Are you an overeater?
At some point, we have all done it and it happens for a range of different reasons – overeating. Boredom; access to large volumes of tasty food and not having the ability to identify real hunger just a few of the reasons that we may find ourselves eating far more than we need to. If we overate occasionally it would not an issue. Unfortunately, far too many of us overeat on almost a daily basis and are gaining weight as a result. So, if you regularly go to bed bursting with food, or have had to undo your pants button after eating too much again, it may be time to take a closer look at why you are overeating.
Why do we overeat?
Overeating on a regular basis is often strongly linked to our mood – sadness, frustration, anger or any unresolved emotion can see individuals turn to food for comfort. This behavioural response can be taught to us when we are small via parents or carers who offer food, usually sweet foods, to soothe crying babies, injured infants or hurt teens. Or it can be self-taught as we remember the pleasure that we experience instantaneously when we eat certain foods and seek out this sensation again to ease emotional pain. Unfortunately while the food temporarily fills the emotional void, the void is not fixed for good, and hence the habit of overeating may continue for months if not years.
It is also not difficult to overeat, because the body lets it happen – the fullness mechanism is nowhere near as tightly regulated as hunger is which means that we can easily eat beyond feeling full, especially when high calorie, high fat food is readily available. Awareness of when overeating is more likely to occur is an important part of taking control of overeating. Another important strategy is learning to compensate when you have overeaten and engineering your environment to make it more difficult to overeat, simply because if the food is not there, you can’t eat it!
Know your high risk situations.
You may do it socially, when you are at work or it may be linked to your snacking after dinner but chances are that there will be a time in your day or week in which you find that you are more likely to overeat. Once you identify what times are risky for you, it becomes easier to develop strategies to manage these times and scenarios.
Get in tune with your hunger and fullness signals.
For many of us, we eat so much, so often that we cannot remember the last time we felt really hungry. Take control of your food intake by starting to pay closer attention to the point in which you actually start to feel full. In general, it is a mouthful or two prior to the actual ‘full’ feeling. Serve yourself less at meals than you usually would and then prolong the eating occasion by chewing each mouthful slowly and placing your knife and fork down in between mouthfuls. Also aim to finish eating well before you feel truly ‘full’ – this process of not eating until you feel ‘stuffed’ is crucial.
Engineer the environments.
If you keep a ready supply of easily accessible, highly tempting treats at home or at work, chances are that when you are tired, bored or emotional – you will eat them. For this reason, packets of biscuits and blocks of chocolates need to be purchased for special occasions only rather than keeping them on hand and then expecting not to eat them. Speak to family members, colleagues and other ‘feeders’ to ensure that treats and indulgences are regulated not a daily occurrence and keep well away from foods that can be mindlessly over consumed from biscuit tins, lolly jars or via celebratory cakes and slices colleagues bring to work.
Learn to compensate.
A final strategy that may also prove useful as you seek to gain control and ultimately prevent overeating is to compensate when you do overindulge. A day of simple salad and soups and some extra exercise will not only help you to feel physically better when you have overeaten but it will help teach you to balance your intake with your output on a daily basis.
Top tips for avoiding overeating
If you really do not want to eat it, do not keep it in the house
Plan your meals and snacks so you do not get too hungry and more prone to overeat
Avoid smorgasbords and other “all you can eat” places
Put leftovers away immediately
Eat lightly on the day you are planning to eat out
End your meal with something small and sweet
Go for a walk after meals to get out of the kitchen
Do not over shop; buy only what you need each week
Have a snack before you attend social occasions where food will be served
Quantify your hunger and aim to only eat when you are at 8 or 9 out of 10