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Stop Overeating When There's No Time for Self-Care

Do you ever feel like there's just not enough time in the day to eat healthy?

Ironically, in my work with dieters, I find most people who struggle to keep food commitments for themselves have little to no trouble keeping commitments with others. They often have regular routines for taking care of spouses, children, and grandchildren, despite stressful jobs with regular deadlines and demanding bosses to please. Some are also avidly involved with volunteer work at their church, temple, or mosque, and still others have hobby-based commitments to friends and family which take up a good deal of their time.

What all these people have in common is the virtually flawless execution of their commitments to other people at the expense of adequate self-care. They always put others first! But that's unfortunately the wrong mindset for sticking to a diet, because in order to do so you need time for shopping, cooking, cleaning, etc.

Additionally, most people don't realize you must also put yourself first with regards to non-diet-related elements of self-care. For example, a recent study in published in Sleep Journal showed that sleep restriction over as little as four nights results in specific chemical changes that caused people to eat 300 more calories of snacks per day. Clearly it's harder to stick to your food plan without enough shut-eye.

Then there's the age old advice to reduce stress in order to avoid the high cortisol levels associated with increased appetite. Taking time for yoga, for example, can reduce your cortisol levels. So can meditation. Even just a few minutes per day outside in nature can bring down your level. But all this, of course, requires you make time for yourself first.

And no, this is not selfish, because you should become better at taking care of other people if you make time for yourself first. If your airplane is forced to make an emergency landing, the experts will advise you to secure your own oxygen mask before that of your children or the people sitting next to you. This is wise advice, because you're no good to them if you can't breathe yourself!

Try to think of healthy food and time for self-care like oxygen. These are things which energize and breathe life into you so you can take care of those around you. But junk food and failing to make time for yourself is like carbon dioxide which drains the life from you and makes you much less valuable to those you may love.

Put on your own oxygen mask first. Whether that means making the time to go shopping, doing food prep, calling ahead to the restaurant to be sure you'll have something to eat, taking the time to meditate, exercise, take a nap, or do whatever else you need to do to be sure you are well, rested, energized, and ready for life.

The alternative does nobody any good!

Food for thought, no?

Please see my foundational article and video on Psychology Today if you'd like to read more practical tips for overcoming overeating, in a variety of life circumstances, on the diet of your choice!


Hanlon, E.C., Tasali, E., Leproult, R., Stuhr, K.L, Doncheck, E., De Wit, H., Hillard, C.J., Van Cauter, E. (2016). Sleep Restriction Kubala, Enhances the Daily Rhythm of Circulating Levels of Endocannabinoid 2-Arachidonoylglycerol. Sleep, Volume 39, Issue 3, 653–664

Turakitwanakan W1, Mekseepralard C, Busarakumtragul P. (2013) Effects of mindfulness meditation on serum cortisol of medical students. J Med Assoc Thai. 2013 Jan;96 Suppl 1:S90-5.

Hunter, M.R., Gillespie, B.W., Yu-Pu Chen., S (2019) Urban Nature Experiences Reduce Stress in the Context of Daily Life Based on Salivary Biomarkers. Frontiers in Psychology, 2019; 10 DOI:

Kubala, J. (2018). 23 Simple Things You Can Do to Stop Overeating. [Blog post] Retrieved from