Do you ever find yourself overeating to the point that you’re uncomfortably full but can’t stop eating?
There are biological reasons for why you might be overeating that have nothing to do with a lack of willpower.
Learn why you might be overeating and how to overcome it.
4 Reasons You Might Be Overeating
1. You’re not getting enough calories during the day.
Restricting calories leads to increased food cravings. The body fights starvation at the cellular level. When underfed, the body responds by increasing the hunger hormone ghrelin (aka – we feel a heightened sense of hunger). Also, a chemical called neuropeptide Y (NPY) increases in response to starvation. NPY triggers our drive to eat carbohydrates, the body’s preferred source of energy. This explains the likelihood of a high-carbohydrate binge after a period of restriction.
2. You’re eating for emotional reasons.
Disclaimer: eating for emotional reasons isn’t bad in itself. As humans, we all eat for emotional reasons. Cake at a birthday party. Champagne to celebrate an anniversary. Soup and grilled cheese for comfort on a sick day. Eating for emotional reasons IS a part of life. However, if you lack additional skills for coping with difficult emotions, the severity of emotional eating increases. If you find yourself eating to “numb out” or distract yourself, you’re likely eating without paying attention to your fullness cues. Hence, it’s easy to overeat when eating to soothe emotions.
3. You’re distracted while eating.
Eating in front of the TV? Your phone screen? A review published by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition studied the effect of awareness on food intake. When comparing distracted eaters to non-distracted eaters, two key themes arose:
- Being distracted or not paying attention to a meal tended to make people eat more at that meal.
- Paying attention to a meal was linked to eating less later on.
In summary, distracted eating could be the reason you overeat. Mindful eating could be your pathway out.
4. You’re triggered by food guilt.
Last but not least, food guilt can trigger overeating. Food guilt is feeling bad about yourself when you eat a “bad” food. It perpetuates negative self-talk and unhealthy behaviors. Let’s use donuts as an example.
- You label donuts as a “bad” food.
- You eat the donut and feel “bad” about yourself.
- Self-talk turns negative: “I always eat unhealthy food.”
- You eat another donut because you already broke your food rule. You feel bad about yourself so you keep eating more.
This is the chain of thoughts → feelings → behaviors. We think we did something bad, so we feel bad about ourselves, and behave in an unhelpful way. Overeating presents itself as a self-destructive behavior here.
How to Use Mindful Awareness to Overcome Overeating
Awareness is the first step to overcoming overeating. Identify the reason you might be overeating. Second, try one of the following mindfulness-based strategies in its place.
Eat adequate meals and snacks throughout the day.
If overeating typically occurs as a response to restriction, this could make the biggest difference for you. Do you skip meals because you’re too busy? Schedule lunch on your calendar or have ready to eat foods available before a busy week starts. Or maybe you restrict calories during the day to “save up” for splurge foods later. Even if you’re going out to eat that night, you still need breakfast and lunch that day. Stay nourished with consistent meals and snacks during the day to prevent late-night binges.
Practice mindful eating.
Take a few deep breaths before eating to set the intention of slowing down. Pay attention to the first bite, a middle bite, and the last bite of food. Notice the taste, texture, and temperature of the food. Savor each bite! If possible, turn off distractions like your phone or the TV. Use the hunger and fullness discovery scale to identify sensations of fullness. Notice subtle signs of fullness at their start.
Curiosity over judgment.
One of the most common mistakes people make is viewing food as “good” and “bad”, which leads to food guilt. Food isn’t meant to be categorized into black and white. All-foods-fit in a healthy eating pattern. When you eat a “bad” food, remove the label and release the judgment. Judging yourself for what or how much you ate, typically leads to eating more. Instead, invite curiosity into the moment. Curiosity is the doorway to notice how you feel, honor your emotions, and respect your body.
Everglow Nutrition’s Summary
Overeating is more common than you might think. Be compassionate and gentle with yourself after overeating. Explore with curiosity, your trigger to overeating. Finally, apply one of the mindfulness strategies to lessen the degree or frequency of overeating.
Did you find this article helpful? Sign up for a Complimentary Discovery Call to discuss your nutrition needs and discover how the Everglow Method can help you overcome overeating.