Seven reasons you’re overeating
You’re downing kale juice like no tomorrow and clocking up impressive km’s on the treadmill, but you just can’t seem to shift those last couple of kilos?
Before you go condemning one too many hot cross buns, it might be worth looking a little closer to home…more specifically, how much you’re putting on your plate.
Be honest, how often do you measure out your protein to match the size of your fist, or snack on one row of dark chocolate per night?
We know we don’t need more, but the moment life throws a curveball we go can’t help ourselves. To stop shovelling down more than you should, read on for the surprising factors likely influencing your eating habits.
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1. You’re distracted
We’re all guilty of mindlessly noshing on food while letting the TV whirr in the background, but it turns out that white noise is actually a saboteur.
“Distracted dining” dubbed by researchers, is now considered as dangerous to our health as distracted driving. Why? The University of Illinois found that those who experienced background noise at dinner time had worse outcomes than those who didn’t.
The study found parents who dined in a noisy atmosphere ate more junk food than those who ate in silence and communicated less positively with their children. And it gets worse – as a result, children’s eating habits were subsequently monitored less and the negative talk impacted their children’s weight.
The solution? Bring a little mindfulness into meal time. In-house nutritionist at Hard Candy Fitness Gigi Cumbers recommends breaking it down into a thought process. “To become aware of what you’re putting into your mouth, visualise the food before you begin eating. Sit back and focus on it being something really yummy. Once you start to salivate it means your digestive system is getting ready to begin the breakdown of your food and you can begin consciously chewing each mouthful.”
2. Your hormones are out of whack
When it comes to the poor eating habits in women, Mother Nature can sometimes be to blame.
“An imbalance in hormones during the luteal phase of your menstrual cycle – aka the 14 to 28 day period, can lead to an increase in appetite and a craving for sugar and carbohydrates,” says Anthia Koullouros, Sydney-based naturopath at OOVIO Organics.
So ladies, jot a note in your diary to steer clear of the lolly aisle during this time of the month.
3. You’re stressed
Oh, comfort eating. It’s something we’re all well versed in after a long, gruelling day but while we know stress can play major havoc on our food habits, you probably don’t know why.
Kimberley Figl, nutritionist at Pressed Juices in Bondi says it’s deeply rooted in our physiological makeup. “When we’re stressed our body releases hormones that increase our drive for food. This is an ancient survival mechanism that served us well thousands of years ago, but now with food so available, we are to a degree, at the mercy of our biological drive.”
Why? “Because when we eat during a stressed state our brain switches it into a pleasurable activity and identifies it as a way to reduces stress levels, thereby filing it away as a useful mechanism to remember the next time the feeling arises,” says Figl.
How do we fix this it then, if we’re biologically programmed this way? “Learn alternative methods for coping with stress such as going for a walk, practising meditation or mindfulness before deciding on whether you need to eat,” says Figl. Or have a cup of herbal tea and see if that helps.
4. Your kitchen is a mess
No judgement here, but those dirty dishes by the sink could in fact be the reason you’re overeating. A Cornell University study found that our daily environment is key to our eating habits. When comparing two groups of women – half of whom were left in a tidy kitchen and half in a messy one, those in the cluttered kitchen tended to eat twice as many calories as those who were occupied a tidy room.
Important to note – this goes beyond the kitchen too. Whether you eat at a messy desk or in a crowded lounge room, any untidy environment can increase the likelihood of overeating.
5. You’re not getting enough sleep
The mid-arvo slump hits and suddenly we have an urge to hit the vending machine for a sugar pick-me-up. But why? Well, there is in fact a biological reason why drowsiness gives us the munchies. And, it’s not dissimilar to what happens when marijuana users get the munchies … Bear with us.
A study fresh out of University of Chicago has discovered that when we’re deprived of sleep, our brains produce a chemical called endocannabinoid 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG for short) which heightens our joy for eating sugary and salty foods. And, it’s the exact same chemical reaction that’s triggered when people smoke marijuana. The study also confirmed when this occurs, we’re more susceptible to mindless eating in the afternoons. So, the short of it? Nod off earlier to curb cravings.
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6. You choose the wrong TV shows
Think that Homeland binge on Netflix is a healthy way to unwind after a long day? Think again. The genre we watch can be just as significant to our eating habits as watching TV itself.
And the killer program that’s feeding us extra calories – action shows. According to Cornell University, those who watch fast-paced action involving different camera cuts and continual stimulation tend to have us reaching for snacks up to 98 per cent more than those who kick back with a talk show.
And you best steer clear of horror movies too. Dr Louisa Hoey, a psychologist at the Health Psychology Centre who specialises in food relationships says overeating can often occur as a reward for when we’re feeling scared. “It’s very common to see people overeat when they are experiencing emotions such as anxiety, sadness or anger.”
Why? Because it’s a conditioned habit we learn to develop from a young age.
“As a child often if you watched a movie and became scared, your mum might have offered you a sweet to make you feel better,” says Hoey. “It provides an excellent distraction technique at the time but it doesn’t teach you to let uncomfortable feelings pass. So then as an adult, when a distressing feeling arises at a subconscious level, you turn to food as a way to distract yourself from a scary or uncomfortable emotion.”
7. You’re eating ‘healthy’ foods
Before you next stock up at the supermarket, be warned. If it’s labelled ‘healthy’ it doesn’t give you permission to gorge to your hearts content. However, research suggests we do just that. A University of Texas study found we tend to overeat on products labelled ‘healthy’ because we subconsciously think they are less filling. Likewise we associate the word ‘nourishing’ with healthy ideals and thereby disregard the need to be mindful of what we’re actually eating or how much of it we’re eating. The caveat? Skip the packaged foods as much as possible and opt for fresh produce instead.
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