Dealing with Overeating

Have you quit smoking and stayed free for a while, but all of a sudden find that you’re starting to eat everything in sight at certain times of the day (or even all day long)? Have you been doing everything you can to live as healthy a lifestyle as possible now that you’ve quit, but now you feel like your eating is getting out of control?

Does your overeating feel like self-sabotage? (If you’re not sure about how to answer this question, have you found yourself thinking that it might be better to go back to smoking if you’re going to be overeating like this as a non-smoker? If you answered “Yes” — or even “maybe” — just now, then your overeating probably should feel like self-sabotage…)

You’re Not Alone

First of all, understand that you’re not alone; lots of quitters go through a phase like this. Some of them allow this issue to derail their quit; others learn to deal with it and stay free.

Regardless of what the cause of your overeating might be, how do you deal with it? Since this is such a common question, I’m going to offer some suggestions from members of a quit support community I started back in 2002:

Some Suggestions from Other Quitters

  • Chew ice; it gives you something to do with your mouth, and there are no calories in ice. –tsjay49
  • Try to control it by eating smaller meals with snacks in between. For snacks try celery sticks, carrot sticks or fruit with a 1 or 2 ounces of cheese. The protein in the cheese helps keep you from getting hungry as quickly. –ms_tapestry
  • Maybe some 97% fat free popcorn could be munched at night. Orville Redenbacher makes a good tasting one. –SherryL
  • When I first quit I used to chew cinnamon sticks to smithereens. No calories and lots of fiber! –Marvel
  • Have you tried hard candy? That works well and you are limited in the number you can have, because they last so long. –dave1355
  • On my first 2 weeks I used blow pops. They last awhile and you get the gum at the end. I think the key is finding the snacks that will last awhile to get you through the roughest spots, then concentrate on the weight thing when you are a bit more comfy with your quit. –bwick18
  • I made a deal with myself this time. I would tolerate 10 pounds early in my quit, just to get past the horrible times. –Braveheart

Understanding It

If your overeating is feeling like self-sabotage, that’s exactly what it could be; the inner junkie knows us very well, so it can offer us “reasons” (excuses) to smoke again that appeal to our most intimate fears and desires. (Or, if you prefer a more scientific answer, as I’ve mentioned here before, it may be that you’re eating to satisfy an urge for nicotine, rather than to satisfy hunger.)

Dealing With It

Whichever way you think of the cause, I suggest that you keep a food journal: write down exactly what you’re eating, make note of when you’re eating it, and what your general mood is at the time you’re eating. Keeping a journal can be helpful if for no other reason than it brings the act of eating to your conscious awareness (if you’re really committed to journaling everything you eat, you won’t just eat at the drop of a hat; a lot of times you’ll probably look at your journal and think, “But I just finished dinner 90 minutes ago; I couldn’t possibly be this hungry already!”). Then whether you eat or not becomes a conscious decision rather than an automatic reaction.

And, just like with smoking, if you’re aware of what you’re doing, you can make the deliberate, conscious choice to eat or not.

Just Try It

Try it, and let me know how it’s working for you.

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