Why You’re Overeating And How To Stop It

Why You’re Overeating And How To Stop It November 15, 2018Leave a comment

You’re eating too much.

You know you’re doing it, you know you don’t want to do it, and you know chugging down another Pumpkin Spice Frappuccino with whipped cream probably isn’t going to reveal those abs that are just dying to get out.

The big question, though, is: why are you eating too much?

Why can you not say no to the Ben’s Cookies as they’re passed round the office, or stop at one bite of your grandma’s Triple Chocolate Peanut Butter Mousse cake?

We’re about to unearth some of the burning reasons why you’re eating too much and how we can finally put a stop to the overeating that is plaguing your chances of ever succeeding with your fat loss goals…

1. You’re Bored

Do you ever get to the end of a hectic working day, sit back, and think: ‘holy crap, I totally forgot to each lunch today’?

While I’m sure it’s happened to you on more than one occasion, what usually happens is this…

‘Mmm there’s not much work to do today. I’ve already caught up on all my social media accounts. Been to the toilet five times. And talked to Debra about her cats for the past 45 minutes. I know, I’ll go and see if there’s anything in the office kitchen.’

The difference? Boredom.

People will look to the gratification of food to break the monotony of their day, rather than for the pleasure of the food itself.

It’s why we always eat less when we’re busy.

When we’re in treacherous moments of dullness, whether that be at work or home, our dopamine neurons – the chemical messenger that is crucial to the experience of motivation and drive – are longing to be excited again.

When we eat, we feel rewarded, and subsequently repeat the process in order to experience that dopamine rush again and again.

How To Stop It

The first? Prevent the boredom.

Finding tasks that will assuage those feelings of boredom at work may be difficult, but having a list of activities that you can literally submerge yourself into, will be the difference between munching on gone-off cookies and steering clear of those unnecessary foods.

Avoid tasks that will take you a matter of minutes to complete, and have a ‘go-to’ project you can immerse yourself in, that will take up all of your brain capacity.

The second is to break the ‘Reminder-Routine-Reward’ loop that accompanies boredom-based eating.

You need to make a change to the ‘routine’ part of the cycle, after you’ve experienced the cue or trigger that sets off a cascade of overeating.

That ‘cue’ could be a lull in the amount of work you’re doing, or when the clock hits a certain time. Instead of heading straight to the kitchen, as you would do normally, think of a new activity to replace your usual routine.

This could be going for a walk, pouring yourself a glass of water, or catching up with a friend for ten minutes.

Whatever it is, you need to make sure you ingrain this new loop into your day, so when you experience those feelings of boredom again, your first port of call won’t be to head to the kitchen every time.

2. Your Environment Sucks

Your environment is the invisible hand that moulds human behaviour.

Do you ever find yourself with your hand rummaging deep into the crisp bowl wondering how the hell it got there, or get to the end of a TV programme and question how you managed to see off the whole packet of popcorn by yourself?

You end up eating too much purely because all the eating choices you make have more to do with predetermined habits, physical cues, and your surroundings, as opposed to you crafting your own judgments.

You don’t actually make conscious decisions about what you’re doing, or eating, even though you like to believe you are.

The places you visit, the people you eat with, the amount of food you can see, and the way you’ve been brought up, all lead to eating decisions that pass your conscious mind and into your mouth.

Just as the more visible something is, the more inclined you are to eat it, the less effort you have to put in to eat something, the easier it is to forget how much you actually consume.

You’re overeating because your environment sucks.

How To Stop It

If you want to maximise your odds of success without having to constantly ward off relentless temptations, then you need to operate in an environment that prevents you from eating more, not encourages it.

If you can’t say no to that glass of wine, bowl of nuts, or ‘treat’ in the evening while at home – the one ‘trigger food’ that sets off a cascade of overeating – then the simple solution is to not buy it, or keep it in your house.

Similarly, place those trigger foods at the back of the cupboard, or keep them wrapped up, or in their boxes, as opposed to having them laid out on the coffee table.

Whenever you organise a space, or location, to suit your needs, you are priming it to make your next action easy.

Rearranging your surroundings, and making them the path of least resistance, is another part of the puzzle in preventing overeating.

3. You’re Hungry

It seems kind of obvious, right? But one of the biggest reasons you find yourself scoffing down more food than you ever thought possible is because you’re probably pretty hungry.

While hunger is a natural part of daily life, there’s a huge difference between being satisfied and stuffed once you’ve cleared your plate.

We usually cram our stomachs with as much food as possible – whether that be with unnecessary snacks in between meals or at lunch or dinner – when our preceding meals have left us ravenous in the first place.

That breakfast comprising a bowl of Coco Pops and orange juice, and lunch consisting of a sandwich, crisps, and a fizzy drink, isn’t going to leave you satiated enough to see you through an arduous working afternoon.

It’s been found that high-sugar, salt, and fat foods are reinforcing, and cues, quantity, concentration, and quantity all increase that reinforcement value.

