Have you ever noticed how incredibly easy it is to overeat? So many people can down a six-pack of beer, eat through a large pizza, or munch a whole bag of chips in a single sitting. Food is just so enjoyable, in so many different ways. Whether your tastes run toward sweet treats, savory dishes, salty snacks, or even sour delights, it’s tough to eat in moderation.
Why is that? What is it about food that makes it so easy to over-eat?
Well, here’s a truth you may not realize: food isn’t the only thing to blame…
There are a number of reasons that you may end up overeating:
Genetics – We are all genetically predisposed to enjoy certain flavors (some sweet, some salty, some sour, etc.). Thanks to the high availability of food, we can always find snacks, treats, and high-calorie meals that cater to our tastes.
Of course, some people are also genetically predisposed to addictive behavior, including over-eating. Even though genetics can play a role in your tendencies to eat more than is good for your health, you can still reverse the trend if you follow the advices at the end of this article.
Survival – The human body is the ultimate survival mechanism. It’s always trying to store more fat (back-up energy) in case of emergency situations with very little food available. This survival mechanism is what causes your body to shut down when you deprive it of calories.
Addictive Foods – Sugar is one of the most addictive substances on the planet! Sugar stimulates the pleasure pathways in our brains, giving us a temporary “high” similar to any drug. Being the pleasure-seeking creatures we are, we grow addicted to the foods because of that stimulation. However, as with any drug, regular exposure reduces the “high”, so we end up eating more and more sugary foods just to get that same stimulation we got the first time we ate sugar.
Of course, that’s just one of the many addictive ingredients in our food. Monosodiumglutamate (MSG) is a food additive used to make most processed and packaged foods addicting. MSG stimulates the sensation of taste rather than actually enhancing flavors. We become addicted to MSG foods because our brains tell us they taste so much better than they really do.
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Stress – When we’re stressed, we look for things to boost our mood. The mood-boosting effects of sugar means that sugary treats are our go-to snack when feeling stressed, anxious, or depressed. People who “stress eat” or “eat emotionally” often have a tendency to overeat because they’re not eating out of genuine hunger, but a craving to balance their emotions using food.
These are just the four primary reasons we overeat, but there are many more. Understanding these reasons is the first step toward controlling our eating habits and curbing overeating!
Nutrient deficiencies – Think of all the nutrients your body needs: Vitamin A for your eyes, Vitamin E for your skin, calcium for your bones, iron for your red blood cells, zinc for your immune system, and so many more. Thanks to the low-quality, highly processed food available today, we often end up suffering from nutritional imbalances, or a lack of proper nourishment.
When your body realizes it needs more nutrients, it sends signals to eat more. However, we end up eating more low-quality food, thus never truly satisfying our body’s demand for nutrients. Your body will always be in “starvation mode” for vitamins and minerals because of the low-quality food.
These are just the five primary reasons we overeat, but there are many more. Understanding these reasons is the first step toward controlling our eating habits and curbing overeating!
Here are my five simple strategies to help you stop overeating:
Clean up your diet. Get rid of processed and artificially-flavored foods. Stick with foods that are raw and natural: veggies, fruits, nuts, seeds, whole grains, meat, poultry, dairy, and fish. If it comes in a can, box, or package, don’t eat it! Cook everything from its natural state, and you’ll avoid the addictive food additives.
Cut back on sugar. Like WAY back, to as little sugar as humanly possible! You can enjoy the natural sugar in fruit, but avoid refined sugar, confectioner’s sugar, artificial sweeteners, and anything with high fructose corn syrup. Basically, your only source of sweetness should come from fruits in their raw, natural state—no powdered sugar of ANY sort!
Eat breakfast. Start your day off with a healthy, balanced meal, and you’ll have far fewer cravings throughout the day. A big breakfast can also increase satiety and decrease your appetite all day long. You’re far less likely to overeat if you have a meal of protein, whole grains, and unsaturated and saturated fats to start off the day.
Be mindful of your food choices. Don’t eat only because food tastes good, but eat also to provide your body the healthy nutrients needed for your daily work life, home life, and exercise. Stop seeing food as pleasure only, but treat it as healthy fuel as well—it can both taste good and provide you the energy required. Be mindful of the choices you make, and always strive to choose the healthier option when given a choice.
Watch out for “trigger foods”. There’s always that one food that can shatter your resolve and set you off on a binge of eating junk food. It may be soda, pizza, cookies, crackers, or potato chips—whatever it is, be aware of your trigger foods and avoid them at all costs.
You don’t have to be held hostage by sugar cravings or your genetic predisposition to overeating. Make these five changes and take back control of your life!
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