Overeating is one reason we are overweight.
It does not matter if you are trying to maintain weight loss or if you are just starting to lose weight, the reasons for less-than-successful weight loss are the same. You have decided to make a change and are careful to know portion sizes and eat healthy choices, but still over eat. So why are you having trouble?
Reason for Less Success and Overeating:
- Stress Eating:
Problem: Yes, we do eat to resolve stress. Our hormone response to stress is a complex mixture of many hormones to include cortisol, adrenalin (epinephrine), and atropine. A simplistic answer is that cortisol and atropine slow things down and store fat and epinephrine revs the body up to get ready to fight. These systems do cross over and it is not an all inclusive list. It is very much a fight or flight moment. As your stress increases to the point of stress (epinephrine) where you reach a boiling point, you use the calming nature of food to reduce the stress. The parasympathetic system and cortisol kick in and calm you down thanks to the comfort food you just ate. You feel terrible after you have turned to food and binged to reduce your stress.
Solution: The good news is there are other means to accomplish this same effect. You have to learn why you are doing it and the warning signs before you strap on that food bag. Once you know the signs, you can do something else to distract yourself or relax. Slow down and reduce that inner tension. I personally like to meditate or take a walk.
Problem: You are eating and exercising to improve your health. It is game day and your friends decide to go out to a local pub or restaurant to watch the game. You want to do the right thing but you give in to your friends and their peer pressure and you binge. It is an all to common story and it can be your wife and child instead of friends. You have just done the worst thing and you will feel guilty the next day or maybe even in a few hours.
Solution: No worries. The solution is simple. Learn ahead and remind yourself of your diet needs. Even the most unhealthy restaurant has a healthier choice. Make a choice to stay healthy and it will make you feel better and be firm in your decisions. If you know you cannot make a healthy choice at that sports bar, find somewhere else to watch the game. If you plan ahead, you can drive the agenda and make sure you are in position to make healthy choices.
- Mindless TV Eating:
Problem: Ok, this is the mother of obesity. Strap on the microwave popcorn feed bag and pack on the weight. This is probably number one or two on the list of reasons why America is one of the fattest countries in the world. We robotically sit down every evening in front of the boob tube to watch hours and hours of TV and usually eat comfort foods while we are at it. This has two evils: binge eating and a sedentary lifestyle. Cut the TV cord (unplug it first).
Solution: This is an easy fix. Reduce both your consumption of TV and eat at the dining room table with the TV off.
Problem: We often confuse boredom with hunger. Both with or without the TV, we entertain ourselves with food. It makes us feel good because we are filling our unhappy and bored moments with the satisfying feeling of a sugar rush and full belly.
Solution: Find something else to do. Go for a walk. Walking both cures the boredom and burn calories.
- Skipping Meals:
Problem: You are hungry and you forgot your lunch. You go into grazing mode looking for anything on the prairie to eat. You pass the candy bowl on your coworker’s desk and it is game time. You go on the hunt for that candy like a lion on a gazelle. It did not have a chance and neither did your diet. Your appetite will increase if you skip meals and it will be hard to avoid temptations. The enemy is grazing. If you skip meals, you will be more susceptible to cravings and you will binge eat.
Solution: Always plan your meals and snacks. Do not graze. If you forget your lunch, find something small to eat that is healthier or exercise to fight the hunger. If you distract yourself, the hunger will dissipate.
- Lack of Awareness:
Problem: The first rule of combat and sports is to be aware of your situation or surroundings. In weight loss, you must be aware of portion sizes and calorie content of the food you are eating. For example, you are out at a restaurant and order cheesecake. There are a lot of folks that think that the average piece of cheesecake has 100-200 calories. Although that maybe true for a small sliver, cheesecake is dense and may have as many as 400-1000 calories per slice. It is best to avoid it.
Solution: I love cheesecake, but if I am going to have it, I budget it into my days calories and I exercise extra to burn more calories. Know your foods and if there is any doubt, avoid, avoid, avoid. You can never burn it all, but you can moderate it. Other options are to choose something else, or just avoid dessert all together. A fruit plate is less satisfying but is also a much better choice.
- Reward Foods:
Problem: If you reward yourself at the end of a hard work week, remember calories add up and you can quickly subtract all of your calorie losses in 1-2 days of binging. Rewarding yourself might not be as big a disaster if you stick to moderate portion sizes. Then again, if your reward is a 6 pack and a pound of Buffalo wings, you might as well buy new paper tape for that calculator as you start counting calories. The last thing you want to do is feel the negative emotions of regret, guilt, and blame the morning after.
Solution: I am not saying you don’t deserve a reward, keep the throttle to a mild roar and eat with moderation.
Problem: Most dieters are too tough on themselves. Perfectionism is the enemy of success. If your expectation are too adamant or strict, they might be unrealistic and will lead to feelings of failure, regret, blame, and guilt. None of these feelings will end in success because they will create pessimism. It is important to maintain hope and optimism. There are several studies that have looked at this and found that any sense of failure or weight gain that is unexpected, such as when the scale is rigged, leads dieters to lose confidence and quit.
Solution: Set a realistic goal and expect road bumps. If you are less hard on yourself when you hit obstacles, you are more likely to keep trying.
- Poor Sleep:
Problems: If humans are tired, they tend to eat more. There are plenty of medical studies to show this correlation. If you do not value sleep, you are likely not only tired but also adding to you waist line.
Solution: Get at least 7-8 hours of sleep a night. Even more important, sleep enough so that you are not tired the next day. Sleep needs are somewhat individual. See the road bump created by poor sleep.
Problem: When you are dehydrated, you body may confuse thirst for hunger. There is a lot of research to back this up, but the mechanism is less clear, but I would suspect it is a nerve or brain link. Either way, it is clear that folks who drink more water tend to eat less.
Solution: As long you do not have a medical reason not to, drink water. You can discuss this with your medical provider if you have questions. I recommend that dieters drink at least 2-3 liters of water per day and especially drink 12-16 ounces before each meal. I have already written an article on water and weight loss.
The bottom Line:Ridiculously huge portions aside, the reasons we overeat is pretty clear and this is not an all inclusive list. You do not have a hallow leg or a never ending ability to up your metabolism to avoid weight gain. Gaining weight is as simple as overeating and loosing awareness of portion sizes for the foods you eat. If you understand the above reasons and develop an awareness of what you need to do to prevent lapses, you will have a step up toward success.
I may post a part two of this article in the future.