Those hyper-palatable foods (the ones that taste great) will always leave you wanting more. These are foods that the brain views as highly valuable, and is subsequently quite good at removing the barriers to their consumption.

How To Stop It

Your first port of call should be fixing up your main mealtimes. The more you fill your breakfasts, lunches, and dinners with high-protein, nutrient-rich, high-volume foods, the less hungry you’ll be in the following hours afterwards.

Meat, fish, eggs etc. coupled with potatoes, rice, and loads of vegetables are going to be your best bet to stave off those burning hunger pangs.

Another strategy is to figure out how much you should put on your plate so you feel satisfied until it’s time to eat again.

For most people, a ‘just-right’ meal is one that will keep hunger at bay for about four hours, and a ‘just-right’ snack two hours.

Perfecting the art of filling your plate up with just enough food will take time, but once you learn that smaller portions than you’ve currently been having, filled with the right foods, won’t leave you hungry, the better control you’ll have over the quantity of your food consumption.

Once you condition yourself to think ‘that was enough’ or ‘that was just right’, the better set you’ll be to stop overeating.

4. You’re Tired

Tiredness is bad. Not least because it makes you act like a cranky piece of shit, but because it leads to poor decision making.

The timing, quality, and accountability of your food choices all go out the window when you’re tired.

Those poor sleeping patterns you possess are linked to excess body fat as they can disrupt appetite regulation and subsequently exacerbate feelings of hunger, eventually leading to overeating.

Cutting short the amount of time you spend in bed because you need to watch that last fifteen minutes of your programme on Netflix may reward you with feeling of excitement there and then, but will ultimately lead you to pay the price later down the line.

A good night’s sleep will, however, lead to a plethora of better decisions being made the following day, which will ultimately lead to more progress.

You’ll be better placed to choose better foods, at the right times, and consume the right amounts, when you’re feeling refreshed from a good night’s sleep.

If your body and mind has properly recovered, so will your healthy, performance, and body composition.

How To Stop It

A lack of sleep usually reflects our priorities, as opposed to real restrictions.

Making good sleep a priority, just like diet and exercise, will help you stave off those feelings of hunger throughout the day.

First and foremost, attempt to keep a relatively consistent bed and wake up time. The better your body gets into a routine, the better it will be able to switch off completely and reset during those times.

As for your actual time spent in bed, make sure you turn off all electrical items at least an hour before you get some shut eye, and develop a pre-bed routine that is relaxing and familiar. The iPod, iPad, and Mac laptop, aren’t going to help you relax.

Finally, keep your bedroom as dark as possible and keep noise to a minimum.

All these strategies will help you sleep better, which will ultimately help you make better food decisions the following day.

5. You’re Lying To Yourself

You’re a liar. And if you don’t think you are, just consider if you’ve ever uttered these familiar statements to yourself:

Well, it’s Sandra’s birthday, so it would be rude not to have a piece of her birthday cake’.

‘I’ll get a dessert if you will’.

‘There are starving kids in Africa so I should probably finish what’s on my plate’.

All these falsehoods you’re feeding yourself [pun intended] are causing you to overeat. You don’t need to eat when these situations arise; you’re just rationalising your eating behaviours with excuses.

You are still in control of the choices you make, no matter where you are, what you’re doing, and what you’re having.

You always have the power over what you consume.

No one forces alcohol, extra potatoes, or the sticky toffee pudding down your throat. No one. You’re still in control over how much you eat, what you choose to have, and whether you decline the invitation for dessert or not.

How To Stop It

Before you indulge in a particular food or activity that you’ve had to provide a reason for, ask yourself whether this new behaviour will get you closer to your goal or further away from it, rather than trying to rationalise it.

Are you only seeking to eat more because you’ve supposedly been ‘good’, or it would be ‘rude not to’, or because ‘someone else is’?

All these pushers are clear signs that you’re eating when you don’t need to. So, take a step back, and figure out why you’re going to eat that particular something.

The quicker you can become mindful of the reason behind your eating patterns, the quicker you’ll be able to put a stop to it should you realise you’re simply lying to yourself.

6. You’re Eating Too Many Different Things

Have you ever stuffed yourself so full with the main course of your meal, had to undo your trousers, and swear to the rest of the table you’re never going to eat another thing in your life, only for you to suddenly decide you want some dessert as soon as the menu comes out?

No, it’s not because you have a separate ‘dessert’ compartment in your stomach, but due to a fundamental proponent of the nervous system called habituation.

Meaning, the more we’re exposed to a stimulus within a short period of time, the less we respond to it. When a stimulus is new, we tend to be very interested in it because it might be important; à la the dessert menu.

This habituation process appears every time we sit down to eat; in a phenomenon called ‘sensory-specific satiety’.

We’re satiated of savoury foods, but not of sweet foods. A newfound sensory stimulus with an extremely high reward value makes it easy to kick back an extra 500 calories from a dessert we just didn’t really need.

How To Stop It

The simple solution to overeating on foods you know you shouldn’t be having – whether that be the dessert or at the buffet – is to limit yourself to just a few foods on your plate each time.

