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What Causes You to Overeat?
It’s normal for people to overeat once in a while. However, when it is uncontrolled, you may find yourself gaining weight or at risk of developing an eating disorder.
Here are some reasons why people overeat, as well as some precautions that you can take to stop overeating.
In a 2020 survey conducted by the British Nutrition Foundation, 347 people reported that they eat more when they are bored.1
Some people utilize overeating as a way to distract themselves. However, eating when you are bored can be a habit that forms and changes the way your body processes fullness. Normally, your body will tell you that you are hungry three times a day; however, if you eat eight times a day, you will feel hunger signals more often.2
What to do: If you are bored, try to engage in a different hobby that will occupy your mind. Reading a book, going outside for a walk, drawing, and watching television can be some ways that you spend your time when you feel bored.
According to a study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, people can overeat up to 48% whenever they are sharing a meal.
Many times, this overeating happens in the form of parties or enjoying the company of others. However, eating those calories can add up, especially if you eat extra appetizers or desserts because your friends are around.
What to do: If you are at a social event, try to fill your plate with the amount of food that you would normally eat and stop there. You can eat your meals slower so that way you aren’t tempted to order any more food.
You Have Snacks On Hand
Sometimes, overeating can happen because of your purchasing habits. If you buy a lot of cookies and other items, you might find yourself reaching for them in your pantry more often than not.
However, these snacks can prevent you from formulating healthier habits. They can also cause you to eat less healthy food at lunch and dinner in favor of eating these delicious treats.
What to do: Make a list of items that you need before you go to the grocery store. This will prevent you from picking up extra snacks that you and your family do not need to eat.
You Eat Everything In Front of You
Have you ever gone to a restaurant and received a meal double the portion of what you typically eat? According to a study published in the International Journal of Obesity, people eat 92% of what is on their plate.4
That means when you go to a restaurant, you might feel compelled to eat everything on you ordered. This could be because you paid for it or you don’t want to seem like you can’t finish your meals. However, this habit can cause you to consume unnecessary calories.
What to do: If you find yourself with a portion bigger than you usually eat, try to cut your meal in half and take the rest home. Additionally, if you know the portions at a specific restaurant are big, you can try ordering an appetizer instead of a lunch or dinner item.
Have you ever heard the phrase “stress eating?” According to Harvard Health Publishing, stress releases hormones that cause you to crave foods with high fat and sugar. After eating food, research shows that stress levels will decrease and give a temporary sense of relief.5
Overeating can be a bad habit that turns into a never-ending cycle to relieve stress. However, it fails to address the root cause, which can cause frustration and side effects such as weight gain.
What to do: If you are stressed, consider finding ways to better manage your condition. Check out our blog on ten ways to relieve stress today.6
You Don’t Practice Mindful Eating
Do you eat everything on your plate all at once? Or maybe you eat while watching television or scrolling through your phone.
However, not paying attention to what you are eating can cause you to accidentally eat more than you normally would. You should try practicing mindful eating, which is paying attention to the food and how it makes you feel as well as the physical sensations.7
What to do: Have your next meal without any distractions. Try to go slow and savor eat bite as you enjoy each portion. Focus on the food, how it tastes, and what it reminds you of. You should also take a moment to show gratitude for the food you have on the table.
Your Hormones Are Imbalanced
Your body utilizes two primary hunger hormones: leptin and ghrelin. Ghrelin helps you feel hunger and gives your body the signal of when you should eat; leptin causes you to feel satisfied.8
An imbalance of these hunger hormones can cause you to overeat. You may not always be aware that your hormones are imbalanced, so it is important to pay attention to your eating patterns to find out if there has been a change in your appetite.
What to do: You can balance your hunger hormones by getting enough sleep and taking care of your body.9 Additionally, if you feel as though you are having trouble balancing your hunger hormones, a doctor can help you identify the cause of your change in appetite. Certain medications are also known to cause an imbalance in hunger.
Your Diet Isn’t Working
Some people start a diet in the hopes of achieving the goal of losing weight. Some of these diet choices include fasting, skipping meals, or avoiding a food group.
However, the lack of food could be causing you to overeat, especially if you are forgoing the necessary calories that your body needs to function. This can lead to binge eating, which is an eating disorder that occurs typically due to a restricted diet. Someone who binge eats will feel guilty about it, and try another diet again, only to fall back into overeating.10
What to do: If you think that you are overeating due to your diet choices, consider seeking help. A professional can help you examine your diet patterns and give you tools to help you reach your goal weight while staying healthy.
