Food is our main source of energy.

Good food equals health and vitality. Bad food equals disease and low energy. It’s vital that we get it right.

Generally speaking, people overeat for many different reasons — from consuming highly processed meals, to psychological issues, to having a diet that lacks important nutrients.

From the spiritual point of view — that is, if we consider factors that go beyond basic physiology and psychology — overeating can stem from…

  • The need to constantly distract the mind
  • Engaging in habits that keep our energy low
  • The tendency to fill a void with food
  • Living on autopilot; repeating old patterns
  • The need to suppress painful emotions

Spirituality and eating habits

How we eat tells a lot about our personality, our priorities, the way we function and the way we live in general.

For example, the tendency to snack throughout the day usually indicates a flexible personality type; being picky with food a selective approach when socializing, etc.

Most importantly, the way we eat and what we eat shows our level of self-awareness and self-love as well as our ability (or inability) to add positivity in our life.

Food is nourishment. This doesn’t just translate to calories and nutrients but also joy. We eat to survive and to celebrate life and its gifts.

In other words, we associate food with positive emotions. So if our eating habits ever arise from (or are linked to) negative emotions, we must look within and ask questions.

Because chances are, an unhealthy relationship with food will usually be reflected in other areas of our life.

If we can go back to the healthiest, happiest, most natural way of eating, it can only create more happiness, positivity, and awareness in our life.

Spiritually, people overeat as a way to…

1. Be distracted

Virtually all spiritual practices have one thing in common — getting in touch with the Subject, the true self.

Though theoretically this is the easiest thing in the world (some would say “we are all born enlightened”), in practice it turns out to be really tricky.

Being bombarded with external distractions, we gradually get used to focusing our awareness outward, and looking inward becomes uncomfortable.

So from a spiritual point of view, overeating can be attributed to this — our inability or unwillingness to go back to the self and focus on the self.

By overeating or eating food that’s really difficult to digest, we keep ourselves in a state where our mind isn’t fully “awake” thus making it harder to reach any form of enlightenment.

2. Lower their energy

No one could consciously try to lower their energy (or “vibration”, if the word resonates with you).

The issue is, not all forms of human behavior are conscious. Most of them are probably unconscious or at best subconscious.

So here’s the second potential root cause of overeating — over time we gradually get used to suboptimal energy levels and think it’s perfectly fine.

Not only that, when we do get closer to high levels of energy we self-sabotage by engaging in activities that “poison” mind, body, and spirit.

This can be anything from consuming the wrong content online, to gossip, junk food, negative thoughts, mindless distractions, and yes, even overeating.

By the way, did you know that our digestive process requires tons of energy? This is why we feel sleepy/lazy after overeating — our body is too busy digesting food to focus on anything else.

3. Fill a void

In our heart, we all know we’re here on this planet to live our purpose, to experience joy, fulfillment, and self-realization.

But then things get in the way — internal and external obstacles prevent us from getting what we want and we then find ways to “substitute” our original needs and desires.

  • Work that’s aligned with our vision/purpose turns into a job
  • Optimal health and vitality turns into going to the gym
  • Connecting with like-minded individuals turns into social media
  • Lasting happiness turns into short dopamine hits

Spiritually as well as psychologically, overeating can be a way to fill an emotional void, a substitution for what we can’t have or think we can’t have.

4. Repeat old patterns

I’ve found that the biggest practical advantage of cultivating spiritual practices is that they allow you to be new, to break free from old patterns — thoughts as well as actions.

Patterns related to food and nutrition seem to be especially hard to detach from, probably because food is a vital need and the act of eating is repeated daily.

Spiritually, the fourth reason some people tend to overeat may have to do with a tendency to repeat old patterns without ever questioning them.

When it comes to food, this could mean eating a certain amount of calories or with a certain frequency e.g. four meals a day.

Personally I’ve found fasting — a spiritual practice with countless benefits, now backed by scientific research — as well as intermittent fasting to be the easiest way to challenge old eating habits including overeating.

5. Numb emotions

We’ve already seen how food (physical nourishment) can be used to substitute positive emotions (spiritual nourishment). In this case, the goal is to fill a void.

However, what if  the goal is the opposite — having emotions that you want to suppress, such as anger or sadness, or even secondary emotions like guilt? 

While overeating can never be the answer, it can temporarily numb or block those emotions and provide relief in the short term.

When there are toxic thoughts or emotions consuming us, we naturally tend to invest a lot of time and energy on them.

By overeating, we basically try to shift that energy toward food, and while that isn’t inherently bad, it should never be seen as the long-term solution to deal with pain.

Final thoughts

Overeating can be a complex issue and the root cause could be as simple as a diet that’s poor in nutrients to very subtle psychological or even spiritual mechanisms.

The most important thing we can do to maintain a healthy relationship with food — whether we tend to overeat or not — is to be more aware of (notice, pay attention to) our eating habits.

That’s the tricky thing about habits: they are subconscious. The first time is conscious, but then as the action is repeated over time we lose the awareness of it.

So I’ll leave you with this — if you want to improve the way you eat, simply pay attention to your eating habits, as an exercise. Really notice what you eat, when, and why. And ask questions.

Even if we know nothing about nutrition and psychology (I strongly encourage anyone dealing with food issues to get help by a professional), we can still learn to pay attention and be more aware.