Five Reasons You Might Be Overeating

Lienna May

April 11, 2022

‘You decided to eat healthy and lose weight, and have started by making a meal plan for the whole week. But as the time for lunch, lunch or dinner set in, you begin to feel an insatiable hunger, and the cravings set in. Mainly, this is the point when the majority of your plans to eat healthy have been thrown out the window. You get disappointed and frustrated with yourself and altogether you are ready to give up  on your plans to lose weight. You feel that you don’t have enough willpower and won’t be able to reach your goals.’

We all have been there and it’s okay to feel frustrated and discouraged. However, the most important thing to remember is to not give up. One of the top ways to continue to push towards your goals is to compile a list of tools and build your toolbox to help you prevent overeating and also receive all the essential nutrients and also receive all the essential nutrients. 

Below are some of the most common reasons that we observe among people who tend to overeat and some tips to combat the behavior:

1. Lacking Protein

Optimal protein intake is very important for your overall health and wellness. Protein can boost your metabolism, decrease appetite, support healthy blood sugar balance and induce thermogenesis. 

Research has shown that eating 25 percent of your diet in protein leads to increased satiety, decreased late-night eating and less obsessive thoughts regarding food. Furthermore, another study has shown that women that consume optimal intake of protein with each meal lose an average of eleven pounds in twelve weeks. When not consuming enough protein with each meal, you are more likely to overeat and crave unhealthy foods. 

Here are some great animal, seafood and plant-based protein sources: 

ProteinPortion SizeGrams of Protein
Chicken1 oz7 g
Beef1 oz7 g
EggsOne egg6 g
Turkey1 oz7 g
Duck1 cup cooked27 g
Lamb1 oz7 g
Salmon4 oz18.2
Pork Loin4 oz26 g
Halibut3 oz19 g
Shrimp3 oz18 g
Scallops3 oz85 g
Tuna6 oz45 g
Sardines3.8 oz canned in oil22.7 g
Herring3 oz85 g
Mackerel1 cup85 g
Crab3 oz85 g
Lentils1 tbsp12.3 g
Cottage cheese1 cup25 g
Tofu½ cup10 g
Black beans½ cup of cooked beans7-10 g
Flaxseeds¼ cup 10.4 g
Cashews¼ cup 10.3 g
Quinoa1 oz8.14 g
Chickpeas1 tbsp12.5 g

2. Lacking Fiber

Fiber plays an essential role in your health. Aim to eat plenty of fiber-rich foods with each meal. Optimal intake of fiber will help increase your satiety, aid in digestion and nutrient absorption, and will slow the absorption of glucose. Foods rich in fiber help feed healthy gut bacteria to produce short-chain fatty acids and boost immune system function. 

Below are some foods that are rich in fiber:

FiberFiber ServingGrams of Fiber
AvocadoMedium-sized10 g
Raspberries1 cup8 g
Coconut1 cup grated coconut pulp7.2 g
FigsOne dried fig9.8 g
Artichoke1 medium7 g
PearMedium-sized pear5 g
Brussel sprouts1 cup4.1 g
Acorn Squash1 cup9 g
Lentils1 cup cooked15.6 g
Lima beans1 cup7.6 g
Chickpeas1 cup canned9.6 g
Flaxseeds2 tbsp4 g
Quinoa1 cup 5 g

3. Chronic Stress

Chronic stress can decrease your metabolism and impair your digestion and absorption of nutrients. Research studies show that chronic stress can increase your cravings for sugary, refined and high carbohydrate foods that affect your mesolimbic dopamine system, also referred to as our reward pathway. 

When you are chronically stressed, your hypothalamus pituitary adrenal axis (HPA Axis) is continuously activated, which leads to increased cortisol (stress hormone) causing increased food cravings. Furthermore, chronic stress can also lead to elevated blood sugar. Therefore, when you are chronically stressed it is common to crave overly processed foods, becoming a coping mechanism for stress. 

