Day 17: Stop Overeating Part 2 | 30-Day Weight Loss-athon


Welcome to Day 17 of the 30-Day Weight Loss-athon.

All tasks in the 30-Day Weight Loss-athon are adapted from the 52 Weight Loss Missions program.

Read the steps first, then take 10 minutes to think about them and take action. Ready?

What You Need:

  • Your thinking cap.

Step 1

Yesterday we took action to help reduce portion sizes and avoid mindless eating.

Sometimes though, overeating stems not from prodigious portions, but from other, more insidious mind tricks that cause you to eat when you’re not really hungry.

These tricks of the mind include:

  • Habit – you always eat that much
  • Timing – the clock says it’s time for lunch/dinner/a cocktail
  • Politeness – someone offered it to you
  • Cost-effectiveness – you’d better eat it all to get your money’s worth
  • Waste avoidance – the starving children will be annoyed if you don’t finish it
  • Preventative eating – you don’t want to be hungry later
  • Advertising – you saw an ad and now you have to eat it
  • Because it’s there – the kids left it so you might as well eat it
  • A desire for a reward – you’ve worked so hard and you deserve a treat
  • A desire for comfort – you’ve had a crappy day and eating will ease the pain
  • Childhood hangovers – clean your plate or else!

We all surrender to some of these tricks some of the time. I tend to eat to a timetable because that helps my productivity, and I’m a slave to comfort eating if something has upset me.

But if any of these are causing you to consistently eat food you don’t want or need, then it’s smart to stop this form of automatic eating and save your calories for the good stuff.

So as our first step, consider which of these automatic eating patterns are a concern for you.

Step 2

Next, let’s think of ways you can turn off the automatic response.

Here are some suggestions:

Eating out of habit

Eating because the clock says it’s time

  • If you’re not hungry at mealtimes, it may be that you’ve eaten too much at the previous meal. Experiment with eating a little less at each meal, but eating more regularly.
  • You may need to play around with your schedule to find a routine that works well.

Polite eating – to make someone happy or to avoid offending someone

  • Be honest so that your sincerity comes across.
  • Say something like:
    • Thanks so much, but I’m still full from breakfast/lunch/dinner
    • I’m not hungry now but it looks so good – could I take some home?
    • I couldn’t fit any more in – I filled up on your [something else yummy your host prepared]
    • It looks/smells amazing, but I’m focused on losing weight/getting healthy/losing the baby bulge so I’ll have to say no thanks.
  • If you’re pressed, say no thank you with a smile and change the subject.

Cost-effective eating – getting your money’s worth

  • If you’ve had enough and your plate is still half-full, that’s fine. You’ve got your money’s worth from the company, ambiance, being out and having fun. That’s what you paid for and it’s money well spent.

Eating so it doesn’t go to waste

  • If you’ve had enough it’s already wasted – the choice is whether you store the waste in the bin or on your body.

Preventative eating – to forestall later hunger

  • Keep a goal-friendly snack (one that’s consistent with the actions you chose for Day 4: Tweak Your Diet) in your bag, in case you get hungry later.
  • Eat regularly and don’t go too many hours without food.

Eating because you were enticed by an ad

  • Become aware that you’re being manipulated, and decide to choose for yourself.
  • Remember Pavlov’s dogs? We can become aware that the bell is making us salivate, and choose not to eat the food.

Eating to reward ourselves

  • Look for other ways to reward yourself – taking a bubble bath, reading a novel for 30 minutes, playing a game on your phone or computer, going for a walk, listening/dancing to music, calling a friend to chat, meditating, etc.

Eating because you feel you must clean the plate

  • You’re a grown up now. It’s okay to leave food on your plate.
  • Make a habit of leaving some food on your plate to break this automatic eating pattern.

Bonus Step For 52 Weight Loss Missions Members

Emotional eating – eating because we’re upset, bored, feeling down, feeling happy, etc.

Step 3

Decide which of these strategies will you use – and use them!

Check in!

And you’re done!

Be sure to leave your comment below to check in and stay accountable. If you’re reading this by email or in a reader then please click here to leave your comment.

See you tomorrow!

by Michele Connolly

Michele Connolly helps people move from procrastination to action. She believes that taking action on your priorities makes you a happier person. Michele is the founder of Get Organized Wizard and creator of tools for business, home, and personal organization. Her programs are used by tens of thousands of people worldwide.

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  • Karen Bain

    Great post, Michelle. I tend to overeat when we go out with friends. Makes me feel not so good the next day. Just say no thank you? Doable, but not easy for me.

  • Elizabeth Berzas Kratzer

    This may be harsh, but to politeness I say: No thanks, I am trying to avoid diabetes which caused us bury my dad last month. Ok, I am not saying it aloud, but reminding myself that it is the consistent noes that keep me healthy.

