What is overeating?
The definition of overeating is eating an excess of food in relation to the energy that your body expends, leading to weight gain.
Why do we overeat?
There are a variety of things that lead to overeating. Here are a few of the most prominent reasons:
Psychological use of food for avoiding emotions
We were never taught to manage our emotions or get comfortable with them. We don’t know how to cope in times of high stress, so we turn to food to give us a sensation that drowns out the emotion. This doesn’t only apply to those with severe anxiety or depression. This applies to the mom who ‘needs’ a glass of wine at the end of her hectic day. Or the friend who feels like she ‘needs’ to treat herself to pizza cause she’s struggling with a relationship or a difficult boss. We have been taught to avoid pain, and drowning it out with other sensations has become our norm, our go to.
And food tends to be how we do that.
So much entertainment revolves around food, and a whole lot of food! Giant sodas, huge hamburgers, massive portions of pizza and pastas. We’ve come to think of it as totally normal to overeat. We’ve been fed the lie that you need to eat 3 meals, 2 snacks, and an after dinner snack or desert.
That amounts to 6 meals each day!
That is a lot of food, and it doesn’t allow our body to physically rest. Or allow us to emotionally feel what it feels like to have true satiety, feel real hunger or know what it’s like to just be in a neutral position: neither hungry or full.
The most important hormone is Insulin. The obesity epidemic is caused by too much insulin in the blood. Insulin Resistance and Diabetes have soared out of control with the increase in our consumption of high sugar and starchy foods.
And eating 6 times a day spikes your insulin 6 times a day! Wow that’s a whole lot of insulin!
Why does this matter? Insulin is a storage hormone. It signals to your liver to stop processing fat, and instead to store the foods you take in, as fat. So whenever Insulin is elevated, your body can’t use your fat as fuel.
Insulin also effects the other 2 hunger hormones: Leptin and Ghrelin.
Leptin is the hormone that gives us the sensation of being full and not needing any more food. It also lets us know it’s time to move around. It is blocked in our brains by an excess of insulin.
Ghrelin is the hormone that tells us when we are hungry or not hungry any longer. It is negatively effected by concentrated calories. For example a 300 calorie coke that doesn’t fill up your stomach like 300 calories of food would.
How to stop overeating
Identify the difference between physiological hunger vs. cravings
Physical hunger comes in waves gradually increasing. While cravings are a psychological desire for a specific food without the presence of physical hunger cues.
Understanding how your hormones play a part
When you get hungry normally it comes on in waves and then will retreat again. If you don’t eat right away, your body will access fat storage for fuel.
If you have to much Insulin, your body is blocked from using that fat for fuel and you will feel hungrier, because it also blocks the functions of Leptin and Ghrelin.
Use food to balance your hormones
The goal is to keep Insulin production as low as possible. Insulin is raised each time we eat and drops when we don’t eat. And it spikes much higher when you eat foods high in both refined sugars and carbohydrates that turn into large amounts of glucose in the blood.
So both eating less sugars, and refined high-carb food and eating less often we are allowing our Insulin levels to drop and stay low for a longer period of time. Over time this allows your body to become sensitive to Insulin again, and allows both Leptin and Ghrelin to rebalance and function as they are meant to biologically.
Once you give the Insulin, Leptin and Ghrelin time to rebalance and normalize, your hunger will do the same. You will feel hunger less frequently and feel full before you’ve reached the point of overeating. Your body is created to naturally know how much food it needs to function optimally, we have just been inundated by a variety of factors that have knocked our body’s natural functions out of whack. Let’s get that back under control and get your weight and health back under control.
The other part of eating too frequently is that you aren’t allowing your body to use what it already has stored. Our body stores glucose and fats for energy, for times when food is not readily available. Think of times of feast or famine in the past. But if you are always feasting, then you will never allow your body to access those stores for energy creation. You need to allow your body a period of ‘famine’. I’m not talking starvation and it doesn’t even need to be for a long period of time. But if you eat breakfast at 7am, there is no reason you can’t then eat lunch at 12pm. That’s 5 hours that your body can be using your own stored fat as fuel. Then again eating at 6pm, you are allowing your body to create your energy from what you previously stored. This is good and this is natural, it’s how your body was designed to work.
It can be uncomfortable when you first attempt to make these changes. Uncomfortable both physically and emotionally.
As soon as you start restricting food your body will start to protest. This is normal. Your body wants to maintain homeostasis, its current state. Your brain and body both go into a form of withdrawal. Your body isn’t used to tapping into it’s fat stores for energy, so it increases a demand for food. This can lead to negative physical symptoms (think being hangry) and also negative emotions, because when you stop using food to drown out emotion, everything comes to the surface! This is a good thing. You need to be in touch with your emotions not burying them. These protests WILL go away. Stay the course and stay comitted!
You might be saying
‘But I have to eat!’
Here is what you have to eat and no more:
Meat or Beans (for protein)
That is your minimum requirement for food. Everything else is optional.
When you say you have to eat, that is exactly what you are referring to.
When someone has to give up drinking they don’t give up all beverages, just the ones that cause them issues (all the alcoholic beverages).
When someone gives up overeating, they don’t give up all foods. But it might serve them to give up all the foods that cause them issues.
No freaking out because that sounds like a deprivation diet. It’s not!!
It’s about listening to your body, and listening to your mind, and re-learning what it means to be hungry, to be full and to be satisfied. It’s also about learning what foods make you feel awful and not eating those!
The solution is to reduce hunger and desire for food to your body’s natural state so you can weigh your natural weight.
Next week I will give you some tangible steps to help you understand how to recognize your body’s natural hunger cues and how to handle the emotional drive for eating. Join me right back here to get your control back!
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