What should I do if I've overeaten?

Heidi Skolnik, MS
Sports Medicine
Forget about it!! One big mistake people often make when they overeat is “rebound restrictive” eating. In doing this, they get off the path of regular and consistent patterns that they are trying to establish as a healthy and sustainable way to eat. One overeating “episode” is not going to cause weight gain. However, recurring overeating will cause weight gain SO, it may be helpful to look at your journal and/or reflect at why you overate to begin with to use that information to prevent another occurrence. Did you over eat at a holiday time, at a party, when out with friends? At home alone, on the way to or from a stressful work meeting, because you “dieted” all day and ate all evening? By beginning to understand the environmental, emotional or physiological forces that pervade you can begin to rewrite your response to either avoid or change the cues that lead you to overeating.
Dominique Adair
The best thing to do is MOVE ON. We all have days when we eat more than our bodies need, that is the rule, not the exception. In two decades of practice as a nutrition counselor, I have never met someone who did not lose weight because of ONE episode of overeating. The trouble starts when one episode stretches into an entire day, week, month -- you get the picture. You do NOT need to go on a very restrictive program to compensate for over eating. But you should try to think about the circumstances that led up to the overeating -- Too much tempting food around? A stressful personal or work situation? Being too restrictive with your weight loss program so that it is very hard to maintain? So that you can try to understand the behavior and practice correcting the response the next time around.
Make it up in the next day or two by eating less until your AVERAGE daily calories are back in line with your goal, IF, you want to stay on goal. Otherwise, you will have to extend your goal date. Keep in mind that it’s not what you do one day but it’s what you average over any period of time that will determine your weight/fat change.

For example, if you need to eat an average of 2,000 calories/day to lose 1LB/wk, you can eat 3,000 one day and 1,500 for the next 2 days so your average calorie intake during that time period is still 2,000/day. This will keep you on track towards your goal.

Since there are 3,500 calories in 1 pound of fat, if you extend out the above example for 4-weeks in order to lose ~4LBS, you need to burn 14,000 calories more than you eat for the MONTH. (4 lbs X 3,500 calories per pound =14,000 calories) Again, it doesn’t matter how you accomplish this but you certainly want to make it easier by spreading it out as evenly as possible during the month.

In summary, when it comes to strictly weight management, it’s not WHEN or WHAT you eat and do, but HOW MUCH you eat and move over any GIVEN TIMEFRAME. Your weekly mass changes (overall trend), measured by weight and/or body fat, validates whether or not you accomplished your deficit goal.

Final Note: one single fact determines the rate of weight/fat loss: the average daily calorie deficit. This is defined as the difference between how many calories you burn and how many calories you consume over a given period of time. Weight loss should proceed at a pace that does not compromise health or performance.
Kat Barefield, MS, RD
Nutrition & Dietetics
Make up for it. Over-eating is simply giving your body more fuel than it needs. Therefore, you can burn the extra fuel by moving more the next day or two and by eating fewer calories. However, if you find yourself eating large quantities of food because of stress, loneliness, boredom or other emotional reasons, you may have a binge eating disorder. In that case, you should contact a licensed professional to find healthier ways to deal with your emotions.
Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine
If you've made a mistake and gorged on a tub's worth of food, make your body work in your favor. Stay awake for a few hours and take a 30-minute walk to help your body with the breakdown of nutrients and so that it uses the food for energy, rather than storing it as fat. Once the calories are in your stomach, don't try to vomit it out, which can damage your stomach, burn you esophagus, and even discolor your teeth if you do it enough.

Don’t berate yourself or scold yourself or convince yourself that you might as well drive off a cliff. You can correct and overcome your mistakes. And don’t think you should abandon your diet just because you overate. Instead, carry out this contingency plan to help you cope with occasional mishaps and potential catastrophes:
  1. Remind yourself that it’s okay to stray occasionally, that you can take control of the situation and steer yourself back, and that the positive reinforcement and confidence that come with overcoming challenges will give you the mental strength of a tank.
  2. Do a yoga pose or stretch. It will help you refocus, give you a few moments to take deep breaths, and remind you of your goals, but it will also make it harder to eat any more.
  3. Keep in your fridge a container of baby carrots, celery, or any crisp vegetable of your choice, or a favorite apple type. Carrots and apples are perfect antistress foods because they satisfy cravings and give you something to crunch into at times you want to sink your teeth into your boss’s neck. 
YOU: On A Diet Revised Edition: The Owner's Manual for Waist Management

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YOU: On A Diet Revised Edition: The Owner's Manual for Waist Management

For the first time in our history, scientists are uncovering astounding medical evidence about dieting -- and why so many of us struggle with our weight and the size of our waists. Now researchers...

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.