  • Tracey Dionne Gubbins

    I have been working on theses strategies already. It helps to see this in writing because then it makes you think before you eat. Also I have been knitting when I watch tv which keeps my hands busy so I tend not to mindlessly snack.

  • Andrea Kelly Donaruma

    I have started to make snack size zip locks of good snacks. These are 100 calorie packs. I put the snack into them when the shooping is done. This way I have them when I am hungry or going out for the day. No excusses that I don’t have time to get a healthy snack!

  • Shirley McClure Huckleberry

    Hi, my name is Shirley and I am a comfort eater. When things aren’t going my way I want to wallow in a bit of chocolate, maybe a few cookies, a trip to In & Out and definitely a HUGE Diet Pepsi. I confess to still giving in to the call of a Diet Pepsi now and then but the whole ‘keeping track of my food’ thing (I add my food BEFORE I eat) has made me rethink my food choices. When I used to hear the phrase ‘nothing tastes as good as being thin feels’ I thought they just haven’t been eating the right foods, I get it now. Not that I’m thin but I am ‘lighter’ and ‘lighter’ feels better.

  • Briana Smith

    Yes, many of these are huge factors for me. Will try to remember it can be stored in the trash or on my body, and to implement rewards other than food.

  • Linda Clemmons Gooden

    Oh my! I see so many here that I need to address! Probably the top three I deal with are it’s time, cost effective/doesn’t go to waste, and rewarding myself. I’ve caught myself “rewarding” myself. Oh, “I deserve it” for whatever reason. No more!

  • Patty Kinsella

    I really had a problem with the rewarding yourself with food, now I try to reward myself with a new motivational book to read….it has been a win win for me as I don’t get the calories & I do get to grow from the book!

  • Chris Majoroff

    hmm, I think you are on to something with that deserving a treat at the end of a day, like a wine or a bit of cake with a cuppa. we all do it and its easily justified. I have picked meditate or 10 minutes on the treadmill extra to curb this urge.

  • Cheryl Simpson

    Choosing a healthy snack is helping me–and my daughter. She ate some of “mommy’s apple” today.

  • Angela Johnson Ferrara

    I am definitely becoming more aware of how and when I eat because of this challenge. I like the idea of having different rewards instead of food, and I love the reminder that it either ends up in the garbage or on my hips!

  • Tammy Paul

    I can relate to all of these, especially rewarding and boredom. I have become a lot more conscious of when I eat and what I eat since starting this challenge.

  • Alyssa Lang

    I’m going to have to work on serving myself less. My boyfriend can eat a LOT at one sitting and I always feel like I need to grab as much as he does, and then I of course feel like I need to clean the plate. The ideas of using a smaller plate and utensils from yesterday will help this for sure!

  • Sandra Doevelaar Dixon

    Make a habit of leaving some food on your plate to break this automatic eating pattern. I hate wasting food but by having to decide what I am going to leave on my plate, I am seriously considering the food that is being consumed.

  • Tara Wise Lancaster

    This is probably my worst habit! Eating because of boredom or just because it’s there. I’m trying hard, to question myself every time I open the fridge or pantry to see if I’m just bored or really hungry. It will take time to break this habit, but I’m working on it now that I’m aware I do it so often.

  • Jennifer Reilly

    I’m using portion control to stop mindless eating… when I open up a package I immediately portion it out and store it that way so I don’t grab the whole bag and snack without realizing it. When I go out to eat, I immediately divide my food in half so I control how much I eat – the rest is saved for lunch the next day. I’m trying to find recipes for low calorie/healthier snacks that will satisfy my sweet tooth when I feel the need for a reward.

  • Karen H. Phillips

    I try these days to put less on my plate to start with, and when out, I try to limit my eating to healthy foods in smaller amounts, bringing home the excess. The list of justifications remindede I need to eat consciously, aware at all times of what, how much, & how often I’m eating.

  • Suzie Waltner

    My tendency is to eat when I’m bored so instead of going to find what junk someone has on their desk or left in the kitchen, I’m going to opt to walk around the parking lot or to climb the six flights of stairs in the office. And, I always keep a 32 oz. cup of water on my desk to make sure it isn’t thirst that is causing me to eat.

  • Seana Rochelle Kono

    I’ve gotten better about this, but my biggest drawbacks are wasting food and the childhood hangover. This will be a challenge, but we will get this done.

  • Liz Aurilio Fenton

    I have a hard time walking past the food in the break room at work. I just need to remind myself that it might look good on the table but it WON’T look good on my butt. :)

  • Janice Byrd Godfrey

    “Habit” and “Because its there”………………really need to work on these two!
    Dear Lord, help us ALL!

  • Shirley Rains McIntosh

    I am a boredom and a stress eater. So far, exercise has been a great substitution for both of those.

  • Marla Forgues-Kostis

    “If you’ve had enough it’s already wasted – the choice is whether you store the waste in the bin or on your body.” Love this!

