How to Stop Overindulging

Most people overindulge in an attempt to improve their mood.

Experiencing the continuing effects from past months overindulgence?

Why do we tend to overindulge, even though we know it will probably end up making us feel lousy? Researchers from the University of Chicago and the University of Michigan say people often overindulge in an attempt to improve their mood. It can happen when you’re happy — and trying to prolong the happiness — or when you’re sad and trying to get rid of the blues.

“People strategically manage their actions both to accomplish their long-term interests and to attain immediate pleasures. If they believe they need to take action to regulate their feelings in the here and now, they tend to indulge in immediate pleasures. In contrast, if they believe such actions are not required, they act in their long-term interests,” the researchers wrote.

In their study, the authors showed dieting study participants drawings of smiling or frowning faces.

“The results revealed that simply associating a smiley with less transience (coloring with a superfine micro tip, which takes a long time to color, rather than a sharpie, which colors the face in a few short strokes) resulted in people becoming more likely to act their long-term interests and choose an apple as a snack rather than a chocolate,” the authors wrote.

They continue:

“The recipe is simple. If you are feeling happy, focus on reasons why those feelings will last, and if you are feeling unhappy, focus on reasons why those feelings will pass.”

What Else Can You do to Avoid Overindulging?

Separate research from University of Texas at Austin researchers revealed another simple way to help resist temptation: exaggerating its threat.

“Four experiments show that when consumers encounter temptations that conflict with their long-term goals, one self-control mechanism is to exaggerate the negativity of the temptation as a way to resist, a process we call counteractive construal,” the researchers wrote.

For instance, college students with a high grade-point average were more likely than other participants to believe that an upcoming party would take time away from their study. They therefore also were less likely to attend the party.

If you believe the threat of overindulging is too great, you’re less likely to indulge.

Meanwhile, women who had strong dieting goals were more likely to estimate a cookie as having more calories and being more damaging to their long-term weight loss than those without goals. Further, another study found that women in a room with posters of fit models were more likely to exaggerate the calories in a beverage and drink less of it than those in a room with posters of nature scenery.

“The mental construal of temptations may be distorted when people experience a self-control conflict, and such distorted construal, rather than accurate representations, determines consumers’ actual consumption, helping them resist the temptation and maintaining their long-term goal,” the authors conclude.

Too Many Decisions Can Also Deplete Your Willpower

Your level of self-control can also be depleted by simple, daily decisions, research shows. This may be because self-control and decision-making are both controlled by the same area of your brain, the prefrontal region.

“Even if you just have to decide between two cups of coffee at Starbucks, it’s a small choice, true, but doing that over the course of a day will, by the end of the day, render you less able to be good at self-control,” said study co-author Kathleen Vohs, a marketing professor at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management, on

The study, published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, found that after completing a task that required self-control, participants had less physical stamina and impulse control and increased difficulty with problem solving.

So you can help to reserve some of your willpower by delegating unimportant choices to others. For instance, let your spouse decide your plans for the weekend or let your waiter or waitress recommend a good entrée to order when you eat out.

Another Tip for Improving Your Self-Control, and Not Overindulging…

Consider an Exercise Program to Support Your Self-Control


If you have trouble gathering up your willpower and resisting unhealthy temptations, choosing a fitness routine that addresses both your MIND and your body may be very helpful.

If you are currently in a state of mental unrest, be it financial worries, overworking, relationship troubles or any other negative emotional pattern, it will be very difficult to make your health a priority — and overindulging may become second nature.

So you will want to include a form of physical activity that addresses your mind-body connection.

Avoid Tempting Situations …

Northwestern University researchers have also found that people tend to overestimate their ability to resist temptations and, ironically, those who believe their willpower is strongest may be most likely to cave in. So according to those researchers, the best bet is to avoid situations that provide too many temptations rather than rely only on self-control to keep you making positive choice.

This may be difficult during your family functions and holiday festivities, but throughout the year you can make it a point to surround yourself with activities that nourish your body inside and out.