Overeating is the consumption of more food than is necessary to satisfy hunger. When an individual over-eats frequently, it is likely caused by a psychological condition. Emotional eating, the use of food to cope with negative emotions, is a common psychological factor contributing to overeating. Unfortunately, individuals who eat to combat negative emotions often reach for unhealthy food choices. Although the overindulgence of these foods can temporarily improve your mood, it is essential to remember that it is not a healthy solution. Keep reading to dive into the psychology behind overeating and discover how it can be conquered.
Why Do People Overeat?
There are many reasons an individual may overeat; however, the most common are because they are using food to cope and become addicted, they use food as a distraction, or because they are eating habitually.
Sugary and fatty foods trigger the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure. This means that eating these foods provides a temporary mood boost that many depressed individuals find comforting. Unfortunately, this mood boost does not last too long, and when the dopamine wears off, the person begins to feel depressed again, and they often turn to food again for relief. This creates a food addiction that is quite similar to a drug or alcohol addiction.
For most people, eating is a relaxing and even fun experience, especially if they enjoy cooking. Some people who overeat use cooking and eating food as a way to distract themselves from negative emotions. If cooking is a genuine interest, participating in the hobby can be a healthy way to relieve stress and distract the mind. However, those who eat to distract themselves often prolong their meals by overeating.
Mindless eating is another form of overeating and is often a habitual activity that takes place while focusing on work, television, games, or social interactions. If you snack during these activities, it can be easy to ignore the body when it tells you it is full. This leads to eating more calories than required each time they watch TV, work, or get together with friends. Whether a person eats because they have a food addiction, are looking for a distraction, or are eating out of habit, they are likely unaware of their behaviors. Once overeating becomes a routine, it is hard to differentiate true hunger cues from the desire to use food as a coping mechanism.
How to Combat Overeating
Combating overeating can be a challenging task that requires diligence, motivation, lifestyle changes, and mindfulness. If you are struggling with overeating, you can begin the recovery process by making the following changes:
Identify Your Triggers
Overeating often begins with a triggering event such as a stressful conversation, heavy workload, chores, errands, or completing an activity. Once you have identified what triggers your eating, you can work towards developing healthier coping mechanisms.
Practice Mindful Eating
Eating mindfully is the act of paying attention to your body’s hunger and fullness cues as you eat. This can be tricky because it requires you to eat slower and pay close attention to how you feel throughout the entire meal. A great way to encourage mindful eating is to only put the appropriate serving sizes on your plate and take your time chewing. Eating slower gives your stomach time to let your brain know you are full.
Make Healthy Food Choices
If you keep healthy foods in the house or at work with you, you are less likely to overeat. Of course, if you love healthy foods, you may still overeat; however, the consequences are less severe and provide healthier alternatives while working on the deeper issue.
Seek Professional Help
Most individuals overeat because they have an underlying mental health condition like depression and they rely on that dopamine release for comfort. If that is the case for you, seeking professional help may be necessary. Your doctor can provide medications like appetite suppressants or antidepressants, and a therapist can help you heal the deeper, psychological issues that are causing the problem. Additionally, a nutritionist can teach you how to eat healthier, and it’s easier to follow a healthy diet when you have someone to report back to.
- Set healthy, realistic goals. You may want to recover from overeating because you want to lose weight, and although it is important to maintain a healthy weight, your goal should be reducing caloric intake without an emphasis on weight or appearance (that way you are under less pressure). Don’t try to change too much too soon. Drastic changes that occur all at once can lead to relapse.
- Use Natural Remedies. Many herbs suppress appetite and improve mood. Adding them to your meals can help you reduce how much you eat and regulate your emotions. Examples include garcinia cambogia, nettle, cayenne pepper, ginger, and even cannabis. (learn how to make cannabutter at veriheal )
- Find a support system. Binge-eating support groups are plentiful and can be visited in person or virtually. Having people who understand your struggles and support your recovery can make you feel less alone on your journey.
- Try Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT). CBT is a type of therapy that focuses on lifestyle, behaviors, and coping mechanisms. In CBT, you will learn how to identify triggers, challenge negative thoughts about body image and food, develop healthy coping mechanisms, and set realistic goals.