Hunger is your body’s way of telling you that you need more fuel so that you can keep on trucking at your optimal level. Yet sometimes we think we are hungry (Mmmm look at that cake!), even though our body has already had sufficient nourishment. Sure, there are times when we eat something enjoyable simply because we enjoy it and that is fine! However, when overeating becomes a habit, our bodies start to get used to larger amounts of food and give out the hungry signals before we actually need to re-fuel.
The problem is that there are many different reasons for overeating, some of them simple to fix, whilst others might take a little more awareness and determination. Yet understanding where your cravings are coming from will help you determine the best way to kerb those cravings!
Here are some common reasons why people overeat:
You are thirsty - This one comes first because it is so often that people mistake thirst for hunger. If you are finding yourself hungry, yet you know you recently ate, try drinking a large glass of water and waiting 20 minutes to see how you feel then. Chances are the water will satiate your need for hydration, at the same time as filling your stomach, so the feeling of hunger passes.
Eating the wrong kinds of food - This is a really important one too, because if you eat loads of high GI foods, including simple carbs, then your blood sugar levels are going to quickly spike then drop again. This makes you feel as though you need to eat more, not long after you have previously eaten. Opt for Low GI foods, and plenty of lean protein sources and good fats, to help give you the slow release energy you need and help reduce your cravings!
Not getting enough sleep - People don’t often consider sleep as having any impact on their eating habits, however, if you are not getting a healthy amount of sleep each night (between 7-9 hours) then the production of hormones in your body becomes out of balance. The main hormone in relation to your appetite is leptin, which is responsible for energy regulation and suppressing appetite or making you feel satiated. When you are sleep deprived, your leptin production is decreased which means you will feel more hungry the following day.
Training harder - If you have noticed a recent change in your appetite, then perhaps it is a reflection that you are training harder? If this is the case then it is important to listen to your body and make sure it is getting the fuel it needs. If you are aiming to burn fat, then re-evaluate your diet and make sure that you are getting enough lean protein sources to help keep you feeling energised and satisfied!
Eating out of habit - Two things come into play when it comes to habitual eating. Firstly; you may create a habit of mindlessly eating whilst doing a specific task, or when you are at a specific place. For example, you may habitually much on snacks whilst watching your favourite show, or always have to get a burger when you drive past your favourite burger place. Secondly; your body craves food at similar times each day, that is normal, however sugar, and refined sugar products, are actually addictive. If you eat something sweet at a certain time one day (dessert is a perfect example), then come that same time the following day you might notice a subtle craving for sweet things. If you continue to eat sweet things at that same time each day, your body starts to crave it intently, even if you have just eaten a huge savoury meal! These habits might be a little tricky to kick, but once you become aware of them, you can replace them with healthy alternative habits.
Coping with emotions - Many people overeat as a means of coping with emotions, even if they are not aware they are doing it. If this is something you feel you might do, such as eating when you are feeling stressed or depressed, then consider utilising some other techniques to help you cope with stress, such as meditation, exercise or talking to someone about what’s going on.