Food forms an essential part of our lives. We need it to survive and to fuel our bodies, but we also use it as a tool for bonding, an expression of culture, and to cheer us up when we’re feeling down – thanks carbs.
According to Statistica, South Africans spend on average 1 hour and 12 minutes eating each day, and according to the Heart Foundation nearly 70% of women and 40% of men in the country are overweight.
Reasons why people overeat
Boredom or stress
In a recent blog post related to happiness hormones, we highlighted the impact of eating carbohydrates, and how this has the ability to make us feel better. Refined carbs are famously known as comfort food since they offer short stress-relieving benefits but little to no real nutrients.
People who use food to suppress negative emotions are in danger of developing emotional eating habits that lead to obesity and mental health concerns.
If you find yourself eating when you aren’t hungry but simply occupying your time, you are definitely overeating. This often happens over holidays when people experience sudden changes to routines and have more free time.
One way to avoid overeating due to stress or boredom is to find equally comforting activities that replace eating and soothe stress and boredom.
Consider what you like doing for fun and what helps you feel relaxed. Perhaps a hike to meet up with friends and family instead of a big restaurant lunch?
Extreme restrictions are often the result of deadline-driven weight loss or performance goals. While setting goals is important, creating extreme restrictions is not sustainable in the long run.
An example of an extreme restriction is the OMAD or Warrior diet, a variant of intermittent fasting that lasts for 23 hours with a 1-hour eating window. Research shows that this type of intermittent fasting has great health benefits when participants gradually progress to one meal per day, but it also causes binge eating, fatigue, and brain fog in participants who overextend themselves.
Extreme restrictions can also have the reverse effect of weight gain since our bodies tend to store all fuel if it recognises unusual halts to food supply.
If you’d like to know which foods your body agrees with and which foods to avoid, we recommend trying one of our nutrition expert Lisa Raleigh’s nutrition programs, available at exclusive discounts to BODYTEC members. Lisa’s safe, healthy eating plans will not only work for your body but suit your lifestyle.
Keeping junk food at home
Ever heard the story of Cortes and the burning of his ships? In the 1500s, Hernan Cortes sailed to Mexico with 600 men to overthrow the Aztec Empire. He then instructed his men to burn their ships, sending a clear message that there is no turning back, and as a result he succeeded.
When it comes to avoiding food that we know isn’t good for us, the best solution is to burn our ships and avoid buying and storing the very snacks that we don’t intend to eat. Keeping snacks in the pantry is a great idea for special occasions but not if you are someone trying to reduce the amount of snacks you eat.
Waiting too long to eat
Waiting too long to eat can also trigger overeating since your body has been starved of nutrients for an unexpectedly long period.
A great way to assess how hungry you are is to use a hunger scale, which ranks from 1 (starving) to 10 (nauseatingly stuffed).
According to recommendations by UC Berkeley, it’s best to eat once you’ve reached level 3 or 4 indicated below, and to avoid exceeding level 7 as much as possible.
Here are the hunger levels:
- Starving, no energy, weak
- Very hungry, low energy, weak and dizzy
- Uncomfortably hungry, distracted, irritable
- Hungry, stomach growling
- Starting to feel hungry
- Satisfied but could eat a little more
- Full but not uncomfortable
- Overfull, somewhat uncomfortable
- Stuffed, very uncomfortable
- Extremely stuffed, nauseas
Often, when we choose to eat healthier, we may tend to feel hungrier. This is because we aren’t eating the most satiating foods.
For more advice on choosing the right food to add to your diet, explore our recommended nutrition offers by wellness and nutrition expert, Lisa Raleigh.