Eating is a fundamental pillar of life. Most of us enjoy it, especially when we’re savoring some great tasting food!
Unfortunately, we also don’t always have the best sense of when to stop eating. Especially when we have access to good-tasting foods in immense quantities.
We poke fun at humorous situations such as Homer Simpson eating until he can’t move. But, there are consequences to this. They range from a mild stomach ache to cardiovascular disease or diabetes.
Plus, overeating is not as dramatic as eating until our pants are about to burst. It’s subtle. It’s more like eating more than we need in one sitting. Or eating until we’re full rather than eating until we’ve gotten the nutrients we need.
We don’t have the natural constraints our ancestors did to prevent us from overeating. In evolutionary terms, most humans couldn’t overeat. Large-scale agriculture and food processing are fairly recent developments.
Most humans (especially Americans) have access to more food and convenience than ever.
So, what drives us to eat more than we need?
One key insight is the emotional connection to food many people have. Research has shown that they tend to eat more or overeat when they’re feeling sad. Or depressed. Or if they’re struggling with an issue.
A study in the Journal of Adolescent Health looked at eating disorders like binge eating. It found that “it’s important to consider depressive symptoms in overeating.”
Are we eating because we’re hungry, or because of an emotional issue we’re dealing with?
Another consideration is symptoms of Hypoglycemia or low blood sugar. The Medical University of Warsaw found that these symptoms can lead people to eat more. Why? To satisfy urges to increase insulin. So, it’s important to practice moderation when eating sweets. They cause us to eat far more than we actually need.
Finally, your body is your best warning system. Warnings come when you experience constipation, blockage, vomiting or stomach aches. Your body is telling you it’s had enough.
If you feel a constant need for laxatives or antacids it’s most likely your body’s alarm system at work. It’s telling you that you’ve taken in far more food than you need.
Your body’s energy level and mental alertness also are signs of eating too much.
We all enjoy a well-prepared meal or delicious healthy snacks. Yet as far as biology is concerned food is no more than fuel for our body to consume and turn into energy.
But when you bog your system down with excess or poor quality food (A.K.A. junk food) your energy will decrease. You’ll feel sluggish and less alert. Rather than boost energy, it will make your digestive system feel overloaded.
Your brain and your emotions work together to send you the warnings. These can come in the form of depression or stress.
Be mindful with this. Be aware of your current state. Your body tells you through your energy levels and digestion system when you’ve had too much.
The signals are there. Are you listening?
Overheard: “It’s not that some people have the willpower and some don’t. It’s that some people are ready to change and others are not.”