Overeating: 5 Reasons Why we Overeat

Eating too much is something that we have all experienced in different forms: snacking in front of the TV, refill his favorite dish, etc. There are, however, cases where overconsumption of food becomes very problematic. Excess food is caused by several factors or reasons that I wanted to develop here.

Please note that the following information is based on my experience, but also, on my years of practice as an Ayurvedic naturopath. I do not pretend to be an expert on eating disorders, but simply to provide tools so that everyone can understand the mechanism that pushes them towards these bad eating habits.

1. Habit

Many people “inherited” bad eating habits when they were children. Even if what we experience during our childhood has no reason to refer to our “adult” life, there is nevertheless a mechanism which pushes us to continue to reproduce certain family patterns, and sometimes, without question ourselves.

Difficulties: It is easier to keep a habit that is several years old than to create a new one!

  •  Example 1: My family gathers every Sunday at noon for a long meal that drags on and I have become used to eating a lot even if I am no longer hungry.
  • Example 2: At home, my parents ate all the time between meals and I got used to it. When I am at home, I make several trips back and forth to the kitchen, because snacking is a habit for me.

    Habit ⟶ Mental is conditioned ⟶ Snacking is a habit

2. Repressed emotions

Because we are humans made up of a complex hormonal system, we are subject to a multitude of emotions every day. For several reasons, we sometimes avoid living some emotions that exist in us. It may happen that we experience emotions such as anger, frustration, envy, but instead of recognizing them, we ignore them by occupying our thoughts or by anesthetizing ourselves with food, for example.

Difficulties: We struggle with emotions coming from two sources: those before excess food, then those after excess food.

  • Example 1: My boss gives me too much work. I agree to produce this work, but I never tell him that it is too much. I feel anger that I am accumulating. In the evening, as soon as I think about this situation, I go to the kitchen and I eat.
  • Example 2: Whenever I go to visit my best friend, she tells me about her amazing job and her fantastic couple’s relationship. When I get home, I think about my situation as a single woman and about this job that I want to leave for so long, because it no longer suits me. I snack.

    Emotions ⟶ Do not accept the emotions ⟶  Food rage

3. Environment

If I find myself in an oppressive environment, new, foreign or simply that does not suit me, it is very likely that my desire for comfort or to feel good will be increased. As a result, I will be more likely to snack on foods that comfort me emotionally in order to alleviate discomfort or a new situation.

Difficulties: It is sometimes difficult to notice that we eat more when we are in a new environment or when changes take place around us.

  •  Example 1: I just moved in with my boyfriend. Everything is fine. We make good hearty meals in the evening. Week after week, this habit continues and I see myself taking weight.
  • Example 2: My mother-in-law is at home for a week. My relationship with her is sometimes tense. I notice that I’m snacking more since she’s here.

    Environment ⟶ Need stability ⟶ Increased snacking

4. Boredom / Emptiness / Loneliness

One of the primary reflexes that a human has is to eat. Eating is normal! Sometimes when we’re bored, we eat to pass the time. And when we love to eat, we wake up in the morning and think about the meal we are going to prepare. This same meal can turn to a buffet all you can eat!

Difficulties: When I start to associate food intake with « boredom,” it can be difficult to break this mechanism.

  • Example 1: It’s my rest day.  I have nothing planned today. I decide to stay at home to relax. But, hold on! What can I eat today? … After 1 hour in the kitchen and the pride of having prepared a good meal, it’s time to eat and my meal is so yummy! Even if I’m no longer hungry, I take more. Because after all, it’s good, I have nothing else to do so why not refill! Tomorrow I will be more reasonable! ” And a few minutes later … « I’m not going to put half a piece of cheesecake in the fridge! Might as well finish it, because tomorrow I will be reasonable! ”
  • Example 2: It’s Sunday. My kids were supposed to come to see me, but they canceled. I find myself alone at home with this meal that I had prepared for them. I sit at the table alone, but I eat a lot more than my stomach can tolerate.

    Boredom, feeling of emptiness ⟶ Need to fill up ⟶ Snacking

5. Reward

As much in pets as in children, we are unfortunately programmed in a “Pleasure / Reward” world. This is what we do awkwardly with pets and sometimes even with children. If the reward is food, this system programs the brain to associate food as a reward and will be used for any reason other than hunger.

Difficulties: It is important to find a different alternative to the food reward especially if it is associated with eating disorders.

  • Example 1: My parents took me to McDonald’s when I had good results at school. As an adult, I go to McDonald’s when I have success at work. Since I’m a good part of my team, I can eat McDonald’s every week because I deserve it.
  • Example 2: It’s Friday evening. I had a stressful week at work. I’m finally going to be able to relax. After a week like this, I deserve to eat what I want tonight! Life is hard! I work hard! So I deserved it!

    Good news ⟶ Conclusion of deserving a good meal ⟶ Meal composed of foods that are sometimes forbidden

How to get out of these patterns? How to stop snacking? How to rest the fork when you reach satiety? These are questions that I will answer in a future article. Again, I only want to bring my experience and understanding here.