There are many reasons that people overeat. From not being able to resist delicious dishes to using food as an emotional crutch or even finding your social life revolves around eating far too regularly, overeating is a widespread problem. It’s also the leading cause of obesity, according to experts, and it contributes to physical and mental health issues. Check out these top reasons that people overeat, and see if you recognize any of them. I bet you are guilty of at least one!
This is one of the most common reasons that people overeat. Almost everyone will have used food to calm themselves down and pick themselves up at some point during their life, whether it’s grabbing a takeaway after a hard day or treating yourself to chocolate when you are feeling stressed. Food is a powerful tool for comfort and nurturing: the mother-infant connection reinforces this. Foods that are packed with carbohydrates can actually help, too, as they boost serotonin levels in the brain – the same chemical used in anti-depressants.
We don’t just turn to food when we are stressed or upset, either. Eating due to sadness is another top cause of overeating, and it’s just as damaging. Typically, someone who is eating to fight sadness will turn towards fatty foods. Studies have shown that fatty acids make people feel less sad, and alters the way the brain reacts to sad stimulants, meaning they may actually boost your mood for a while. You are still eating for the wrong reasons, though, and the effect doesn’t last long. Before you know it, you’ll be having a second helping to get that feeling back…
What do you do when you are bored? If you are like most people, food probably features on your list of entertainment options. It’s far too easy to raid the cupboard or the fridge because you can’t find anything else to do, or you feel at a loose end. It’s not necessarily bad food – many people eat leftovers or have a biscuit or a bite of chocolate – but it’s high-frequency, and your body doesn’t actually need food. That means it’s very likely to cause weight gain.
Not all the reasons that people overeat are psychological. Some experts believe that the sheer amount of exposure that we give to food has contributed to overeating. You can barely turn around without seeing food in some places – it’s advertised on the internet, in the mail, on the television, using big billboards, with vouchers. Seeing food so much is bound to make you crave it, making you much more likely to overeat.
The dining industry has changed a lot over the past 50 years, but the biggest change has been the size of their equipment. Bowls, plates and utensils have almost doubled in size, which mean we are served a lot more than we need, and most people will eat what they have been served. That means you could eat more than double the necessary number of calories, without even noticing.
People have eaten in groups for centuries, but it might not be the best way to eat. Studies have shown that when people eat in a group, they are more likely to gain weight. Why? People pleasers will eat a lot in a group, in an unconscious attempt to further bonding and expand the experience. We also have a natural urge to do the same as other people around us are doing, rather than alienate ourselves, which often leads to people eating more.
Have you spotted yourself in any of these reasons that people overeat? Most people will have. But whilst overeating is a real problem that affects thousands, the solution is a lot simpler. Becoming aware of what you are eating, how much and why, will stop you from consuming too much. It’s part of a movement known as mindful eating, which is attempting to make eating easier – and make stopping easier, too.
Next time you feel the urge to raid the fridge, have a think about these reasons that people overeat, and decide what’s motivating your hunger. Are you really hungry, or are you bored or sad? The answer could be revolutionary. Got a tip to stop overeating? I’d love to try it!