It was Christmas Day 1970s style – think sunny days, pavlova and backyard cricket… the stuff of my childhood. And like most other Christmas days, I would end this one feeling over-full and still wanting to eat more. But in that child-like way, unable to make myself eat more than my body needed. And so off to bed I’d go, with my Christmas pressies carefully tucked into my bedroom, so disappointed that my tummy couldn’t fit in another slice of pavlova or ambrosia dessert (ambrosia – yum!).
Stuffed like a Christmas Turkey. We’ve all had that freakin’ awful feeling… when you suddenly realise you’ve overdone the eating and now you’re uncomfortable.
But overeating isn’t always about eating so much that you’re slyly trying to unbutton your jeans at the dinner table whilst yanking your top down to hide your food-baby. Nope. Sometimes eating too much just feels like a slightly uncomfortable realisation that you’re over-full. No unbuttoning needed. Just a stretch and a bit of discomfort, with a side of disappointment because you’ve over-fired on your appetite again.
Either way, the real question is – why do I eat too much?
Well, it turns out there are lots (and LOTS) of reasons why we eat too much (which is probably why it’s so common), so let’s get started and you can see which one (or more) are a challenge for you:
Simple but true. If you let yourself get too hungry, ravenously hungry, or OVER-hungry, you know what happens? You tip over into that place of primal hunger – where you feel like you could eat a horse! Your body is in survival mode and it will push you to eat as much as possible to fend off starvation.
If you don’t eat enough food during the day, your body is going to push you to load up with a pile of food in the evening. So the problem is not the over-eating at night-time, it’s the UNDER-eating during the day (especially if you’re trying to restrict and diet during the day).
It takes time for your stomach to feel fullness – about 20 minutes. So if you finish a full plate of food within 10 minutes there’s a good chance you won’t have given your body enough time to sense and let you know it’s full part-way through that plate.
If you’re watching TV, scrolling on your phone, reading a book or generally not focused on eating, you’re not going to be focused on listening and responding to your body’s signals that it’s nearing fullness and you should stop eating. So you’ll end up eating more than you need.
Childhood food rules can become a real problem when we grow up – the main one being “finish everything on your plate.” This rule taught us to ignore our fullness cues – the most accurate indicator of how much to eat. Now when older we feel seriously uncomfortable at the prospect of leaving uneaten food on the plate – so we eat past fullness to ensure the plate is empty.
If you’re eating for emotional reasons, there’s a good chance you’re eating more food than you need – because you’re likely eating when you’re not hungry.
If you’re dieted and ignored your hunger cues for years and years (or decades and decades) your hunger and fullness cues will fade away. They will return in time, but it just takes time and practice and a really concerted focus on listening out for them.
If you’re over-tired, stressed, anxious and worn out your body is going to be in a stressed state. In this state you can’t feel and rely on your hunger and fullness cues due to the stress.
SOLUTION: Self-care needs to be a priority – rest, relaxation, sleep, physical activity to unwind, all need to become a high priority if you want your body to unwind and be able to hear your hunger and fullness cues.
Sad but true. When we hate our body or parts of our body, we can end up becoming really disconnected from ‘feeling’ our body. That means we unconsciously ignore the signals our body sends. And those include the very signals that we want to hear – like hunger and fullness.
Whichever foods you restrict, you’re more likely to crave. And that means when you finally give in and eat them you’re likely to feel guilt and regret and then decide to eat as much as possible of that food because “tomorrow I’ll stop eating it” again.
We eat more when we eat with one or more people – it’s a fact! The more people, the more we eat, maybe because we tend to eat for a longer time and we’re a bit distracted with conversations.
So there they are – 11 reasons why you eat too much. But the key point here is this – try not to worry or judge yourself for overeating. Creating a happy and healthy relationship with food is a life journey – it has twists and turns and sometimes we take a fork in the road that turns out to be a dead-end. But wherever we go we’re learning through our eating and food experiences.
See each occasion when you overeat is an opportunity to learn something new about yourself and your relationship with food. See it as that. Be grateful for your body and keep on going.
P.S. Wanna guide to more mindful eating so you’re more focused and less likely to overeat? Grab yourself a free copy of this: