Most of us eat more than we need to. If I think back to my childhood, there wasn’t the choice of food there is now. And portions were smaller.
Today we have so much more fast food and convenient delivery services; supermarkets tempt us to buy more with 2-4-1 offers and reward schemes; and it’s normal to consume a family pack of crisps or king-size chocolate bar rather than the smaller ones. Once it’s open, it takes a lot of willpower not to eat the lot!
It’s no wonder obesity is on the rise. Most people overeat regularly, and it’s not because they’re are hungry.
We can group reasons for overeating into these three categories:
Your body is confused
Life is busy. We are rushing from one thing to the next, trying to cram far too much into a day and the time spent cooking has decreased. Instead, we reach for convenience foods which are often low in nutritional value and high in bad fats, additives, and sugar.
We eat our meals based around our commutes and lunch breaks rather than when our bodies ask for food. Our meal times are usually distracted and mindless. We are barely taking the time we need to recognize when we are full. Of course, our bodies are confused!
You are lacking nutrients
The human body carefully deciphers the information it receives and uses it for future communication. If you are regularly snacking on unhealthy food with few or no nutrients when you are not actually hungry, your body will accept this as normal.
Your body does not know how to communicate that it needs things like essential fats, complex carbohydrates, and high-quality proteins, vitamins, and minerals. So instead, it just keeps telling you it’s hungry. Your body needs to receive these nutrients to signal the ‘finally! I am satisfied’ feeling.
You are craving something other than food
Eating to fix an emotional need is so common. Many of us seek comfort and pleasure in food. Whether because of a stressful day, comforting ourselves after an argument or when going through a major life change. Food can be the easiest form of stress relief and, for some, therapy.
Food also plays a big part in our rituals and celebrations; special events, happy times with the people we love, and an easy way of treating ourselves.
However, the result of using food as therapy is short-lived and can grow into a negative habit. While it is okay to allow food to comfort us occasionally, and to include it in celebrations, we don’t want to rely on this regularly.
What can we do to get our overeating under control?
While overeating can develop from different causes, the steps to get it under control are the same.
- First off, it’s important to identify and recognize this is an issue.
- Second, you must be open to trying different strategies to combat it.
- Lastly, you must be ready to take responsibility for your life, health, and happiness!
Starting with mindful eating
Mindful eating means bringing your full attention to your experiences, cravings, physical cues, and emotional responses while eating.
- Eating slowly and chewing our food properly
- Removing distractions at meal times
- Paying attention to our body to recognize when we are full
- Distinguishing between physical and emotional hunger
- Entertaining our senses with the details of the food
- Healing negative relationships we may have with food
- Noticing the way individual foods make us feel
- Learning to appreciate our food truly
These shifts allow us to replace negative thoughts, reactions, and habits around food with more conscious and controlled responses.
By bringing our attention to the present moment, eating becomes a much more intentional experience rather than the automatic, thoughtless encounter that has become the standard in today’s society.
Have healthy snacks stored in your fridge
If your cupboards are full of sweets, chocolates, crisps and biscuits, you will snack on those foods. Limit them or, even better, don’t have them in the house. Instead, buy or make healthier options so you have something ready if you get a craving.
Get in the habit of chopping and preparing fruit and vegetables so that when you feel hungry, all you have to do is open the fridge and your favourite healthy snacks will be there ready for you. Keep dips like hummus or guacamole with a selection of cut up vegetables like carrots, fennel and celery.
Eat a regular, balanced diet
Much of the food in today’s food supply lacks the nutrients our bodies need.
Most processed food is carefully engineered to signal to our bodies that we are hungry after eating them rather than satisfied. It’s so we buy and consume more of them.
This means we are consuming excess calories before our brain is even aware that we have eaten enough.
When we eat the food with the nutrients we need, we feel full.
So pay attention to creating your meals with nutrients in mind. High-quality proteins like meats, eggs, beans and fibre (featured in most vegetables) will combat overeating. Your brain receives this message and signals the feeling of fullness more accurately and much faster than when we are consuming the empty calories of processed foods.
Eating regular meals, properly spaced, will help combat any cravings.
I hope you found this post on mindful eating helpful. If you are struggling with overeating, get in touch. As a health coach, I not only help clients work through lifestyle and behaviour changes but also mentor, inspire, guide and motivate to cultivate positive health choices.