Learning what the common triggers for eating too much food are and how to manage them is our best defense against expanding waistlines.
Food is an essential element of life that can be one of the most pleasurable. Unfortunately, overeating is now leading to a growing global public health problem. More than two-thirds of all adults are overweight and half of these are obese. Being seriously overweight is a major risk factor for chronic diseases, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
The source of the problem of overeating is we have an innate drive to eat in response to BOTH internal and external cues. We can feel the hunger in response to energy stores being low or with the scent of food. Here are some of the top reasons people overeat and some strategies to resist the urge.
EMOTIONAL EATING. When your drive to eat is not about hunger but instead for the pleasure of eating or to make yourself feel better. Numerous studies have shown that eating holds a lot of power as a tool for comfort and nurture. But there is more. Carbohydrates are known to increase levels of serotonin (antidepressant effects) in the brain. Eating has also been shown to increase levels of dopamine, a feel-good neurotransmitter in the brain.
EATING TO EASE BOREDOM. Many people, healthy or overweight, have eaten out of boredom. Boredom-eating has been cited as a central reason for overeating.
EATING TO EASE STRESS. Eating is soothing. Emotional stress plays a big role in the urge to overeat. When people feel stress, the body releases cortisol and the body prepares for a fight-or-flight response with an increased desire to consume high energy (high calorie) foods. When people are under continuous stress, the urge to overeat can lead to increased weight gain over time.
ENVIRONMENTAL TRIGGERS TO OVEREAT
FOOD IS EVERYWHERE. Food is advertised and promoted continuously. Sitting at work and an ad for a snack appears, you can be triggered to get up and find yourself a snack.
EATING IS SOCIAL. People gather to eat and our natural urge to be apart of the group, can contribute to overeating.
EATING MINDFULLY. Understanding your eating cues can help! Becoming aware of when you are full, your own eating patterns and eating triggers to take control and reduce overeating. When you feel the urge to eat, ask yourself BEFORE you head to get food, where the urge is coming from and are you really hungry. OR is something else fueling your drive to eat? Try rating your hunger on a scale of 1-10, only eat if you are 6 or greater. If you are not hungry, try engaging in activities that are incompatible with eating like doing errands or going for a walk. Overeating is common but you can develop strategies to cope and reduce overeating!