  • Tabitha Janssen

    If it is around I will eat it, so I am attempting to keep only healthy snacks around the house :)

  • Tani Coath

    Oh comfort food, it’s time to go!

  • Sally Elizabeth Zwiebler

    knitting while watching tv- great idea.I must get back to it is relaxing to do and I knit squares for charity blankets.I will try the No, thanks I am still full from… but that it is very difficult for me to say no as I do enjoy eating…automatic response to just accept and eat.I need then prepare myself BEFORE the situation, like visiting friends, visualise myself saying no and then follow through…

  • Inma Magan

    Ohh God! I am caught in all of them, habit in the constant snacking, reward and comfort eating are my worst nightmares. I will start making a list of possible alternative things I can do instead and find healthier ways to reward or comfort myself. This is a hard one for me!

  • Stacey Laper

    Being a life long grazer, having children just feeds into that so easily. I’m forever finishing thing the kids did not. However, since I’ve started a diet that just simply doesn’t allow me eat many of the things they are, the only leftovers I can eat are veggies. I have also been feeding them first recently so by the time I’m eating, they are finishing and I get to start them into that lovely habit of scraping their own dishes. My next feat will be getting those dishes rinsed and in the dishwasher…TAAA DAAAA.

  • Michele Curlin

    I wish I had done my homework for today before 11:30, had I , I would not have been faced with overeating today. My husband came home with two trays of fruit and lunch meats, I will admit that I kept it to 2 pieces of cheese and two pieces of meat with a tsp of horseradish. Before this I would have ate until I was stuffed and feeling sick most likely. He also came home with some homemade heath bar and I tried to refuse but he says take it. So I did then now I am feeling really guilty but now as I write this and look back at what we have learned in the last 17 days, I need to change my thinking and I am actually feeling positive that I didn’t each until I was stuffed and I only ate 1 piece of the heath bar. In the future my plan will be to say let me save it for later because tonight I have already eaten and you know how much this means to me to lose weight. Thanks for the great tips, they are really helping. In the past I would feel depressed and go right back to snacks and finish them off! :)

  • Gail Helgeson

    OMG where was this when I was working! POLITENESS! People were always saying, ‘ I made this just for you’. I would say, ” oh, I think you meant for ___ (my husband).” it did not matter HOW many times I explained that I couldn’t, it was like I was hurting their feelings. (I was even taken aside and told that they were afraid that I was wasting away to nothing, at 175 lbs?!?) Soooo glad that I only have to deal with MY willpower and not other peoples’ needs now.

  • Terry Currie

    Hello to everyone: Congrats you’re on the right track to a healthier you. Did you make it to your fist size for food portions? If not, you have the willpower to do it. Are you eating healthy snacks and fruit instead of junk food? If not, keep up the will power and you will make it. Learn to politely say no if someone offers you junk food and deserts. You can do it. You can be healthier and happier with yourself by exercising and proper nutritional foods. I’m proud of all of you. Please continue to post to be accountable. Good Luck!

  • Dana McGuire

    Wow. I’ve eaten for all of the above reasons, but emotional eating is my biggest problem. I am learning to try to define why I’m reaching for the (whatever food happens to fit the craving, usually ice cream). My head knows that eating will not soothe the emotion, but I have a hard time making myself stop. I am looking for other ways to deal with emotion, especially since I will have to write down all I’ve eaten and I’m embarrassed to see that I’ve eaten like that.

  • Carinthia Sellers Logan

    Eating so it doesn’t go to waste.
    ?If you’ve had enough it’s already wasted – the choice is whether you store the waste in the bin or on your body.
    I love this! I guess I never thought of it like this…I would much rather trash the garbage bin, than my body! I will work on this one! Thanks again, for all your wonderful tips…I have 49 days left, before my 30th wedding anniversary, and I need all the healty tips I can get! So I can look and feel better, by then! <3 : ).

  • Lia Coppedge Wentz

    Cost effectiveness/waste avoidance is a big one for me. Also cleaning my plate and eating what my kids left. I’m also a big emotional eater, so eating for comfort and reward are also problems. Wow, so much to be aware of! I think, at least for me, being aware of what I’m doing and why will be half the battle (the easier half, probably).

  • Denise Barrett

    My downfall is the comfort eating. I have recently bought the 52 lessons on my kindle just haven’t got around to reading it yet. Looks like I better go straight to Mission 43 and 44. I know this is where my weight keeps coming back on with the comfort eating. I just need to get on top and this and then I will be like Michelle and be able to stay thinner in a world of chocolate :)

  • Beth Hites

    Thoughts: 1) Yeah, that advertising “what a great deal” can be a trap I have to watch for. (“It’s cheaper to add the fries and get a combo” “No thanks” – I did that today @ ChickFilA) 2) I can still get caught in the I Deserve It thinking so I have to be careful.