You love certain foods
Sometimes, overeating can be caused due to a love for food. You may really enjoy and crave a specific food, whether that’s pizza, cake, chocolate, hamburgers, ice cream, or something else.
However, treating yourself to your favorite food could be causing you to eat more than you originally intended. This can backfire, causing you to overeat and feel bloated afterward.
What to do: If there is a certain type of food that you enjoy eating, pre-portion your meal before you have it. For example, if you love pizza, set aside one or two slices to prevent yourself from eating the whole box.
You Eat Processed Foods
The type of food that you eat might play a role in your hunger patterns. Research has shown through brain scans that certain foods influence the body’s pleasure receptors in the brain and release dopamine, a “feel good” chemical. This causes your brain to reinforce the behavior of eating processed foods.11
Many highly processed foods contain excess carbohydrates and fat that can have a negative effect on the body. Some processed foods include frozen meals, chips, ice cream, cereals, lunch meat, and French fries.
What to do: Work on avoiding high-processed foods and incorporate more fresh fruits and vegetables into your diet. This can help curb cravings and prevent you from eating foods that cause you to indulge more.
About Saber Healthcare Group
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Saber Healthcare is an organization dedicated to providing consultant services to long-term care providers. This article is for informational purposes and is not meant to be seen as professional advice. Please consult with a medical expert before relying on the information provided.
- “BNF survey reveals stress, anxiety, tiredness and boredom are the main causes of unhealthy eating habits in lockdown.” British Nutrition Foundation. 2023. Accessed 20 October 2023. Link: https://www.nutrition.org.uk/news/2020/bnf-survey-reveals-stress-anxiety-tiredness-and-boredom-are-the-main-causes-of-unhealthy-eating-habits-in-lockdown/#:~:text=Of%20the%20539%2C%20347%20said,to%20stress%2C%20anxiety%20or%20tiredness.
- McQuillan, Susan. Ma, Lybi, ed. “Bored, Bored, Bored, and Overeating.” Psychology Today. 18 May 2020. Accessed 20 October 2023. Link: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/cravings/202005/bored-bored-bored-and-overeating
- Thomas, Liji. “People tend to eat more when eating with other people.” News-Medical.Net. 7 October 2019. Accessed 20 October 2023. Link: https://www.news-medical.net/news/20191007/People-tend-to-eat-more-when-eating-with-other-people.aspx#:~:text=Prior%20research%20has%20shown%20that,as%2048%25%20in%20some%20cases.
- Khazon, Olga. “We Eat 92 Percent of the Food on Our Plates.” The Atlantic. 25 July 2014. Accessed 20 October 2023. Link: https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/07/we-eat-92-percent-of-the-food-on-our-plates/375016/
- “Why stress causes people to overeat.” Harvard Health Publishing. 15 February 2021. Accessed 20 October 2023. Link: https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/why-stress-causes-people-to-overeat
- “10 Ways You Can Relieve Stress Today.” Saber Healthcare Group. 4 June 2022. Accessed 20 October 2023. Link: https://www.saberhealth.com/news/blog/how-to-relieve-stress
- “Mindful Eating.” Harvard Health School of Public Health. September 2020. Accessed 20 October 2023. Link: https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/mindful-eating/
- “What you need to know about hunger hormones.” 9 June 2021. Accessed 20 October 2023. Link: https://www.livi.co.uk/your-health/what-you-need-to-know-about-hunger-hormones/
- Maggie, Elaine. Nazario, Brunilda, ed. “Your 'Hunger Hormones'.” WebMD. Accessed 20 October 2023. Link: https://www.webmd.com/diet/features/your-hunger-hormones
- “Disordered Eating & Dieting.” National Eating Disorders Collaboration. Accessed 20 October 2023. Link: https://nedc.com.au/eating-disorders/eating-disorders-explained/disordered-eating-and-dieting/
- McQuillan, Susan. Ma, Lybi, ed. “Compulsive Overeating, Processed Foods, and Obesity.” Link: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/cravings/202107/compulsive-overeating-processed-foods-and-obesity#:~:text=For%20some%20people%2C%20eating%20too,linked%20to%20excessive%20weight%20gain.