Do you find yourself eating more than you should? Overeating is the worst enemy of anyone trying to live healthily or be on a diet. Even if you are eating healthy foods, overeating is not healthy and can make you gain weight.

Studies have shown that overeating is linked to obesity and people who overeat regularly are less likely to get enough exercise, making weight gain even more likely.

There are many different things that make you overeat and it can vary from person to person.

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Here are the 12 WORST triggers that can make you overeat

1. Stress

When you are under stress, your brain signals to your adrenal glands to release the hormones adrenalin and cortisol in response to the stressful situation. Adrenalin helps to trigger your body’s fight-or-flight response to the stressful situation and cortisol helps to provide energy to your muscles by releasing glucose and fatty acids into your bloodstream. If the stress persists, more cortisol is released. High levels of cortisol results in increased appetite, causing you to overeat.

Studies have also shown that chronic stress elevates the levels of ghrelin, the hormone that increases your appetite. This drives you to eat more so you overeat and gain more weight.

How to deal with stress:

Here are 3 things you can do to help you deal with stress:

a) Exercise regularly. It has been shown to be an effective stress-buster. Try 30 to 60 minutes of walking, swimming or jogging.

b) Deep breathing, meditation or practising yoga can help you relax and feel at peace.

c) Address the stress in your life, deal with the root cause.

2) Eating Processed food

Studies have shown that processed foods high in unhealthy salt, fats and sugar cause a rapid rise and fall in blood sugar and appear to stimulate and alter the brain’s chemistry in a way that compels people to overeat .

High-sugar foods also elevates your levels of ghrelin, the hunger hormone that stimulates your appetite, increasing your cravings, causing you to overeat.

What you need to do about processed food:

Avoid them. Read the labels on the food you buy.  Eat whole foods in their fresh and natural state.

3 Lack of sleep

Not having enough sleep can actually have an impact on almost every aspect of your health. Studies have shown that lack of sleep causes brain signalling to significantly increase in areas associated with appetite. It has been linked with overeating.

Ghrelin and leptin are two hormones in your body that control the feelings of hunger and fullness. Ghrelin increases your appetite, whereas leptin sends signals to the brain as soon as you are full. When you don’t get enough sleep, the levels of ghrelin goes up, increasing your appetite, making you eat more and the levels of leptin also decreases as a result you don’t feel satisfied, then you eat more. So, if you don’t get enough sleep, your body will crave more food and you will overeat. As an adult, it is important to get 7-8 hours of sleep.

How to improve your sleep:

a) Make sure you always sleep in complete darkness, the smallest amount of light in your bedroom can upset your body’s clock and the production of melatonin, the hormone that regulates the sleep-wake cycle

b) Avoid using the computer, laptop, iPad, etc or watching TV at least 2 hours before going to bed. These devices release blue light which makes you brain think it is still daytime.

2 WORST triggers that make you overeat

4) Not eating enough food during the day

During the day, if you do not eat enough food that is well balanced with quality protein and healthy fats, you will not be full and satisfied. This can make you very hungry at night and you will overeat.

What you need to do:

Eat enough food during the day and make sure it is well balanced with quality protein and healthy fat.

5) Heavy Drinking

High alcohol intake increases your blood sugar. Insulin is then secreted by your pancreas to regulate your blood sugar and lowers it. Low blood sugar increases your appetite and makes you overeat.  A recent review suggested that in the short term, little amount of alcohol consumed before a meal causes an increase in food intake. A study of freshmen students in the US also reported that those who drank heavily (4-5drinks) reported an increase in appetite and overeating after drinking, compared to those who drank moderately(2-3drnks) or those who drank no alcohol. So, drinking a lot of alcohol can make you overeat.

What you need to do:

Reduce your alcohol intake. Drink moderately.

6) Boredom

Some people have a tendency to just eat when they have nothing to do or nothing to look forward to and this can lead to overeating.

How to avoid boredom:

Put some strategies in place to keep you busy and entertained. Some suggestions include catching up with friends, reading a book, going to the gym or going for a walk.

7) Tempting display of foods

Having tempting foods such as biscuits, chocolate, desserts in your cupboards or refrigerator can trigger you to eat these foods and you may end up overeating.

What you need to do:

Identify foods that make you overeat and make sure you don’t have them in your cupboards and refrigerator. Replace them with healthier options, such as fruits, vegetables and nuts.

8) Eating Too Fast

Did you know that it takes just about 20 minutes from the time you start eating for your brain to send out signals of fullness?  Eating slowly will allow plenty of time to trigger the signal from your brain that you are full. Feeling full means you do not overeat

A new study also finds that when you eat a meal hurriedly, as compared to slowly, it slows down the release of hormones in the gut that bring about the feelings of being full. A slow release of these hormone leads to overeating.

How to avoid eating too fast:

Put your cutlery down between every bite. If you are eating with your hands, such as a sandwich, put down the food between every bite and don’t pick it up till you have chewed and swallowed the previous bite. This will allow you to eat slowly and give you more time to enjoy your food and you will not overeat.

9) You are used to overeating

Studies have shown that you can overeat out of habit. There are several reasons why you form an overeating habit. For example, you can learn the behaviour from your family while growing up. You become comfortable eating more food than you require and the cycle continues.

How to avoid the habit of overeating:

Be aware that you are eating more than you need out of habit and take steps towards eating more mindfully.

10) Eating in front of the TV or computer

If you eat your food in front of the TV or computer screen, it will be difficult to focus on how full you feel, so you end up overeating because you are not fully connected to the eating experience.

How to avoid eating in front of the TV or computer:

Sit at the table and eat your meals. Allocate mealtimes for just meals and nothing else.

11) Serving with big plates or bowls

Did you know that serving your food with big plates or bowls can lead to overeating? Researchers have found that when there is additional empty space on your plate or in your bowl, you may pile more food on your plate because it makes your portion appear smaller than it actually is and this can make you overeat.

What you need to do:

Serve your food with smaller plates and bowls whenever possible.

2 WORST triggers that make you overeat

12) Dieting

Dieting and denying yourself food when you are hungry can lead to food cravings which may cause you to overeat and you gain weight.

How to avoid dieting:

Don’t follow any fad diet, instead focus on eating moderate portions of healthy real food and a healthy lifestyle.

To prevent overeating, you have to understand what drives you to eat and avoid it. It is important to eat mindfully. It is  not just the amount of food you eat but the type of food you eat is also important.

References

1) Prentice, A. M. (2001), Overeating: The Health Risks. Obesity Research, 9: 234S–238S. doi: 10.1038/oby.2001.124.

2) UT SouthWestern Medical Centre. “Ghrelin likely involved in why we choose “comfort foods” when stressed. “ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 29 June 2011.

3) Shah, J 1987, ‘Alcohol decreases insulin sensitivity in healthy subjects’, Alcohol and Alcholism, vol. 23, no.2, pp.103-109.

4) Lloyd-Richardson EE, Lucero ML, DiBello JR, Jacobson AE, Wing RR. The relationship between alcohol use, eating habits and weight change in college freshmen. Eating Behaviours 2008;9(4):504-508.

5) Yeomans MR. Alcohol, appetite and energy balance: is alcohol intake a risk factor for obesity? Physiology & Behaviour 2010;100(1):82-89

6) The Endocrine Society. “Eating Quickly Is Associated With Overeating. Study Indicates. “ScenceDaily. ScienceDaily. 4 November 2009.

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