For this reason, It’s important to have non-food based stress coping mechanisms as it will help reduce cravings, balance hormones, and end overeating. 

Some of the great ways to help lower your stress are: 

  • Yoga
  • Walking
  • Swimming
  • Spending time in nature
  • Meditations
  • Spending time with your loved ones and friends
  • Tai Chi
  • Practicing gratitude and mindfulness
  • Reading a book
  • Taking a relaxing bath with Epsom salts

All these exercises and practices will help you lower your stress and increase your body’s ability to handle stress better. 

4. Poor Sleep 

Sleep is very important for our health and overall well-being. A fast-paced lifestyle and chronic stress can lead to poor sleep. The study shows that chronic sleep deprivation can lead to increased insulin and cortisol, further contributing to overeating. 

Have you ever noticed more irritability and cravings of sugary foods after a bad night’s sleep? 

Your body becomes more sensitive to insulin during sleep. For example, just one single night of sleep deprivation causes a 40% reduction in your ability to handle glucose. 

Furthermore, when you don’t sleep well, your body produces more hunger hormones called ghrelin and decreases the production of leptin,  our satiety hormone. Leptin tells our brain when we need to stop eating and ghrelin increases our appetite. It’s no surprise that sleep deprivation can cause many negative changes in your delicate hormone balance that  further contribute to overeating. 

Furthermore, sleep is important for the production of growth hormone. Growth hormone increases your lean body mass. It also helps you burn fat for fuel. Growth hormone improves bone mineral density and overall protects your body from aging. 

This is one more reason why we need to prioritize sleep to optimize our hormones and end the cycle of overeating. 

A great place to start is to have a relaxing night time routine and avoid screen time as blue light from your phone, TV, and other devices can disrupt your circadian rhythm and decrease the production of melatonin. 

Alternatives can be reading a book, taking a bath with magnesium Epsom salt, meditating, spending time with your family, or journaling. Journaling is especially helpful to write down your thoughts, worries or to-do list to help you lower your stress and anxiety. 

5. Too Strict with Your Diet

Eating healthy is very important and I applaud your desire to lose weight and keep it off. However, the biggest mistake I see clients make is engaging in overly restrictive diets, or often jumping from one extreme diet to another, and/or trying various weight loss pills in a search for a magical cure. 

You might even lose some weight, but being too restrictive with your eating often backfires in the long run as it’s hard to sustain long-term. Oftentimes, overly restrictive diets are maintainable for a short period of time but can then lead to unhealthy relationships with food, obsessive thinking, or chronic calorie tracking. 

Restricting too many foods at the same time can lead to uncontrollable desires for specific foods and ultimately overeating. 

I encourage you to start making small, healthy changes daily and implement healthier habits to prevent chronic restriction. Through this,you’ll be able to lose weight and maintain it. 

The Bottom Line

I always teach my clients to look at each meal as a way to nourish yourself. Ask yourself this question: would this meal help me to feel energized and get healthier? Our mindset is very important when it comes to healthy eating. If you have access, go to your local farmer’s market, try some new foods, have a healthy cooking party with your friends or family. 

Overeating can be a very challenging and difficult habit to break. If you struggle with overeating, consider working with a certified health coach or licensed therapist to help you overcome this habit. 

Our health coaches would be happy to answer any questions and help you get started on your health and wellness journey. 

About the Author

Received Master’s Degree in Nutrition from the University of Bridgeport - one of the most advanced scientific and evidence-based nutrition programs in the US. Lienna is also board-certified in Clinical Nutrition (CNS) by the American Nutrition Association and a licensed clinical dietician/nutritionist in the State of Florida. She is also certified by Yale University in 'The Science of Well-Being.' "I help my clients uncover the root causes behind their symptoms, understand their motivations, and help them break down big goals into manageable steps! My passion is to share the power of food and lifestyle as a form of medicine."

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