Overeating Part 1: Habit and Non-Emotional Overeating
Changing a long-standing behaviour is hard, and comfort eating and gorging on great tasting, but, often non-nutritious foods, trigger the reward centre in our brain. Therefore, it is vital to identify your stressors and triggers, this way you can be prepared. Regardless of the trigger, stress responses are often what causes us to turn to food. If stress is high, giving up something that feels good is going to be harder than usual. If your stress is chronic, then the thought of making any changes to your behaviours can seem like a monumental task as you are already juggling a lot.
Habit and Non-Emotion Driven Causes of Overeating
First of all, there are plenty of non-emotional reasons you may be overeating, let us cover these ﬁrst – they may be down to old sabotaging habits that you have not questioned before. However, once these habits are recognised, they are often easy enough to alter. This results in you gaining more control, and becoming more in tune, with your body. In turn, this lessens the chances of overeating.
Eat breakfast, and Eat Regularly
As you move through midday and dinner, your energy needs naturally decrease. Whereas, in the ﬁrst half of the day bodies naturally have more energy, and therefore have better ability to digest and metabolise larger caloric intake. Moreover, if you often skip breakfast and grab a large lunch on the go, you may be familiar with that 2:00 pm sluggish feeling. You should consider switching to more calories ﬁrst thing, perhaps some banana with peanut butter or even nuts if you feel you are too pushed for time to prepare everything.
When busy it is too easy to skips meals, however allowing yourself to get too hungry often means we over-consume at the next opportunity to eat. However, have you ate a meal and not felt that full after – then 20 minutes later you suddenly feel stuﬀed? This may be because eating irregularly and on the go has not given your brain a chance to send out the correct signals which turn on the necessary digestive functions, as well as assimilate nutrients. This delays the relaying of neurotransmitter signals that are responsible for telling your brain when you are full. Which means you often eat more than you need. Create a regular eating cycle, and this will train your body to start to recognise when to expect food, which in turn will create optimal digestion and fat burning. Studies show that eating five smaller portions and snacks throughout the day helps to keep hunger at bay and lessen the chance of going oﬀ plan.
As we now know, we are most likely to fall oﬀ track in the evening, meal preparation, and a cut oﬀ point are great ways to prevent this. Create a wind-down period, for example, tell yourself no food after 8:30 pm, have a bubble bath, in favour of sweet snacks and your favourite television show. If you are working hard all day long, it’s easy to see the quiet of an evening as your reward – as it should be- however make sure your rewards support and not hinder your progress.
Between living your life, working, trying to eat healthily and exercising, it is too easy to get caught up and forget the importance of sleep. However, sleep is scientiﬁcally proven to be a vital key to being rewarded for your diet and ﬁtness eﬀorts.Research published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that when dieters received adequate rest, half of the weight they lost was from fat. However, when they cut back on sleep, the amount of fat lost was halved. Also, they felt signiﬁcantly hungrier, less satisﬁed after meals, and lacked the energy to exercise. This may be down to the fact that hunger is largely aﬀected by two hormones: leptin and ghrelin. The less leptin you produce, the more your stomach feels empty. The more ghrelin you produce, the more hunger is stimulated. Moreover, you need to control leptin and ghrelin to successfully lose weight, but, less than six hours sleep depresses leptin and stimulates ghrelin. As if this wasn’t reason enough to get more sleep ‘Nature Communications’ published a study which found one night of sleep deprivation was enough to impair activity in your frontal lobe, this is the area that controls complex decision-making. With a temporarily impaired frontal lobe you are not likely to have the mental clarity to make good complex decisions, foods decisions included. We are a lot more likely to decide to eat that slice of cake after a poor night sleep. There is no absolute number that applies to all of us but, it is best to aim at seven and nine hours sleep and make sure that one miserable night of sleep isn’t followed up with a few more. As you can now see, sleep is just as vital as eating well and exercising when it comes to your healthy lifestyle, and weight loss progress.
Although your body is extremely talented at extracting nutrients from what you consume, if you are only consuming highly processed or non-nutritious foods, your body will continue to send out signals that you need more nutrients, however you may interpret these as hunger signals, when in reality is it your body calling out for more nutritious foods, causing a fallout and miscommunication between your stomach and brain. When dishing out your meals try and follow the “Eat food, not too much. And mostly plants” approach, put greater focus on quality proteins, fats, and complex carbohydrates (like vegetables, fruits, beans, and high-ﬁbre grains). You may notice once you start feeding your body what it needs, cravings and desire to overeat naturally fade.