Overeating is eating even though fullness is achieved. When this way of eating becomes habitual, it generally leads to weight gain and obesity. Therefore, it's important to acknowledge when you overeat. Simple yet practical tips can help you to control overeating, reducing further health problems. In this article, you'll learn the relationship between overeating and eating disorders and tips for managing overeating.
Overeating can be caused by factors like stress, processed foods, and a sedentary lifestyle, leading to weight gain and obesity.
Overeating can trigger gastrointestinal problems such as gas, bloating, acid reflux, nausea, and stomach pain.
In some cases, overeating may lead to eating disorders.
Many factors, including emotional stress, easy access to unhealthy foods, medical conditions, and medications can contribute to overeating.
You can manage overeating by implementing mindful eating and creating a supportive environment, along with seeking professional help and support groups.
How does overeating impact health?
Overeating is consuming foods beyond the point of feeling full.
Many factors, including stress, consuming processed and energy-dense foods, and a sedentary lifestyle, can lead to overeating and weight gain.
Overweight and obesity are one of the leading causes of chronic diseases, including diabetes and heart disease. Overeating can cause:
- Gastrointestinal problems. Overeating can cause gastrointestinal problems such as gas, bloating, acid reflux, nausea, and stomach pain. These problems should go away in one or two days; otherwise, you should consult a doctor to check your health.
- Weight gain and obesity. Overeating can cause excessive calorie intake, which may lead to weight gain over time.
- Eating disorders. When overeating, the body's natural cues (hormonal and physical signals) to fullness are dismissed. Cues and responses to them don't match, resulting in a broken balance. Thus, overeating can trigger eating disorders in some people.
The connection between overeating and eating disorders
It's important to define the difference between overeating and eating disorders. Eating is a way of socializing. People tend to overeat at celebrations and family gatherings.
When overeating is continuous, most individuals slowly gain weight. Also, decreased control over eating may lead to binge eating disorder.
Not all people who overate will have eating disorders. Some people may not show behavioral pathology except for excessive calorie intake and weight gain.
If you're overeating more than once a week for a few months, you may benefit from consulting your healthcare professional.
What is binge eating disorder?
Eating disorders are mental health disorders characterized by disturbed eating behaviors. Binge-eating disorder, bulimia nervosa, and anorexia nervosa are common eating disorders.
Many factors contribute to eating disorders, including genetic, physiological, psychological, social, and behavioral factors.
Binge-eating disorder (BED) is an overeating syndrome characterized by overeating and excessive food cravings. Here are some of the symptoms of binge eating disorder:
- Losing control over eating behavior and eating large amounts of food quickly.
- Binge eating frequently.
- Secretly eating and avoiding eating in social settings.
- Thinking obsessively about foods and certain foods.
- Continuing eating despite feeling comfortable fullness.
- Feeling emotions such as disgust, shame, and guilt with eating.
If you're experiencing these symptoms regularly or suspect having a binge eating disorder, consult your healthcare provider.
Common causes of overeating
Many factors contribute to overeating, including psychological, social, and behavioral factors.
- Emotional reasons. Emotions can affect your eating patterns. Most people tend to eat more when they feel stressed, bored, sad, or have intense emotions. They cope with emotions by overeating.
- Easy access to highly palatable foods. The modern environment makes accessing palatable foods, generally high in fat and sugar, incredibly easy.
- Medical conditions. Certain medical conditions such as premenstrual syndrome, anxiety, Prader-Willi syndrome (PWS), and Kleine-Levin syndrome can influence appetite.
- Medications. Some medications can affect your appetite. You can consult your doctor for a change in medication.
Tips to manage overeating
Whether you realize it or not, you carry certain eating habits. Maybe you never eat dessert after meals, or you don't have a habit of drinking water frequently.
Developing a certain eating pattern is natural. However, it's important to be aware of them and make necessary adjustments if needed.
If you realize you overeat frequently, you can improve your habits by implementing practical tips in your life:
Changing eating habits can be challenging and often takes time to achieve. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the 3R technique (reflect, replace, and reinforce) to improve eating patterns.
Reflect. The first step is to observe and identify your specific eating patterns. For example, what triggers unhealthy eating and encourages healthy eating for you.
Food journaling may help you to identify your eating patterns, what, where, and when you overeat. In this way, it's easier to identify cues for unhealthy eating patterns. For instance, you may be triggered to eat fast food because no food is in your fridge.
Replace. After you identify what patterns cause unhealthy eating habits now, you exchange these habits with healthier ones.
Let's say you order fast food when no pre-made food is in the fridge. You can replace eating out with healthy homemade foods by preparing meals the day before.
Reinforce. In this last step, you repeat the second step and choose healthier eating patterns over your old ones.
Create a supportive environment
Environment influences one's behavior. Most people tend to overeat when palatable foods are within reach or they are experiencing emotional stress. You can decrease overeating by changing the environment.
You can separate the eating environment. Avoiding distractions can help you focus only on eating, improving control over how much you're eating and cues of fullness.
Cleaning your kitchen from trigger foods can help too. You can swap trigger foods with more nutritious foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins.
Seek support and professional help
Professional support can help you to overcome overeating and its potential link to eating disorders. Your healthcare provider will assess your situation and guide you for coping strategies, counseling, or treatment.
You can also benefit from communities and support groups.
Recognizing and addressing overeating is essential for maintaining a healthy lifestyle and preventing potential eating disorders. Remember to consult your doctor if you’re having trouble overeating.
- Cleveland Clinic. Overeating.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Improving Your Eating Habits.
- ISRN Obesity. From Passive Overeating to “Food Addiction”: A Spectrum of Compulsion and Severity.
- MedlinePlus. Eating Disorders.
- Cleveland Clinic. Binge Eating Disorder.