help? Apply to work with me.

You overate chips and guacamole with the girls: Instead of chips, ask for cucumber slices to dip in the guacamole (or any veggie stick works). Or, you could portion out a certain amount of chips for yourself on a plate, eating them slowly, savoring each one and then when they are gone, you are done with the chips!

Here’s the thing to remember, the more steps we take outside of our comfort zone (aka zone of familiar) the more we are going to naturally “fail” sometimes. That is part of the process!

Failure is never really failure it’s just feedback.

It’s simply an opportunity to become stronger. As a society, we’ve just attached all kinds of judgments that can make us feel degraded or “not good enough” if we don’t hit the arbitrary mark of success every single time.

What is success really? You get to define that for yourself. I say success is progress — taking consistent conscious steps toward creating our ideal or dream life.

I don’t know about you, but my goal for my life is not to live in a bubble where I can control everything and be “perfect.” I know that if I did that, I wouldn’t be able to experience the fun, adventure, and freedom that comes with spontaneity and new experiences.

For me, being able to go out with girlfriends and have cocktails and chips and guacamole and not overdo it is so important! So practicing and paying attention so that I can learn what balance feels like to me, is a necessary part of that equation, right?

Sometimes you just have to give yourself permission to be in the “messy middle.” Where you feel like a HOT MESS, but really you’re just figuring things out.

3. Yes, Food Tastes Good (but it’s not about the food)

“But food is so good!” Yes it is. I love Mexican food, a fluffy pizza, a juicy filet and sea salt crusted baked potato, mac and cheese, and of course… chocolate and cheesecake. I am a total foodie at heart. And I GET how GOOD food tastes.

But that’s just it. It’s not about how good food tastes, it’s actually often about how we don’t allow ourselves to fully receive pleasure FROM our food.

Have you ever had a meal in front of you, turned on the TV, hopped on the phone, read email or even got together with friends at a restaurant and then proceeded to eat the entire meal without paying much attention at all to the food?

You just kind of go through the motions until the food is gone. And then you look down at your plate and say, “Wow, it’s gone! I don’t remember eating any of that. I should get some more.”

And then you proceed to do the same thing all over again.

We all do this at times. Most people are conditioned to live in fast-forward, multitasking, and thinking about the future (or past). We disconnect from our bodies and give maybe 50% attention to what we’re doing RIGHT NOW.

What if you gave 100% attention to your meal and the whole process of eating? The tastes, the textures, the aromas. Do you think you would need to eat as much? Even 70-80% attention would be a huge improvement for most people.

Think about the difference between American culture and other European cultures, for example, related to food. In Italy, it can take hours to finish a meal and there are many courses. It’s a ritual. Food is celebrated, part of traditions, and has so much meaning. Pleasure is a big part of the equation for Italians, from the moment the first ingredient is picked all the way through dessert — food is honored.

Pleasure is an important part of the process of eating. We are supposed to receive pleasure when we eat. (God made it that way, just like sex, so we would do it and keep human kind alive and kicking, ha!)

Give yourself permission to fully “tune in” to the process of eating your next meal. Turn off all distractions and eat alone (as an experiment). Takes notes about why it tastes so good. Notice when you start feeling full. What signals does your body give you? This wisdom is priceless and will continue to build over time as you pay more attention to it.

The last thing I want to leave you with on this point is this:

This is not the last time you will ever be able to eat this food.

It’s not going to disappear off of the planet. We are blessed to live in a time where we pretty much can gain access to whatever food we want, whenever we want it. So if you leave some on your plate, it’s okay. You don’t have to eat it all right now. You can always come back for more later or have it again another time in the future. Get out of the scarcity mindset.

4. Let Your Body Do Its Thing

Your body is an amazing machine. Let it do what it’s made to do.

One of the best things that you can do to shift yourself out of discomfort, both emotionally and physically, after eating too much is to move. Gentle movement, not hill sprints!

Walk, in nature if you can. Breathe deeply from your lower belly. Let it expand and fill your whole abdomen with air.

Did you know that you can reset your entire nervous system with 5 deep breathes? Getting oxygen into your cells helps to turn on the digestion process.

Most people’s bodies are capable of optimally processing (and not storing) a lot more food than they think. They just don’t support it well enough for it to work like the well-oiled machine that it truly can be.

Two other great forms of movement are stretching and yoga. There are gentle yoga flow practices on YouTube that you can follow. Particularly, cobra stretch is one of my favorites for stretching out my abdomen (and digestive track).

Tap into the power of your amazing body.

5. Do NOT Resort to a Quick Fix (you WILL rebel)

We have this funny relationship with the spectrum of structure vs freedom. If we have too much rigid structure, we crave freedom. Then we binge and fly off the wagon all the way to the other end of the spectrum to unabashed freedom.

Then we freak out because we have TOO MUCH freedom, feel like we’re failing, crave structure, and swinging all the way back to the other end of the spectrum again, thinking that rigid structure is what we must need in order to succeed.

And we just continue this cycle again and again. I promise this is not the answer.

If your goal is long-term health and dream body (and life) sustainability, then why go to massive extremes?

The minute you tell yourself you can’t have something, it just makes you want it more.

Maybe not the day after a binge, but eventually the more you deprive yourself of things, the more you set yourself up for rebellion.

Give yourself the gift of looking at it from that broader view. What is the lifestyle you want to create for yourself long-term? Who do you want to be 6 months or a year from now? Then plan backward accordingly.

One meal, two meals, a one week vacation, or two weeks or a month of holiday celebration, or whatever you’re feeling bad about, in the grand scheme of things, is not that big of a deal.

Yes, you may be uncomfortable, disappointed in, angry, or frustrated with yourself.

Yes, you may feel ashamed.

But please don’t let that trigger super restrictive, unsustainable, unrealistic extreme behaviors.

Baby steps add up to long-term sustainable change.

Nourish your way toward your goals, both with your thoughts and your actions. Aim to be a little better today than you were yesterday.

It may not be a quick fix, but that’s not really what you want anyway. You want a lifestyle that you know you’ll be able to stick to.

You want to break free from the yo-yo, self-sabotage behaviors so that you are free to be flexible and go with the flow, and THRIVE in ANY environment and no matter what is on your plate in front of you.

How amazing would it be to have your dream body AND to trust yourself to not sabotage your goals at the first sight of pizza and beer too?

That’s what you crave — that confidence and sureness in yourself. We want to know that no matter what, we can handle it. We want to feel strong, not weak.

You are not a prisoner to your food temptations. The steps I have laid out for you above are the way out. You can find balance and control. You can step into your power and thrive in any environment. If I can do it, and may hundreds of clients can do it, I know you can too.

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