Overeating – Causes, Symptoms & The Best Ways to Stop it
Overeating is simply eating more than what your body needs or requires. The human body needs a fixed number of calories to survive and perform daily functions. Overeating happens when you eat more calories than what your body needs.
There are many causes for overeating ranging from physiological issues to social cues. The key is to identify these issues and address them. Fortunately, there is a lot of awareness and research being done around overeating and how to tackle it.
This article takes you through the various aspects of overeating and the best ways to tackle it.
What is Overeating?
Overeating is a term that refers to a larger food intake when compared to energy expenditure resulting in undue weight gain, also termed as obesity.
Surprisingly, overeating can be temporary or short-term and is associated with festivals, celebrations, partying or fasting for extended hours. This generally causes a temporary unpleasant feeling post-meal but doesn’t have any major impact on weight gain or obesity.
Long-term or extended overeating or binge eating is dangerous, often leading to obesity and causing several health conditions such as diabetes, hypertension other heart problems, digestion issues, etc.
There are many factors that contribute to overeating among the general population. Some research studies consider overeating as an addictive behavior likening it to smoking and alcohol addiction.
A 2009 review article published in the Journal “Appetite” states that overeating and drug addiction have similar features and mechanisms of working. This means that the whole perspective of looking at overeating and ways to tackle it may need an overhaul.
A clear-cut understanding of why overeating happens and the medical and other reasons behind it can help us eliminate the root causes allowing for a holistic approach towards controlled eating patterns, thereby aiding in weight reduction.
There may be many reasons behind overeating. The causes may include psychological factors such as stress, physiological factors such as hormonal imbalances, or even environmental factors such as the availability of unhealthy junk food at cheaper rates.
1. Psychological Factors
Emotional eating is overeating or undereating in response to negative emotions such as stress or depression.
Additionally, those suffering from negative emotions such as depression in combination with shorter duration of sleep at night suffer higher rates of obesity compared to those who have a better sleep schedule.
In some cases, treatment of depression is associated with reduced overeating which results in lower weight gain and better health.
Stress also contributes as a significant factor to compulsive eating and overeating.. Chronic stress leads to the stimulation of the Hypothalamic Pituitary Adrenal or HPA axis resulting in binge eating, ultimately leading to obesity.
2. Physiological Factors
Certain important hormones in our body also influence our food habits and the way we eat. Hormones such as thyroid hormones, leptin, insulin, growth hormones, androgens, and estrogens are all connected with the human appetite.
Any disturbances or metabolic issues with these hormones may cause overeating or binge eating.
3. Environmental Factors
The availability of junk foods at cheap prices coupled with constant exposure to advertisements may lead to compulsive eating. Junk food cravings are being likened to addiction and there is a constant need to keep going back to them to achieve satisfaction thus leading to overeating.
Genetics is known to play a significant role in overeating. While it is difficult to pinpoint the exact genes that contribute to binge eating, a combination of various genes is believed to influence the eating habit.
The pregnant mother overeating during pregnancy is also believed to influence overeating and junk food cravings in the offspring.
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The symptoms of overeating may manifest in many ways and there are many health risks to overeating. We list some of them below.
1. Acid reflux
When you eat more than your body can take or requires, it results in an imbalance of stomach acids which causes acid reflux. The digestive system produces stomach acids at regular intervals. When there is no food in the stomach to counter these acids, you tend to feel hungry. Overeating disturbs the frequency of production of these acids resulting in acid reflux. Overeating disorder can also lead to conditions such as gastritis.
2. Digestion- related Issues
When you eat more than what your stomach can hold, your digestive system will start getting stressed out in an attempt to digest the excessive food. This can lead to digestion issues in the form of feeling excessively full and heavy, difficulty in digestion, stomach pain and stomach discomfort, heartburn, and nausea.
3. General Discomfort
When you overeat your capacity, your stomach has to expand to accommodate the excessive food. This results in it putting pressure on the organs surrounding it. As a result, you may feel heavy and uncomfortable. This discomfort will also cause you to feel tired and sluggish.
How to Stop Overeating – Top 10 Tips
While the cycle of overeating is difficult to break, it is not impossible. With a few simple tips, you can break this chain and make a move towards healthy eating.
1. Address to Root Cause of Overeating
If your overeating is due to a physiological or psychological cause, addressing the issue and getting treated is the first step.
Stress eating or emotional eating can be addressed by visiting a psychologist or a psychotherapist and getting the necessary treatments.
Since hormonal imbalances may also often lead to overeating, a visit to a physician, getting the necessary tests done and getting treated for the hormonal imbalances may help work on the overeating disorder.
