5 Reason You Overeat and 5 Ways to QuitReasons for Overeating
We often assume we’re above the instincts we see in other animals, but humans are hardwired to eat. For thousands of years, humanity’s focus was finding enough food to survive and pass on their genes. Hunger was a good thing that kept us working, progressing, striving to build and create. Natural selection long ago removed the weaker hunger drives in our species. This same instinct naturally directed humans toward rich foods that supplied more nutrients and calories at less physical cost, but these foods were rare and hard to find. Today they are available in convenient and immediate packages in every grocery store and restaurant.
Food, especially rich food, triggers an emotional response. Delicious food often increases the level of serotonin in your brain, giving a euphoric, satisfied, content feeling. Comfort foods are a real thing that many of us reach for when we are depressed, overwhelmed, stressed, overly tired, or sick. This can become a vicious cycle of dependence, just like any other drug. Feelings of anger, depression, and guilt lead to us to overeat and then we become angry, depressed, and guilty from doing so, which leads to more overeating.
3. Habit or Addiction
Even those of us who don’t feel a dependence on food to combat stress and depression may still eat poorly due to environment, habits, lack of choices, and cultural or family influences. We can grow up eating foods that lead to being overweight or unhealthy and not know the difference. We may work long hours and choose poor food choices because we feel we have no other options.
Environment is a strong factor for how we eat. The food industry is designed to capitalize on this by exposing you to delicious looking foods as often as possible. Food bombards us on the television, on the internet, on the street, and everywhere in between. Many studies show that brief exposure to a comfort food, like chocolate or milkshakes, leads to cravings and overeating.
Our lives are stressful and cramped with jobs, family, friends, deadlines, our favorite activities or televisions shows, and other relationships. These distractions and obligations make it difficult to take the time to eat healthy. It’s easier to skip breakfast and grab a burger and fries for an early lunch, then rush through a fast food drive-thru on the way home for dinner. The perception of limited time and the convenience of unhealthy food is a big contributor to overeating.
How to Quit Overeating
1. Understand Instinct
Knowing how our bodies work helps us make better decisions. The foods that were rare and difficult to find a few thousand years ago are now everywhere. These are fats, sugars, and salts. We need these to survive, but not in the amounts that we are exposed to today. Be aware that you crave these for a reason, but you don’t always have to give in to these cravings. Seek out foods that will satisfy your hunger while filling you with more nutrients than these high calorie temptations.
Chew longer. Savoring the first bites and chewing each one a little longer lets your body digest better and use the nutrients properly. It also makes you feel fuller and lets your taste buds adjust. The initial bites will taste better. Once the food begins to loose flavor, it’s a signal to stop eating.
Eat foods high in water, fiber, and protein. These will fill you up faster, satisfy you, and trigger the body’s response to stop eating, all with fewer calories. Whole grain breads, cereals, or pastas; grapes, apples, beans, and oranges are great examples of what to eat.
Don’t wait for the starvation instinct to kick in and drive you to eat too much. Eat when you are moderately hungry, before the crazy cravings have begun, and you will eat less.
2. Love and Forgive Yourself
The emotional aspect of eating is usually ignored by fad diets and that is why they also usually fail. The high pressure to get results like the examples you’ve seen leads to a spiral of emotional eating. Work on loving yourself as you are, as you’ve been, and as you could become. Find the emotional triggers that lead you to overeat and work to remove the cause. This isn’t an easy process and it will not be without pain.
Forgive yourself more often. Don’t hold on to those emotional triggers once you know what they are. If you overeat, forgive yourself and vow to do better. Don’t allow depression, anger, and guilt to sink in and destroy the progress you have made.
Let yourself cheat a little. Giving up foods you love entirely often results in delayed binging. Try giving yourself small doses of your comfort food a couple times a week when you feel the need. You may find that it helps you control the emotional crash and resulting overeating later.
3. Change Your Ways
Habits and addictions are hard to break. Losing weight is difficult. Don’t let the fad diets fool you into thinking losing weight or eating better will be an easy path. It won’t, but don’t let that discourage you. Knowing something is difficult helps you prepare and makes it even more rewarding when you succeed.
Ask for help. Tell your friends and family what you want to accomplish and get their support and nagging to aid you in your goals. If they aren’t supportive, join a food addiction support group. They can often be found locally or online.
Instead of eliminating habits, replace them. Eat healthy choices of foods you love. You can find thousands of recipes for healthy versions of what you eat most. Keep snacking, but reach for carrots and apples instead of sweets. Eat a handful of raw nuts instead of grabbing a back of potato chips.
4. Remove Stimuli
You can’t shut the world out, but you can do small things to expose yourself to less unhealthy options. Fast forward those commercials if you have a DVR. Replace the stimulus you can control: the food in your own pantry and fridge. Stock them with high fiber, high protein, and high water foods. Remember to avoid the high fat, sugar, and salt foods that drive you to overeat.
If you can’t eat your comfort food in small doses, get it out of the house. There is always something that you can’t stop yourself from eating, even if you try to dose it out bit by bit. If allowing yourself to cheat a little ends with you eating it all every time, it’s time to remove the temptation completely.
Take a different route to work. If you can’t drive past that restaurant without smelling the cheese-fries and stopping, try taking another street. Breaking one habit, like your driving route, can make it easier to break another.
Eat more often. Eating small portions of healthy snacks four or five hours after a meal will keep those cravings at bay and make you more immune to the stimuli around you. Bring a couple carrots or apple slices with you to work.
5. Prioritize Your Time
You can’t make more time, but your perception of time is often tainted by your priorities. Make your health a priority. Write down your goals and stick them somewhere you will see several times a day. The reminder will help you eliminate or restrict things that eat your time but don’t help you stay healthy.
Prepare the day before. You can slice carrots while catching up on your favorite shows. Stick them in a plastic container for the next day. On a day off, prepare several similar meals at once and put them in the fridge for the week. Supplement with healthy protein shakes that can be made in minutes anywhere. Make sure you choose shakes high in protein and fiber, and low in fat, sugar, and salt.
Make time for breakfast. Eating in the morning prepares your body to eat normal meals during the day. Skipping a meal leads to more intense cravings and overeating in later meals. Breakfast can still be quick. Apple slices and oatmeal make a great breakfast that won’t slow you down.Follow these steps to a healthier you