Before your fitness journey, your relationship with food may not have been particularly mindful and the majority of your food probably was not chockfull of leafy greens, but for many it may feel like it was certainly easier.
Food probably wasn’t typically associated with guilt or had negative connotations, but after trying to be healthier it has almost all of a sudden brought food to the forefront of many a nightmare – from binge eating to cheat days that turned into cheat weeks, it has the potential to become a vicious cycle.
While many people who overeat regularly tell themselves “I’m not going to do that next weekend” or “I’ll start over on Monday”, it’s more productive to think about the root of the problem – which is not always only related to moderate-high intensity exercise – instead of punish yourself for something you seemingly have no control over.
Below we go over some common reasons many people overeat and what you can do to overcome them.
You’re eating too few calories.
Oftentimes, when embarking on a new “diet” we look to get super strict with ourselves – whether it’s sticking to only protein and veggies or 1,200 calories a day. On top of this, we also try to work out daily, too. While you may feel totally fine for the first few days, your body will start to realize what you’re doing and retaliate sending you signals that you’re hungry.
What does your body crave most when it’s feeling this way? Sugar and fat and excess.
Oftentimes people who “binge and purge” starve themselves throughout the week and then go absolutely crazy on food on the weekend.
Prevent this by actually eating more (now that’s a tip you will like!) throughout the week to keep your mind and body consistent. It’s true. You can lose more weight by eating more. Think about it: A few hundred extra calories daily will save you from those extra 5-10,000 calories typically consumed in a binge – sometimes more.
2. You are too dead set on a specific diet.
Confession time. I was vegan for a very long time until I realized that it was causing me to overeat. Now, there will be people saying I was “doing it wrong” and whatever other plethora of accusations, but I had tried just about every variety of the vegan diet and the outcome was always the same – bloating, always hungry and no weight loss progress.
With some trial & error I came to find that I felt most satisfied and less bloated on a high protein, high fat diet consisting of mostly plants with lean animal proteins a couple times a day.
My best advice in this scenario is to stop thinking you “have” to eat a certain way. If you’re a crossfitter, for example, and everyone around you is eating Paleo but you’re feeling like it’s bulking you up instead of leaning you down (and that’s not what you want), then eat differently! Life is too short to be so militant about your eating choices or eat according to a different person’s dietary preferences.
3. You associate certain foods with being “bad”.
If I tell you not to think about elephants, what will you end up thinking about? Elephants, of course.
If you keep telling yourself that chocolate is sinful and bread is the devil’s work, guess what you’ll be dreaming of come post- happy hour? Bread and chocolate.
If you simply cannot live without certain indulgences, you don’t have to forgo them completely. As a matter of fact, feel free to have a couple of pieces of dark chocolate a night or every other night. It’s much better than trying to endure your craving only to cave to a whole chocolate cake – even if that does sound delicious.
4. You are not drinking enough water.
Oftentimes, people mistake thirst for hunger. It always surprises me to see how little people drink throughout the work day or how they replace water with sugary beverages that, in turn, make you crave more sugar.
An easy solution would be to bring in your refillable water bottle to work, school, etc. and make sure to drink at least 3 liters daily.
5. You are not sleeping enough.
It may seem weird that not getting enough sleep may lead to overeating, but it’s certainly true. As a matter of fact, irregular or insufficient sleep patterns can lead to a variety of detrimental health effects.
In a new report by the American Heart Association’s annual Epidemiology and Prevention/Nutrition, Physical Activity and Metabolism conference – as told by TIME – people who were sleep deprived ate more than 500 additional calories daily.
500? Daily? That’s a lot and sure does add up quick. Take into account that 1 lb of fat can be gained from having a surplus of 3,500 calories and you could be packing on the pounds without even noticing!
Make sure you hit the snooze button every night at the same or similar times for a full 8-10 hours for an adequate night’s sleep.
6. You are eating too many “addicting” foods.
Most commonly seen in people who are less inclined to eat healthily, those who eat a lot of sugar, salts and fats often perpetuate their own behavior by continuing to eat these foods, then craving them more and so on and so forth.
If your current diet is already full of these kinds of junk foods, you will find that totally “resetting” your diet can actually make you groggy. That’s because your body will initially go through a “detox” phase.
However, the longer you stick to whole foods and less added sugars, the less you will crave them.
7. You don’t manage stress well, have anxiety or depression.
There’s a reason why there’s a phrase depicting “eating your feelings” or saying that “stressed spelled backwards is desserts”.
When we are anxious or feeling stressed, our brains are constantly looking for that dopamine fix and what could be the best self medication than readily available comfort foods and desserts?
Many people struggle with stress eating and it’s nothing to be ashamed about. My best advice would be that instead of stocking up on snacks to eat in the privacy of your home, take a walk. Go outside and get some vitamin D. All you need to do is go on a 10 minute walk to see how much better you will feel.
Other ways to manage your stress could be through exercise or meditation.
If these feelings seem to have spiraled out of control – especially depression – it is best to visit your doctor to discover what healthy steps you can take moving forward.
8. You skip meals and/or snacks.
I used to guffaw at the saying that “breakfast was the most important meal of the day”. I couldn’t understand it, but now as a full-time employee I can see why.
If you skip breakfast – or eat the wrong kind of breakfast – you will only become hungrier by lunchtime which means you will eat that much more at that meal or snack more throughout the day. The same goes for the other meals of the day.
My best advice is to eat when you’re hungry and only until you feel satisfied, not full. Of course there will be special dinners and events when you will feel extra “stuffed” but this should not be a regular occurrence.
9. You are too sedentary.
You may be sitting at your desk all day or lacking time in the gym. In any case, especially sitting in a chair all day can often lead to a feeling of “boredom”. This boredom is typically remedied by quick snacks.
It may seem cliche but those MARS BARS you keep in your desk drawer are just a coping mechanism.
If you find you’re an avid snacker it may be necessary to change your eating schedule, like for example eating 6 smaller meals instead of 3 larger meals. You could also make sure to keep healthier options like nuts and clean energy bars on hand for when snack attacks strike.
In addition, make sure you are getting your 10,000 steps daily and working out regularly. If you are eating mindfully and sufficiently (look at #1), this kind of physical activity should regulate your appetite as well.
For more on Eating Well, check out our articles here.