The Behaviour of Overindulgence – Healthy vs. Unhealthy

Since the Thanksgiving Holidays have recently passed, and pretty much after every holiday, I get a whole slew of emails from clients I had recently checked in with that normally starts with “oops I overindulged a bit too much at the holiday dinner”.

Yes, eating more will naturally encourage weight gain or prevent a weight loss, but what I always try to explain is that there is a difference in overindulging during happy social events, and overindulging in a room by yourself eating out of a box or a container endlessly. One is enjoyed, the other is numbing the emotional roller coaster that wants to come out. Guess which one a nutritionist is really concerned with and wants to dialogue about? I’m certainly not here to say “don’t eat cake at your birthday party” – my goodness, that is the best time to eat cake!

Overindulgence When You are Happy

Happy overindulging is bound to happen. You’re laughing, you’re talking, you’re in the pure enjoyment of the food prepared by someone you know or at a fancy restaurant. This is okay. Why? Because you’re happy, you’re savouring, you’re enjoying, and you’re consciously overindulging. This type of overindulging is actually less likely to impede health and weight goals because it’s situational, and doesn’t happen daily, and you’re less likely to eat an entire cake. If this starts happening daily then you live too luxurious of a social life so stop complaining of a little extra weight and be thankful you’re a happy over-indulger 😉

Overindulgence When Your Are Sad or Emotional EatingDepressed

Overindulging because you are sad and depressed and eating in secret/alone so you can binge on food is super challenging to experience and is worth a discussion because it doesn’t make you feel good and is a sign that you need more helpful mechanisms to address stressful emotions. These are the situations I want to discuss with clients, or help clients find further support.

The reason why I differentiate the two is because with the first situation, I often have a good giggle with my clients. So you had a normal dessert on a holiday – big deal. I’m glad you don’t live a super strict life and you make room for flexibility.

When the second situation occurs, I don’t giggle, nor make a joke. When someone is emotionally eating, they feel stuck, out of control, unsure of alternative options and often feel deep shame about it (even though every single person has experienced this and it is normal). The last thing I want is for them to feel abnormal and alone.

The point is, if you’re overindulging to push feelings down or you’re eating all alone and mindlessly chomping, even if weight isn’t a concern or your health, this behaviour isn’t productive and will wreak havoc on your emotional health if your feelings and emotions aren’t helped in a more helpful way. It’s okay to talk about it and begin necessary steps to find alternative mechanisms for dealing with stressful emotions.

If you’re slap happy and enjoying the heck out of weekly or monthly dinner parties – go on, have fun, enjoy the evening, be in the moment, savour everything, and be happy!

If you need to explore alternatives to emotional eating – I encourage you to think about alternative ways you could have an outlet for your stress/emotions. Working through emotional eating isn’t about “just not eating the food” in the first place. It’s about replacing that coping mechanisms (because it is one) with another one and addressing the deeper underlying need.

Don’t hesitate to broach this discussion with your nutritionist or reach out to a psychologist for supportive counseling. You’ve got this! 😃

About Sarah Maughan

Sarah Maughan is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist based in Toronto, ON and has been consulting since 2009. Her website aims to educate you, make you laugh, help you live and inspire you to eat whole food! To stay up to date sign up for free blog and recipe updates! In the meantime, empower your body with food!
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