5 Reasons Why We Overeat

Friday, March 16, 2018
Like with most diseases, overeating can have its roots in our genes but can also be environmental. The world we live in has a profound affect on our weight. We are influenced by what we see and what we hear or read from the moment we wake up to the time we go to bed. It is hard to control everything but we can control much of our food environment. Despite the super-sized world we live in, it is possible to set up a positive food environment and set ourselves up for healthy lifestyle success.

There are some common causes of overeating that can be addressed and limited by the choices and changes we make.

Overeating after exercise. For many, we tend to overeat after we exercise. Research shows we think we have burned more calories than we really have and end up taking in more calories than we have actually burned. Our treadmill calorie counter is not our friend…nor is it really accurate. In a recent article in Parade magazine, Dr. Scott Kahan, director of the National Center for Weight and Wellness in Washington, states, “You can’t outrun your fork.”

Solution: Unless you’re running marathons, figure out how many calories you need to eat and stick to that, regardless of what you burn when you exercise.

Going out to Dine.  Our favorite social activity is dining out and it creates the perfect situation for overeating. Our brains tend to get set on autopilot so we fall into “mindless eating.” We order more than we should, thinking we’ll share. We drink more than one glass of wine or beer, which lowers our inhibitions. And according to Dr. Brian Wansink, an expert on behavioral economics at Cornell University, those large dinner plates prompt us to eat more, because portions appear smaller.

Solution: Integrate some fun and active social happenings with friends instead of focusing solely on eating. Consider pickle ball, bowling, line dancing, wall climbing, or visit a trampoline park.

Sleep deprivation. Dr. Michael Breus explains that our hormones are greatly affected by our lack of Sleep. As the author of The Sleep Doctor’s Diet Plan, Breus tells us that ghrelin, the “hunger hormone” that stimulates appetite, increases, while leptin, the “satiety hormone” that triggers fullness, decreases with less sleep. Additionally, low levels of leptin have been shown to increase our cravings for carbohydrates, which more often than not don’t mitigate hunger.

Solution: Make it a priority to get in more sleep. Seven to ten hours is recommended. Create “sleep” rituals like turning off the TV, taking a warm bath or reading a book before bed to help increase your sleep.

Foods labeled “healthy” encourage us to eat more. A recent report published in the Journal of the Association for Consumer Research explained that when something is labeled healthy we tend to think eating more of it is better for us. It tricks us into over eating.

Solution: Always practice portion control no matter the labeling.

We exclude fats from our diet. So much of our lives we have spent eliminating fats from our diets. Now we know this is also limiting our success in avoiding overeating. Fats make food taste good and they contribute to helping us feel full. “Eating fat does not make you fat; rather, it’s critical for health and weight loss,” says Dr. Mark Hyman, director of Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Functional Medicine.

Solution: Incorporate healthy fats into your diet as part of your daily meal plan. Include fats like those found in avocados, nuts, seeds, salmon, olives, olive and canola oil. And make sure to avoid trans fats.

A friend who has lost 70 pounds this past year said to me recently—“You lose weight in the kitchen and get fit in the gym.” The more I think about it the more I realize the truth in this statement. Overeating is all about what we do around food. But to manage our ability to avoid overeating we need to tend to our whole selves and recognize we deserve this tending and are…oh…so…worth it!

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