Many people tend to eat too much. The psychologist Dr. Susan Albers from the Cleveland Clinic in the USA explains what causes overeating and how to prevent it.
Overeating means eating more food than you are actually hungry for, explains the expert. If this happens more often, it could develop into an eating disorder and in the long term there is a risk of weight problems, which in turn put a strain on your health.
Consequences of overeating
In addition, such increased food intake can also trigger various symptoms, such as acid reflux, bloating, heartburn, nausea, stomach pain and feelings of regret for eating so much.
“Overeating is often caused by emotional eating. “It can also be that what you eat just tastes good and you enjoy it, so you continue to eat because you enjoy it,” explains Dr. Albers in a press release.
Permanent access to food
Overeating is encouraged by many factors, such as constant access to food. For example, a constantly full refrigerator can lead to giving in to the desire for a midnight snack, says the expert.
In order to avoid this, you should, according to her, be careful when shopping. For example, creating a shopping list can prevent you from making unnecessary impulse purchases that you then make at night. It is also advisable to shop online, as this also results in fewer impulse purchases.
Healthy foods should always be strategically placed at the front of the refrigerator. This makes it more likely that you will eat those exact foods when you look in the fridge, adds Dr. Albers.
Emotional eating is often associated with negative feelings such as sadness or anger, but also occurs with happiness and other positive feelings. To prevent emotional eating, the expert advises that you should always ask yourself before a meal whether you are simply eating because of your own emotional state.
If you believe that you always have to empty your plate, this could also result in overeating. For example, when eating in a restaurant, it often happens that you consume more than the recommended amount.
The psychologist therefore advises going through the menu before eating out because this helps to avoid impulse orders. Furthermore, according to Dr. Even in the restaurant, it’s perfectly fine for Albers not to finish his meal and instead take any leftovers home for later consumption.
Eating out of boredom
“Boredom is the most important trigger for uncontrolled overeating,” says the psychologist. For example, you often eat too much if you eat out of boredom on the couch in front of the TV.
This can be prevented by realizing that the trigger for eating is boredom. Exercise or drinking something cold can help here.
If you mindlessly eat while you’re on Instagram or sitting in front of the TV, for example, this could also result in excessive food intake. For example, an entire bag of chips is consumed without really noticing.
In such a case, according to Dr. Albers feels hungry and eats almost automatically. To prevent this, it is advisable to put your cell phone away or turn off the television and instead devote all your attention to eating. To avoid distraction, meals should ideally be eaten in the dining room or at the kitchen table.
Excessive food supply
For example, if a buffet offers a lot of different foods, this can encourage overeating. The saying comes into play here: The eyes are often bigger than the stomach.
After filling your own plate with far too much, you often feel like you have to eat everything. To prevent this, you should first look at the entire buffet and, after examining the foods available, choose only those that you are really hungry for.
A study shows that you can prevent overeating at a buffet by first looking at all the food options and then making more informed choices.
It is also a good idea to eat smaller portions of different foods so that you can try out more different dishes, says Dr. Different.
Overeating by other people
Food intake can be greatly influenced by other people. “Studies have shown that we tend to adapt the speed of chewing to the people we are around, even if we don’t know them,” reports Dr. Albers. This could already encourage overeating.
You should be careful to eat slowly and not to adapt to other people’s eating pace. In addition, when ordering, you should only pay attention to your own hunger and not what other people are ordering, explains the expert.
Imbalance of hunger hormones
Two hormones determine hunger. These are leptin and ghrelin. Leptin is known as the satiety hormone, which helps regulate energy and suppresses appetite, while ghrelin is often called the hunger hormone and stimulates appetite, explains Dr. Albers.
The hormone levels leptin and ghrelin can be affected by lack of sleep, lack of exercise or increased stress. According to the expert, to prevent this from happening, you should maintain a certain routine and drink enough water throughout the day.
Eating at the same time every day, exercising daily and avoiding stress as much as possible can prevent overeating. “Having a routine helps regulate hunger hormones,” adds the expert.
Lack of sleep and confusion
Sleep also helps regulate hormones. A lack of sleep can increase the desire to eat.
It is therefore important to develop a healthy sleep routine, i.e., if possible, always go to sleep and get up at the same time, explains Dr. Different. This helps regulate appetite.
Don’t wait too long to eat
If you wait too long to eat and ignore your hunger, this can encourage overeating because your blood sugar is very low, explains the expert. You should therefore make sure to eat as regularly as possible and have snacks throughout the day in order to regulate your blood sugar, which prevents food cravings.
The lack of sugar and carbohydrates in a diet can also make you very susceptible to overeating. Therefore, when dieting, you should make sure to eat as carefully as possible. The psychologist advises that you shouldn’t ignore your hunger, but rather eat healthy foods to keep your blood sugar level stable.
“The antidote to overeating is to listen to your hunger and eat mindfully, meaning paying attention to what you eat and not allowing yourself to be distracted,” says Dr. Albers. If you have problems with overeating, it can also be helpful to seek medical help.
Examinations can determine whether there are medical reasons for overeating and practical solutions can be developed in a medical consultation to prevent excessive food intake, the expert adds. (as)