Keeping the variety of foods you eat relatively low, will hopefully trick your mind into thinking you’re fuller than you actually are.

You may also want to practice eating slowly.

Taking your time over what you consume will not only enhance better digestion, better hydration, and greater satisfaction with your meals, but will give your body and mind a chance to appreciate and taste properly all the foods you are consuming.

When faced with a diversity of tastes, choose to taste all you can taste, not necessarily to eat all you can eat.

7. You’re All Emotional And Stuff

Emotional eating is a topic that spreads well beyond the scope of this article; it is, however, worth mentioning in some form to gain a better understanding of why you’re overeating.

Prominent emotional states often heighten the power of cues, suppress our ability to exert control, and strengthen the desire to eat.

And if you don’t think you emotional eat, I can promise you, you do.

When you’re happy you tend to turn to food to ‘celebrate’, when you’re anxious you turn to food to ‘calm down’, and when you’re angry you turn to food to make you ‘feel better’.

Because the particular food item you’ve turned to cheers you up, it’s easy to develop the habit of seeking it whenever you experience that emotional state again.

This is when the drive for reward becomes harder to control.

Similarly, feelings of stress can quash that sensible, cognitive voice that knows you shouldn’t turn to the box of chocolates to make you feel better.

All these foods we turn to for comfort, however, leave their mark on the brain, fashioning a space that will need to be filled the next time we experience feelings of discomfort.

The result is a spiral of overeating.

How To Stop It

If you can gain an understanding of what emotions trigger your overeating, and plan accordingly, you’ll give yourself a much greater chance of taking control of your eating habits.

Overcoming those emotions propelling you towards those foods you know you shouldn’t be eating is hard, but should you consistently manage not to seek out food as a reward, or punishment, your brain will start to lose its powerful connection with that ‘cue’.

Trying tactics like ‘thought stopping’ – encountering a stimulus, and instantly shutting off the action it provokes – is a useful method in changing that decision to use food as a reward system.

Distracting yourself from food – almost instantly – and engaging your mind in another activity is another strategy in preventing emotional overeating.

Similarly, ‘talking down the urge’ – such as telling yourself ‘eating this will only satisfy me temporarily’ or ‘will this take me closer to my goals or further away from it’ – is another response to quieten down the temptation to head for the biscuit tin.

The most important thing to remember is that should you have an episode of emotional eating, you should draw a line under it and start fresh as quickly as possible. Try to learn from the experience and make a plan for how you can overcome it in the future.

 

 

 

This Article Was Too Long And I Didn’t Read It; Can You Summarise It Please

You overeat. The only problem is, you just don’t know why.

You’re Bored – People will look to the gratification of food to break the monotony of their day, rather than for the pleasure of the food itself. It’s why we always eat less when we’re busy.

Finding tasks that will assuage those feelings of boredom at work may be difficult, but having a list of activities that you can literally submerge yourself into, will be the difference between munching on gone-off cookies and steering clear of those irrelevant foods.

Your Environment Sucks – You end up eating too much purely because all the eating choices you make have more to do with predetermined habits, physical cues, and your surroundings, as opposed to you crafting your own judgments.

If you want to maximise your odds of success without having to constantly ward off relentless temptations, then you need to operate in an environment that prevents you from eating more, not encourages it.

You’re Hungry – It’s been found that high-sugar, salt, and fat foods are reinforcing, and cues, quantity, concentration, and quantity all increase that reinforcement value.  Those hyper-palatable foods (the ones that taste great) will always leave you wanting more.

Your first port of call should be fixing up your main mealtimes. The more you fill your breakfasts, lunches, and dinners with high-protein, nutrient-rich, high-volume foods, the less hungry you’ll be in the following hours afterwards.

You’re Tired – Poor sleeping patterns are linked to excess body fat as they can disrupt appetite regulation and subsequently exacerbate feelings of hunger, eventually leading to overeating.

A lack of sleep usually reflects our priorities, as opposed to real restrictions. Making good sleep a priority, just like diet and exercise, will help you stave off those feelings of hunger throughout the day.

You’re Lying To Yourself – You are still in control of the choices you make, no matter where you are, what you’re doing, and what you’re having. You always have the power over what you consume.

Before you indulge in a particular food or activity that you’ve had to provide a reason for, ask yourself whether this new behaviour will get you closer to your goal or further away from it, rather than trying to rationalise it.

You’re Eating Too Many Different Things – The more we’re exposed to a stimulus within a short period of time, the less we respond to it. When a stimulus is new, we tend to be very interested in it because it might be important; à la the dessert menu.

Keeping the variety of foods you eat relatively low, will hopefully trick your mind into thinking you’re fuller than you actually are.

You’re All Emotional And Stuff – Prominent emotional states often heighten the power of cues, suppress our ability to exert control, and strengthen the desire to eat.

Trying tactics like ‘thought stopping’ – encountering a stimulus, and instantly shutting off the action it provokes – is a useful method in changing that decision to use food as a reward system.

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