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Why You Keep Overeating and How to Stop
It happens at all times of day and night—you get those sudden cravings that seem uncontrollable and the next thing you know you’re chowing down until the buttons on your pants are threatening to pop off. But what exactly is making you overindulge and can you do anything about it? Read on to learn what factors might be causing your overeating and how to take control of your diet again…
1 – Sugar and Fat are Addictive
You may know people who joke about being addicted to junk food. In fact, you may be one of those people yourself. But in reality junk food addiction is no laughing matter. Sugar and fat actually are addictive substances that can control your behavior.
Eating sugary and fatty foods actually stimulates endorphins, those chemicals in your brain that cause feelings of pleasure. This makes you want more to increase and maintain those pleasurable feelings. Meanwhile dopamine is released by the brain, making you crave those foods even more. The more you eat the more your body craves until you can no longer control your appetite for sugar filled and fattening foods.
Beat your sugar addiction by limiting your intake or quitting sugar completely. Use natural sweeteners to give yourself the taste of sugar without the addictive qualities. Add more foods that are naturally low in sugar and fat to your diet. As your body gets used to these healthier foods it will begin to crave them more and fatty, sugary foods less.
2 – You Eat Too Much Out of Habit
Weight gain occurs when you eat more calories than you burn. If you continue to eat more calories than you are burning your body gets used to it and you end up overeating out of habit. Habitual overeating will actually make you feel as though you are hungry when you aren’t. Many people begin to habitually overeat as children. They grow up observing this behavior and continue with the habit into adulthood. The cycle continues when they have kids of their own who habitually overeat.
The good news is that once you realize you’re overeating out of habit you can start to do something about it. Habits are part of our daily lives and take some work to break, but they can be overcome with some knowledge and effort. So how do you break the habit of overeating?
First, if you don’t already know what your daily calorie intake should be, find out. It’s easy to overeat when you aren’t sure just how much you should be taking in. Step one is to speak to your doctor or find a reliable source online that can tell you approximately how many calories you should be eating. Your age, gender, current weight, ideal weight, and activity level will all factor into your appropriate daily calorie intake.
Next, do the research to find out how many calories are in the foods you usually eat. You may be surprised to find out just how many calories are in your favorite foods, even the low-fat versions. If you exercise regularly, you will be able to eat more calories since your body will be burning more. Just be certain to cut back on your calorie intake when you’re less active.
3 – You Eat to Feel Better Emotionally
Do you find yourself craving cookies or ice cream after a bad day? Do you reach for fatty snacks to comfort you after a fight with your partner? Emotional eating is what happens when you eat food to make yourself feel better. Emotional eaters reach for comfort foods the way that smokers reach for a cigarette when they’re stressed out. Eating makes them feel calmer and more in control after an emotional upset, and so the habit of overeating becomes addictive.
If you’re an emotional eater, you have a different relationship with food then many of the people around you. Because of this, your friends and family might fail to understand why you keep overeating. As mentioned above, sweet foods cause your body to release chemicals that lift your mood. So it makes sense that you reach for them when feeling low.
The key is to begin redefining your relationship with food. If you reach for unhealthy foods whenever you’re feeling low you will only reinforce the habit. To change your relationship with food, you don’t have to quit eating sugary or fattening foods completely. Instead, indulge in a slice of your favorite pie, eat a plate of manicotti, but do it occasionally and as a celebration. Training yourself to associate food with happy occasions instead of sad ones can help you stop overeating.
4 – You Aren’t Getting Adequate Sleep
There is a definite connection between sufficient sleep and healthy weight. Going without adequate sleep makes you feel cranky and easily overwhelmed. This can lead to poor diet choices. It’s easy to justify eating an unhealthy meal or snack when you’re feeling tired and stressed out.
In addition, you’re more likely to rely on caffeinated drinks to get you through the day. Coffee, while not high in calorie by itself, can pack a caloric punch when cream, milk, and sugar are added. And other caffeinated beverages like sodas and energy drinks offer empty calories and make you even more tired when you crash.
A hormone called leptin may also be to blame for overeating among sleep deprived persons. Leptin is released by a body’s fat cells at night in order to suppress appetite. When a person sleeps less this means less leptin is released which could result in a stronger appetite leading to overeating.
Curb your overeating by getting enough sleep at night. If you can’t get in enough hours at night, supplement by taking quick, refreshing power naps.
5 – You’re Waiting too Long to Eat
Eating three meals a day is standard for many people. But sticking to the traditional breakfast, lunch, dinner routine may be causing you to overeat. When you eat and digest food it actually increases your resting metabolic rate. In other words, your body burns more calories just performing basic functions when you are consistently feeding it.
Eating more, smaller, (and of course, healthier) meals a day can actually curb your cravings to overeat. When you only eat three (or less) meals per day, you go through longer stretches of not eating. This can make you feel hungrier, even though that additional hunger might be psychological.
It’s much easier to overeat when you haven’t had food in a while. So don’t starve yourself when dieting or make yourself go through long periods of the day without food. Instead, eat five or six small meals throughout the day and always have healthy snacks on hand for any mid-meal cravings that pop up.
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