We all overeat from time to time. We’re American…that’s just what we do! Our portion sizes are huge and we live in an abundance of food. There are a few other reasons we tend to overeat:
- Food is delicious! It is actually engineered to be that way. The food industry spends billions of dollars each year researching ways to make food as addictive as possible. Scientists actually manipulate food until they reach the “bliss” point. They layer flavors by putting sweet, salty and fatty elements to create the most pleasurable experience possible.
- We don’t think about it. Eating is often done on automatic pilot. We eat in the car, in front of the tv and even standing over the sink. We are often thinking about everything except what we are eating. Research shows that we can eat up to 30% more food when we don’t pay attention to how much we actually need to satisfy hunger.
- We are stressed. When we are chronically stressed, we tend to seek out fat and sugar in an effort to balance our stress response. Some foods are able to temporarily boost serotonin levels.
- We don’t get enough sleep. More and more research points to overeating tied to lack of sleep. Sleep gives our bodies a chance to balance our hormones. Most notably, it allows our body to balance our hunger and fullness hormones. Most recent research studies show that leptin our fullness and satiety hormone is actually produced during REM sleep. When we don’t go through enough cycles of REM, our leptin levels are too low and we don’t have an “off” switch for eating.
- We wait too long to eat. If we have too much time between meals, we tend to get to the ravenous point on the hunger/fullness scale. When we get too hungry, our body doesn’t trust us to keep ourselves nourished and we tend to take in as many calories as possible.
- We eat too quickly. Most people have heard that it takes our brain about 20 minutes to recognize we aren’t hungry any longer. If we are wolfing down food, it is very easy to take in too much before we even realize we are full.
Continuous patterns of overeating make weight management and weight loss very difficult. By addressing underlying issues, we can stop the patterns of overeating. By eating mindfully, keeping stress in check, getting enough sleep and monitoring hunger and fullness, we are in a much better position to stop overeating in its tracks.