3 Reasons Why You’re Overeating & Ways to Stop

3 Reasons Why You’re Overeating & Ways to Stop

December 11, 2018

As we’ve finished up the last of our Thanksgiving leftovers and now prep for the upcoming holidays, there’s one issue that many Americans can relate to – overeating. Whether it’s a special occasion or a repeat occurrence, we’ve all experienced that uncomfortably full feeling. No one enjoys feeling over-filled, so the question is, why do we do it to ourselves?

There are a number of reasons why a person might overeat – from celebrating the holidays to simply repeating a bad habit. And while most of us deviate from our diets a bit around this time of year, the biggest concern arises when this overindulgence becomes a year-round habit.

If you think your overeating is becoming more of a regular occurrence than a rarity, it may be time to explore some common explanations behind this pattern.

    1. Your Brain is Fighting Against You Habits are hard to break and this one is no different. Certain foods can cause a dopamine surge in the reward portion of the brain. This tells your brain to eat more of that food, even though it’s not what your body actually wants or needs. This can make it feel impossible to resist those junk foods even if you’re already full. Processed sugar and simple carbs (think: white bread) are two of the most common culprits that can trigger this belly-brain response. These foods can also wreak havoc on your blood sugar levels, causing it to spike and drop rather than sustain. When your blood sugar drops, chances are you’ll look for a snack.


Rather than trying to fill up on empty carbs, look for foods that are rich in protein, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates. Fruits, vegetables, nuts, and legumes are great options for a snack or as the basis for a meal. Over time, you should notice your cravings for empty calories fading, as your brain relearns what it needs.

      1. You’re Chronically Stressed, Depressed, or Anxious Many of us can relate to turning to food when we’re sad or stressed. Having less free time can make quick, convenient, unhealthy meals all too appealing. An unhealthy state of mind can also cause an increase in cortisol or insulin in the blood, which some research has linked to overeating. Foods especially high in fat or sugar are thought to actually dampen the stress response, temporarily alleviating those negative feelings.The problem is that sporadic stressors eventually calm, making turning back to those healthy choices easier. If you’re experiencing long-term, chronic stress, depression, or anxiety, this way of eating can easily become a habit.


In order to best treat your overeating, you need to first look at managing the underlying issue. Seriously ask yourself if your mental health could be a contributing factor in your eating habits. And if so, ask yourself what it is it exactly that’s bothering you. You may be able to find management techniques on your own, but you may also need to seek outside help. Either way, answering some of these questions will help set you in the right direction for positive change.

        1. You’re Following Old Habits It’s not uncommon for overeating to occur purely out of habit. Did you grow up in a household where you had to “clean your plate?” Do you eat dinner in front of the TV, or eat ice cream straight from the carton? These habits may seem harmless, but they can be unassuming triggers for overeating.


          1. Start by acknowledging your weaknesses. If you binge on potato chips when watching TV, simply don’t have them in the house. Try veggies and hummus for a way to satisfy your need for a crunchy snack without adding the extra calories.
          2. Try eating without distractions. Turn off the TV and put your phone away during meals to help you concentrate only on your food.
          3. If you’re dieting, be sure to pick a diet that allows for some of your favorite types of food. The Mediterranean diet is a good one to try – it’s great for heart and brain health and doesn’t ban any food group. If you feel too restricted, you’re bound to fall off the wagon.

While many people can relate to overeating from time to time, it’s important to find ways to manage your overeating if you think it’s becoming a regular occurrence.

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Harvard Health. (2018, July 18). “Why Stress Causes People to Overeat.” Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/why-stress-causes-people-to-overeat

Kubala, Jillian. (2018, April 16). “23 Simple Things You Can Do to Stop Overeating.” Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/how-to-stop-overeating

Gotter, Ana. (2017, May 26). “Coping with Depression and Overeating.” Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/depression-and-overeating