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Break the cycle of impulsive over-eating this party season

30 November 2015

Of course it is challenging being in control of your behaviour all the time. Some things just seem to cast a devilish spell over our willpower.

Studies reveal the importance for overall wellbeing lies in behaviour control. Research shows that if you have difficulties controlling your behaviour in one area of your life you are most likely having difficulties in other areas. If you know that you have problems controlling your eating you can change it. This doesn’t only involve willpower. It also requires understanding and managing situations that trigger your impulses. For example, if you overeat when you have an argument with your partner or because you are stressed, the trigger is to learn how to manage your stress more effectively.

Changing behaviour is not easy, but you can develop a plan and change your behaviour in a mindful way.

Consider these steps:

Identify your triggers.

What are the situations when you are more likely to eat impulsively? Some triggers can be external (e.g. smell) and some internal (e.g. memory). Think back to the times you ate impulsively, not to satisfy hunger but to change the way you felt – what was your trigger?

If you are more likely to eat to shift your mood, what is the mood you are trying to shift? For many people it can be sadness, loneliness, anger or frustration. What is happening for you when you eat that cream puff?  Think about better ways to manage your mood. Your psychologist can help with learning adaptive strategies so you can decrease your reliance on sugar.

Learn to delay

Your urges will subside or they will not be of the same intensity for as long. Allow yourself just a bit of time and notice any changes after delaying for just a few minutes, and then another few – notice how your urge or craving is changing.

Learn mindfulness

Pay attention to your body when it feels full, notice any sensations of anxiety and stress and attend to those sensations. Go for a walk and talk to someone, do a body scan or progressive muscle relaxation. Allow yourself to learn something new instead of eating.

Pay attention to other areas of your life where you allow your impulsivity to take over, have you just accepted that it is a part of who you are, or do you want to change it? Remember that you can change this behaviour. You can be proud of what you achieve and make conscious choices throughout your day and your life. Don’t settle for a lifetime of discomfort and regret for your actions.

Learn how to manage your emotions

Controlling your impulsive eating behaviour will help you to gain a new sense of freedom. You are in control of so many things in your life – managing kids, a home, a career – so don’t use excuses for your impulsive eating behaviour. You can change it. Choose a better option for yourself.

This article has been published with permission and was originally published on

Dr Yuliya Richard, PsyD Clinical and Health Psychology, with Sydney based practice Blue Horizon Counselling.