7 Reasons Why You’re Overeating

by | Oct 9, 2021 | Health Articles

If you find yourself over eating often, you’re not alone! It’s a common experience and in today’s post I’m sharing 7 reasons why you may be over eating, experiencing lots of cravings, or even binge eating.

A while back I made a video on 10 signs you’re not eating enough, and many of you asked me to share more on the opposite: over eating! There are all kinds of reasons why we can over eat, and in today’s post, I’m going to share 7 reasons why. I guarantee you’ll be able to relate to at least a couple of them, because we all experience cravings and over eating from time to time. Sometimes however, it can be helpful to understand why we may experience over eating frequently, and what we can do about it.

But firstly, what is overeating?

What is Overeating?

Overeating can simply mean eating beyond a comfortable level of fullness or eating more than your body needs for energy.

There’s also binge eating disorder (BED) and binge eating tendencies. I won’t go into the specifics on binge eating disorder in this post, but it involves recurrent, uncontrollable episodes of eating an excessive amount of food, often feeling guilty afterwards. Binge eating tendencies on the other hand tend to be less often and less severe.

In any case, there are many reasons why we may overeat. Know that you’re not alone if you experience this. There’s nothing wrong with you if you overeat, there is no moral connection to who you are as a person, and it doesn’t mean you don’t have enough “willpower”.

That’s right — willpower is not part of this equation whatsoever.

So let’s talk about 7 reasons why you may be overeating in the first place, and what you can do about it so that you can feel more balanced around food and have a much more satisfying, enjoyable eating experience.

7 Reasons Why You’re Overeating

1. Not Eating Enough

Not eating enough or under eating through the day is one of the top reasons for over eating. You may be doing this intentionally, like limiting portion sizes, eating based on calories or another quantifiable limit, cutting out food groups, or placing strict rules around food. But you may also under eat unintentionally, such as skipping breakfast, not packing a filling enough lunch, going too long between meals, or only managing to eat a protein bar during a busy workday, making you feel ravenous by the end of the day.

Not eating enough leads to overeating because your body is presenting its natural, normal biological need for fuel. And this need can often be intense!

Restricting food intentionally, such as for dieting or weight loss purposes, is not a sustainable way to eat. You may last a day or two cutting out certain foods, but you’ll often end up bingeing on the restricted food(s) because of deprivation. This cycle can repeat itself many times, and leads many to believe they have no control or willpower around food. But the real issue lies in restriction: this will always drive you to desire a food even more.

Trust me when I say that the key to eating in a sensible way and feeling great is not to force yourself to eat less, but to allow yourself to eat enough.

Solution: Eat more through the day. Especially enough protein, complex carbs, fibre, and fats with your meals and snacks.

2. Assigning Morality to Food

Ever felt like there are ‘good’ and ‘bad’ foods? Or felt good when you’re eating healthy, and guilty when you’re not? These types of feelings around food occur when we assign morality to food. Sometimes we’ll even go so far as deeming a food as off-limits because it’s “bad” or “unhealthy”. Psychologically speaking, putting food on a pedestal in this way makes us want it more.

Solution: Removing morality around food is key here. You may need to do this one food at a time, but fully allow yourself to eat what you desire. Eventually, the novelty wears off and your desire for it is no longer as extreme. This allows you to have much more control around food and gain better balance. Working with a professional to help you navigate this process can be helpful.

3. Imbalanced Blood Sugar

If our blood sugar is low, we’re going to crave sugar and carbs. Low blood sugar also occurs when we’re not eating enough, or restricting energizing foods like carbohydrates from rice, grains, or fruit.

There’s a circulating belief that carbs = weight gain, but our weight is so much more complicated than this. Our body’s primary source of fuel is carbohydrates, and we need adequate amounts of them each day to feel our best. If you’re not eating many carbs, you’re bound to crave them.

Solution: Get enough protein, fibre, and fat through day with meals and snacks to help keep your blood sugar balanced. Opt for complex carbs (such as whole grains vs. white, or veggies with the skin on) with your meals. You’ll notice your cravings decrease.

4. Mindless Eating

Ever watched a movie and continuously reached your hand into a bag of potato chips without realizing it? Mindless eating is another reason for over eating as it creates a disconnect between ourselves and our fullness cues. This can involve eating in front of the TV, while driving, or while multi-tasking and can cause us to eat more than we necessarily want to.

Solution: Practice mindful eating. Here are a few ways you can get started:

  1. Pay attention to the food in front of you by limiting distractions (e.g. phone, TV)
  2. Take a moment to really notice tastes, smells, and textures
  3. Slow down when eating and pause between bites
  4. Try checking in with yourself before, during, and after you eat with reflections such as: Am I still hungry? How does this food taste? Is my stomach satisfied or am I beginning to feel uncomfortably full?

5. You Don’t Want to Waste Food

Another reason for over eating is feeling like you must finish everything on your plate. Many of us grow up being told to finish everything on our plates, and while this is usually taught with good intentions, we can develop a habit of eating more than we actually want or need. Of course, wasting food is not ideal so if you can, pack up those leftovers. Just know that just because there is more food on your plate, it doesn’t mean you have to finish it, especially if you’re feeling quite full.

Solution: Reduce the occurrence of excess food on your plate by putting less on at first, and adding more if you’re still hungry.

6. Emotional Eating

Emotional eating is when your emotions — anything from boredom to stress or grief — guide what, when, and how much you eat, rather than your physical hunger signals. Sometimes we turn to food, even if we’re not hungry, instead of coping with our emotions. Low self-esteem can also play a role in emotional eating. Have you ever felt like nourishing yourself just isn’t worth it?

Solution: Emotional eating can be complicated, so always work with a professional if you know you need further guidance. But a great place to start is reflecting before you reach for a food. Ask yourself: am I physically hungry? If not, how am I actually feeling? If there’s something else you’re feeling, try redirecting that energy to other activities such as journaling, reading a book, chatting with a trusted friend, or making yourself a cup of hot tea. Whatever it is, make sure it’s something you truly enjoy, and not something you’re doing just because you should or have to.

7. You’re Enjoying Yourself!

Finally — the last reason on this list why we may over eat is because we’re enjoying ourselves! Sometimes food simply tastes good. Perhaps you’re out with friends and want order dessert, or you’re enjoying your lunch. Even if you feel full, it’s completely normal and okay to eat beyond physical fullness just for the purpose of pleasure.

Over eating happens and it’s sometimes part of our eating experience. Enjoy yourself! If you desire the taste of more food even though you’re full, go for it. There’s need to force yourself to stop. Likewise, if you’re feeling full and don’t really want more food, simply say no thank you.

The subject of over eating can be complicated and everyone’s experiences are different. If you feel like you need more support, you can always work with a qualified professional.

Resources:

by Meghan Livingstone

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MEGHAN LIVINGSTONE, CNP

Hi, I’m Meghan. I’m a Certified Holistic Nutritionist, blogger, and YouTuber with a passion for healthy, simple living. I’m here to inspire you to listen to your body, eat mindfully and wholesomely, and create a fulfilling life that’s completely unique to you.

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