our love affair with overeating
Everybody eats. Everybody has to eat, or else they die. And, if we’re honest, we’d have to admit that most of us really enjoy eating, especially when we’ve come in contact with some great-tasting food! Unfortunately, we don’t always know when we need to stop eating. This is particularly true of the North American culture, in which we have some amazing food that’s served in very large quantities (anybody seen Supersize Me?). Do you eat too much? Think about that question for a long time. The answer may surprise you. While we may laugh at humorous situations like Homer Simpson eating until he can’t physically move and think it’s all fun and games, in reality it can be anything but. The negative consequences of eating too much can range from a simple mild stomach ache in the short term to the many health risks associated with chronic obesity, such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes that affect people for the rest of their lives. More often than not, the typical overeater does not stuff food in his or her mouth to the point at which his/her pants are about to burst wide open. Instead, we simply end up eating more than we need at any certain time, or eating until we’re full rather than eating until we’ve gotten the nutrients our body needs. We do not have the natural constraints our ancestors did to prevent us from overeating. Several millennia ago, it wasn’t even possible for most humans to overeat because neither large-scale agriculture nor food processing even existed until fairly recently in human history. Currently, most humans (especially the ones who live in North America) have access to more food with more convenience than ever before.
what drives us to eat more than we need?
Even though we have more food more readily available to us than did our ancestors, we still have the power to stop eating before we get ourselves into trouble. So what keeps us eating, even though we know we don’t need to?
Many people struggle with emotional eating. I know I sure do. I definitely have an emotional connection with food, and maybe you do. Do you find yourself eating more when you are depressed, stressed, or just bored? I sure do. And that’s not a good thing. A study in the journal Appetite researched the eating habits of adolescents who were at an especially high risk for obesity. The primary result they found was that “depressive symptoms were associated with significantly greater consumption of total energy and energy from sweet snack foods, which, over time, could be anticipated to promote excess weight gain.” One of the primary ways we can detect whether we may be eating too much is to monitor the reason why we are eating. Are we eating because we are hungry, or because of an emotional issue we are dealing with? Knowing the importance of tracking what I’m eating and how I’m feeling when I eat it is what led me to create my 30-day food, exercise, water, fitness, and emotional eating tracking journal. You can get the PDF version for free when you subscribe to my email list, or you can buy the paperback version on Amazon.
Another consideration is symptoms of hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar. If you’re anything like me you know the symptoms of hypoglycemia well. But, just in case you haven’t yet had the pleasure of experiencing the symptoms of hypoglycemia, here’s a quick rundown:
- Feeling shaky
- Pale skin
- Pounding heart; racing pulse
A research study from the Medical University of Warsaw found that hypoglycemic symptoms can lead people to eat more in order to satisfy their body’s urges to increase insulin. It is always important to remember to practice moderation when eating sweets because they (or at least the crashes that occur when we come down off of the sugar rushes) lead us to eat far more than we actually need.
Your Own Body Will Tell You
There really is no better indicator of whether you are eating too much than your own body. If you experience frequent constipation, blockage, bloating, vomiting, or stomach aches, your body is trying to tell you that it has had enough. More often than not, if you feel the constant need for laxatives or antacids, your body knows that you have taken in far more food than you need, and it wants you to know about it. In addition, your body’s energy and mental alertness levels will give you clues that you are eating too much. While we all enjoy an excellently cooked meal or delicious snacks, it’s important for us to remember that, biologically speaking, food is simply fuel our body needs to consume so it can turn it into energy. When we bog our system down with excess fuel, or fuel of poor quality (junk food, anyone?), our energy will decrease. We feel sluggish and less alert. By eating the wrong kind of food we overload our digestive system, in effect, and we decrease our energy stores instead of increasing them. Believe me, I love food just as much as the next person, and I’m totally guilty of overeating at times. In fact, I’m pretty grateful that our bodies give us warning signs when we’re eating too much, or too much of the wrong kinds of foods. Overeating evidences itself in emotional symptoms, like depression and increased stress, and in physical symptoms, like hypoglycemia, low energy, and digestive issues. If you experience any of these on even a semi-regular basis, you can be pretty certain that you do, in fact, eat too much. But how do you stop? What happens if you know you’re eating too much, but you’re not sure what to do about it? The truth is: going from eating too much to eating just the right amount can cause a lot of discomfort in the way of hunger pains. Your body gets used to a certain amount of food being given to it, and all of a sudden it’s not. It’s going to rebel against you for a while. One of the best ways I’ve found to avoid hunger pains is to add a meal replacement shake and/or specially formulated snacks into your daily routine. I love the products from IdealShape. They block hunger for hours and really help keep you from eating more than your body needs. Plus, they have lots of awesome essential vitamins and minerals! You can read my full review of the IdealShape shakes here. So, tell me: Do you think you overeat? Do you know you do? What steps are you going to take to change that?