Can’t stop eating no matter how hard you try

Eating is necessary. You’re supposed to eat. It’s against nature to stop eating. No wonder you can’t stop eating.

You want to eat less and that’s pretty hard too. Does trying to eat less always make you end up eating even even more? You’re not alone and there are good reasons why that happens.


Emotional, genetic, hormone imbalance, and diet rebounding are a few reasons why it’s hard to eat less.

There is a physical need for food. It’s fuel and it’s needed to repair and build tissues and stay healthy. You might eat beyond the nutritional needs of your body. Hunger is a sign your body needs food but can you trust your hunger signals? Are you really in need of food or does it just feel that way?


Food is fuel. You body recognizes when it’s running low. Your blood sugar drops and your mind and your stomach say “It’s time for food.” You respond to the call to action by eating.  Eating raises your blood sugar level, hormones detect satisfaction, the need for food is shut off, and brain and stomach say, “enough!”

Homeostatic hunger is considered real hunger because you’re responding to a physical or “real” need for food. It’s been several hours since you ate last and your hunger is coming from your body’s need to be refueled. It can be related to filling your gas tank on your car, driving 500 miles, and needing to put in more fuel if you intend to keep driving.

Bodies aren’t cars. The need for food isn’t only set off by the need for fuel. Hunger and eating are more complex than that for most of us. If it were than simple, nobody would be overweight because we’d all regulate our food for fuel with absolute perfection.


Hedonic hunger explains the urge to eat that feels every bit as real as homeostatic hunger, but the urge comes from wanting food for a reason different than needing fuel. The name “hedonic” suggests eating for pleasure but overeating, usually has an opposite effect. The pleasure you get from eating highly palatable food doesn’t last for long. Moments after swallowing the last bite starts the guilt and regret because you know you’ll gain weight if you can’t get this under control.

Hedonic hunger is what makes “make room for dessert” when you’re already beyond full. Hedonic hunger makes the need for food feel genuine when you smell or even think of highly palatable food. Hedonic hunger is a hunger that happens independently of an empty stomach.

"I didn't know I was hungry until I saw these."

“I didn’t know I was hungry until I saw these.”

Understanding why you eat can help you change your response to hunger. You can learn to manage it rather than let it control you. There is no “wrong way to eat,” but there is a better way to “manage eating” to reach and maintain weight-related goals. You don’t want to stop eating; you want to eat smarter.

Change your language. Replace the can’ts, shouldn’ts, and won’ts with can, should, will, and most important, want.

  • Instead of “I shouldn’t have this cookie,” say, “I will have a cookie and I want to eat it tomorrow because I’ll plan for it.”
  • Instead of saying, “I can’t have potato chips because I can’t stop once I start,” say, “I want potato chips and I want a single one-ounce serving because that’s all I need to be happy.

Telling yourself, “I can’t stop eating,” is really nothing more than giving yourself an excuse to behave irresponsibly. Replace that statement with a that message gives you ownership and power.

"I  will eat as much as I want. I want to eat enough to feel full and support my weight loss goal."

“I will eat as much as I want. I want to eat enough to feel full and support my weight loss goal.”

“I will eat what I want in portions that will support my goals.”  The more you say it, the more you believe it. When you believe it, it becomes true.





Jackie Conn

About Jackie Conn

Jackie Conn is married and has four grown daughters and four grandchildren. She is a Weight Watchers success story. She's a weight loss expert with 25 years of experience guiding women and men to their weight-related goals. Her articles on weight management have been published in health, family and women's magazines. She has been a regular guest on Channel 5 WABI news, FOX network morning program Good Day Maine and 207 on WCSH.