5 Things to Do Immediately After Overeating to Feel Better

Desperate to feel better and get back on track? Here’s what to do after overeating.

All those cookies! Barely a crumb is left. Her belly aches as she shamefully changes into her stretchy pants. Her fingers still feel greasy from all that butter and chocolate. But what makes her feel worse than anything else? Guilt.

I remember when I thought a fast-food lunch topped off with a double scoop of Baskin and Robbins was a personal weakness. And I hate to admit it, but I even remember when those horrible feelings of shame led me to chips or cookies after the last spoonful of ice cream.

From both personal and professional experience, I know that what happens after the episode of overeating is more important than what and how much you actually ate.

cookie tin with cookie crumbs

© Can Stock Photo / Coprid

Here’s what to do after overeating

You’ll feel so much better! And you’ll get right back on the healthy eating wagon.

  1. Identify the facts. Even though your head tells you you’re “incapable of sticking to a healthy eating plan,” or “you’ll always have high blood sugar,” or you’re “too weak to eat a cookie without scarfing down an entire pan,” recognize that your head is speaking to you with emotions, not facts. And thoughts are not facts.

What are the facts?

    • You ate more than you planned and more than is good for you.
    • One over-indulgence – even an all-out eating frenzy – will not undo all of your previous efforts.
    • What you ate is unlikely to matter a dot in 3 months or 3 weeks or even in 3 days – as long as you allow yourself to reset now.

Here are other negative thoughts to stop saying.

  1. Drop the shame. For some bizarre reason, a lot of people think shame or guilt will move them to action. But we rarely shame ourselves into changing for the better. In fact, I’ve observed the opposite more often than not. If you tell yourself you can’t stick to healthy eating, you’ll believe that you can’t. And you won’t. Shame is such a powerful negative emotion, it might push you to gobble up chips or cookies once you’ve polished off the ice cream. Don’t allow this over-indulgence to catapult you into a cycle of binges. That’s not what to do after overeating.
    • You will not shame yourself into changing.
Face first into cake

Yes, I really did take a bit out of my cake this way. Then I trimmed around it and shared the cake with my family. I sliced the rest for the freezer.

  1. Practice kindness. Talk to yourself like you’d talk to a friend, sister, spouse or even to a stranger feeling emotional pain. When you pretend it’s someone else who just overate, you give yourself the mental space for rational instead of emotional thought. What would say? Probably something like this: “Ouch, I know you hate it when you stray from your goals. We all do it, and we feel awful. Getting back on track is the best path forward.” But not this: “OMG, what’s wrong with you? Why can’t you ever do what you know you is right?”
    • Remember: You will not shame yourself into changing. For that matter, you won’t shame anyone else into changing either.
  1.  Reset asap. Not tomorrow and certainly not Monday. Right now. Do not try to compensate with extra exercise, restrictive eating plans or weird greenish brown juice.
    • Plan your next healthy meal.
    • Take a brief walk or meditate to set your mind straight.
    • Recite your mantra such as “I learn from my mistakes” or “I cannot change yesterday, but I can change today.”

Craving something sweet or salty? Here’s how to handle cravings.

  1. Learn from it. Ask yourself why you ate more than you wanted to and how you can prevent it next time. So often I see people set themselves up for failure instead of setting themselves up for success. One client described the day she teased herself with candy just to see how far she could push herself. She found out, and it wasn’t as far as she’d hoped. Others leave cookies on the counter instead of the pantry – or even better, the freezer. Your why might be pretty complicated. Maybe you were in a bad mood, felt deprived of your favorite foods, and saw the HOT NOW sign outside your favorite donut shop on your drive home from a meeting that ran late. This list could go on, but the key is to ask yourself what can you do to prevent feeling out of control or full of remorse next time (like not drive by the donut shop and not restrict your diet so much that you feel deprived).

Now that you’ve spoken to yourself with kindness, reset and learned from your mistake, use your next meal to show yourself that you’re back on the healthy eating wagon.

man eats a donut in the car

© Can Stock Photo / tommaso79

Next time there’s barely a cookie crumb left, it will be because you treated yourself to one or two – not because you cheated.

Not eating perfectly isn’t a personal weakness. And what is perfect anyway?

Cheers to becoming your better self! And knowing what to do after overeating.

If you have trouble staying consistent with your healthy eating goals, subscribe to my emails for tips and strategies to live healthfully – because willpower is way overrated.

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Jill Weisenberger

I'm Jill, and I believe simple changes in your mindset and health habits can bring life-changing rewards. And I don't believe in willpower. It's waaaay overrated. As a food-loving registered dietitian nutritionist, certified diabetes care and education specialist and certified health and wellness coach, I've helped thousands of people solve their food and nutrition problems. If you're looking for a better way to master this whole healthy eating/healthy living thing or if you're trying to prevent or manage diabetes or heart problems, you'll find plenty of resources right here.

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4 Comments

  1. Charlotte Turner on July 27, 2020 at 7:16 pm

    Hi Jill! We are both pre-diabetic, both 72, and need to improve our A1C test numbers so we don’t have to go on diabetes meds. So, we are going to try to eat healthier, exercise more, and improve our sleep habits–all need improvement! Anxious to read your books and learn!

  2. Cynthia Quaile on November 6, 2020 at 9:23 am

    Thank you so much for your help. I have been a diabetic for ten years but I know that I need to eat healthier, I have been learning more about this, I do a good job at the grocery store but at the convenience store is where I am bad. Ice cream,cookies,eclairs and candy. Is there any way I can break this bad habit?oh I forgot Doritos.and if my throat is sore from post nasal drip , potato chips- the salt in them makes the throat feel better. I crave cookies and cake. I cheat the first part of the month. Then the rest of the month I try to be good and get back on the wagon. I don’t feel this is really good for me but I don’t feel deprived of everything this way. Is there something that I could do instead?

    • Jill Weisenberger on November 6, 2020 at 5:11 pm

      So many people struggle with healthy eating for hours, days or weeks and then succumb to diet fatigue or stress or something else. You’re definitely not alone. I’m glad to see that you’re thinking about ways to get over cycling through periods of healthy eating and not-so-healthy eating. It doesn’t sound like you need more nutrition info. Instead it seems like you need more strategies, improved skills and perhaps a shift in thinking. Here are a few articles that I think can get you started on a better path: Conquer your critical inner voice to stick with your diet, better than willpower, gateways goals, how to manage cravings Keep us posted on your progress!

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Hi there! I'm Jill, a nutrition & diabetes expert and the author of 4 books.

Jill Weisenberger

I believe simple changes in health habits can bring you life-changing rewards.

And I believe willpower is way overrated.

Right here is where you can discover the mindset and habits to stick with healthy lifestyle choices most of the time - and drop the guilt when you don't.

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