2. Portion Control
Portion control is an extremely important step in avoiding overeating or binge eating. An understanding of the right portion size and the number of portions allowed per day is the right step in this direction. Having multiple small portions of meals in a day can help control hunger while ensuring the intake of small portions.
3. Including Fiber-rich Foods
The goal should be to include foods that keep you fuller for longer. This may help curb the cravings to an extent. Including fiber-rich foods with every meal and snack can be a helpful step in this direction.
4. Avoiding Foods That Can Cause Cravings
Foods that induce cravings are the most common inducers of overeating. Foods high in salts, sugars, empty calories and saturated fats are the foods that mostly cause overeating due to the comforting effects they have on the brain and the body. Controlling the intake of these foods or avoiding them completely may help avoid overeating to an extent.
5. Mindful Eating
Practicing mindful eating, focusing on what you are eating, and slowly chewing while you have your meal can have a positive impact on your eating habits, potentially letting you avoid overeating or binge eating. Try to have at least one meal with your family, make mealtimes an enjoyable affair and your chance to unwind from the stress of the day.
6. Avoid Distractions
Screen time during meal times is the biggest culprit that leads to overeating. Focussing on something else other than feed prevents you from understanding what you are eating and when you are full. Avoid television or phones when eating. Do not take any phone calls. Instead, focus on what you are eating and how much you are eating.
7. Avoid Skipping Meals
We are all guilty of skipping meals at some point. Whether you are too busy to eat, feel too lazy to cook or order in, or basically don’t feel like eating, skipping meals is quite common. It is also a common culprit that may lead to overeating. Skipping one meal may cause you to feel hungry at an odd hour, tempt you to eat junk, and also cause you to overeat as you may feel excessively hungry at this point.
8. Change Your Lifestyle
Following a healthy routine is the key to resetting your body. Have a proper sleep routine and ensure that you get at least eight hours of sleep at night. Those who sleep well may tend to skip overeating. Have set meal times every day. Following this routine, every day can help condition your body into eating healthy.
9. Avoid Alcohol
Social drinking has become the norm of the day. But with drinking comes the risk of eating more. Alcohol is known to be a precursor to overeating due to the company and also due to the way it works on your brain. Staying away from alcohol can be a great help in avoiding overeating.
10. Stay Hydrated
Staying hydrated is helpful in many ways. Apart from allowing smooth functioning of your body, proper hydration also ensures that you stay satiated. Sometimes your body may mistake thirst cues for hunger cues and force you to eat more. Staying hydrated may fight these cues, keep you feeling fuller and also may contribute to your overall health and wellness.
“Overeating is a sin”. But is it really? The answer is No. Eating too much often happens due to reasons beyond our control. But having said that, it is possible to get back this control and use the knowledge, research, and medical knowledge available to reverse this trend.
Understanding and accepting overeating disorder is the first step toward gaining a healthy life. Maintaining a food journal, and rewarding yourself every time you are able to achieve success with your food goals will all help you get control over uncontrolled eating and turn your life around towards the healthier side.
What are the health risks of eating too much?
Eating too much in the long run can lead to excessive weight gain which can, in turn, lead to various diseases such as heart problems, diabetes and metabolic disorders.Undue weight can cause you to feel tired, sluggish, nauseous and heavy. You may feel sleepy all the time and lose interest in doing anything. Eating too much also puts excessive load on the digestive system causing you to develop digestive disorders such as gas, bloating, acidity, feeling heavy, difficulty digesting food, and conditions such as gastritis.
What are the health risks of eating too much?
Eating too much in the long run can lead to excessive weight gain which can, in turn, lead to various diseases such as heart problems, diabetes and metabolic disorders. Undue weight can cause you to feel tired, sluggish, nauseous and heavy. You may feel sleepy all the time and lose interest in doing anything. Eating too much also puts excessive load on the digestive system causing you to develop digestive disorders such as gas, bloating, acidity, feeling heavy, difficulty digesting food, and conditions such as gastritis.
Which disease is caused by overeating?
Overeating leads to obesity which is reaching pademic levels. While obesity is not in itself a disease, it can lead you to develop diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, heart attack, stroke, heart disease, metabolic syndrome and even certain types of cancers.
Why do people overeat?
People may overeat for many reasons – comfort eating, stress eating, emotional eating, overeating after a long period of fasting, overeating due to craving caused by physical or psychological factors, cheap availability of junk food, exposure to food advertisements can all lead to overeating.
What happens when you overeat?
Overeating increases the load on your digestive system. Your body is designed to digest and process a limited amount of food. When you eat beyond this, your digestive system may be forced to overwork causing issues such as acidity, indigestion, gastritis, nausea and stomach discomfort. Overeating may also cause your stomach to over-expand, causing stress on the surrounding organs which leads to heaviness and discomfort.