  • Jane Kisler Mooney

    I definitely have bad eating habits that need changing. I’d like to think that I don’t overeat, I’m just “under tall”. However, given the fact I can’t change my height and have a slow metabolism my eating habits have to change.

  • Dale Sanchez

    After consideration, I think my biggest problem is emotional eating. It seems I want a bite of something that will make me feel better. Then I feel bad that I ate it. It is a vicious cycle once it starts.

  • Gwen Thring

    I sometimes tend to think better with something in my mouth, especially when handling paperwork on the computer. I’ve been making a point of nibbling things like pepitas instead of chocolate, also trying to remember to have a glass of water handy. It’s amazing how well a sip of water can satisfy, too.

  • Susan DeGeer

    I tend to eat (snack) when things aren’t going well. Today has been one of those days. I ate 2 small boxes of yogurt covered raisins but had to share with grandchildren. Oh, and a piece of peanut butter crunch cake.

  • Joanna Holkar-Guevara

    OMG….I was talking to my dad this afternoon and we had the exact conversation! It’s like deja vu. I am ‘vicitm’ of childhood hangovers…because Daddy dearest wanted to be cost-effective, avoid wasting and always warm me I’ll be hungry later…urgh! Now I overeat because I feel I deserve a treat :(

  • Irene Fitzpatrick

    Yes…comfort eating is one of my big downfalls….like to fill up with calories when I’m having a down day. I’ll have to spend more time thinking about strategies to combat this :)

  • Rebekah Hendy

    I’m an emotional eater and this usually happens when I’m going through a very stressful or an upsetting time and if the situation becomes really bad I can become basically oblivious to what I’m eating.

  • Nancy Meffen

    In the garbage bin or on my body is a picture I drew on my fridge that really seems to work. I’m also using a smaller plate with smaller portions, then if I’m still hungry I can get more out of the fridge. 2 glasses of water before each meal,

  • Ann Stubley

    great advice, just need to put strategies into place, this is the first day I haven been for a walk, as it is pouring outside, my son thinks I am weird as I have walked and walked around the house today.

  • Jeannie Helliwell

    Glass of wine time on the weekends when I am preparing dinner, I love. But have had to forgo the cakes with cups of tea instead.

  • Carly Kouba

    I am going to work on rewarding myself in other ways besides eating. But, man, will that be hard!

  • Robin Hodgkins

    going to print out list and refer to it when I “think” I am hungry.

  • Chris Taylor

    Thanks for the tips I usually eat when I’m bored.

  • Mindy Moomaw

    My thing is mindless eating. Gotta get that in check!

  • Michelle Alker

    I am usually thinking about desert before dinner is served.

  • Jessica K Pattenaude

    I really like these!

  • Vinetta Willis

    Lots of food for thought.

  • RD N Melissa Duckwall

    Reward, because it’s there, habit

  • Brenda Brubacher-Grieb


  • Laura Wells McGuire

    I’m bad about eating too much when we go out, because I don’t want to “waste” the money.

  • Cheri Doughty Andrews

    From this list, my biggest downfall is emotional eating – in response to both good and bad. For those of us who aren’t 52 Missions Members, any tips for working around emotional eating? Other than the obvious trying to be aware of it and looking for other ways to comfort?

  • Andrea Souders Purdon

    My food habits are very bad. And after getting weighed today at my doctor appt, I’m not happy with my weight. And I need to really get serious about my eating habits. I can’t keep going like this. :-( I’m struggling.

  • Hanan Zein Eddin

    Emm.. I didn’t find a solution to “Because it’s there”.. I really need it..
    Ps. I found a waking partner! Thanks Samar Al Rayyes :)

  • Jeanie Jones

    Have had some setbacks but not giving up. The concept that eating food I don’t need is a way of wasting it is hitting home with me.

  • Kim Philipsen

    they lees we eat the better we feel. live on Prana as must as possible, and feel alive.

  • Sandra Krazulo

    Not so good habits: to much food, timing, it´s there, preventative, reward, comfort. Strategies: cook less – no leftovers to eat, instead of comfort eating – comfort exercising (it worked yesterday – I felt much better). Face the facts – Foodjournal – reality check! Sometimes inn the evenings I eat because I´m tired, instead of simply going to bed – I really need to change that!

  • Silvia Sampayo

    Last weekend I went to a restaurant and I couldn´t finish my dish. Altough the waiter told me I wasn´t a “good eater” I felt much better than ever in this kind of situation.

  • Nadia Bocchi

    Sometimes I eat to avoid the waste of food, I’ll have to learn to leave leftovers for the day after.

  • Miren Elene Aguirre Lesaca

    Desire to reward and desire to comfort. Two of my big barriers in my weight loss! But on the other hand… preventative eating has worked to me,