Updated: May 27, 2020
I talked before about the effects of dieting on hunger cues. And I wanted to add to that some more detail around the reasons people will often feel like once they start eating they simply cannot stop. Many of the clients who come to me feel like this is some strange phenomenon that only happens to them, but there are many reasons to explain why it could be happening.
YOU ARE STARVING
It may sound simple but most people don't realise that not being able to stop eating once you start is actually because you are extremely hungry. Your brain will be starving. Your bodies natural reaction is to get in as much food as possible and quickly, to remedy the situation.
Think about it in relation to breathing - another function we need to stay alive. If you were to be forced to hold your breath, for example being under water - when you come up your body is dying for air and breathing is fast and you would take in large gulps of air until you felt safe.
It's the same with hunger. If it goes on for too long, once you start eating it, you probably eat very quickly, and it takes time for your fullness cues to catch up with your starving brain so the effect is that you over eat.
The resolution: Start your day with breakfast, then eat regular meals and snacks throughout the day and try not to go for more than 4 hours without eating.
Another reason you might not be able to stop eating once you start is that you are eating mindlessly. For example, eating food straight from the fridge whilst you stand there deciding what to eat. Or, when you are watching TV. Your body doesn't do a good job of registering the eating because you are preoccupied and are not paying attention to the food so you don't feel your satiety or satisfaction cues. If you haven't realised you are satisfied you can easily carry on eating. How else do you think they get away with selling those giant tubs of popcorn, pick n mix, bags of chocolate and buckets of coke at the cinema?
The resolution: Try not to eat on the go. Plan meal times. Sit down to eat, take time and switch off electronics and avoid the TV. Pay attention to the look, feel and smell of the food and pay some attention to it.
Forbidden foods! A classic, especially with dieters. When you have foods you are "not allowed" to eat, or if they are deemed bad, unhealthy or are to be avoided this becomes a problem. Once faced with those foods, for example in a buffet or on a meal out with friends you want to eat everything in sight. You know what it's like when somebody says... don't press that red button....... we immediately want to press it! It is the same for "off limits" foods. You probably find that the foods you try to avoid are also the foods that you crave. Does that ring true for you?
The resolution: Make peace with food and start looking at it for what it is rather than labeling it good, bad, healthy etc. For example - a banana is a piece for fruit and contains vitamins and fibre. A cake is a mixture of eggs, flour sugar, milk butter and vanilla and it tastes good.
This one is simple. When you have been drinking alcohol, it lowers your inhibitions and this easily leads to overeating. Can you identify with those nights out when you ate a large meal but suddenly you are hungry for a kebab or a pizza on the way home? And the portion of chips on the side that is the size of a small house. It's not hunger that is driving that. It's lack of inhibition pure and simple.
The resolution: stick to the recommended guidelines of 1-2 drinks and make a pact with yourself to go home at a reasonable time without passing the kebab shop!
When you are faced with negative emotions all you want to do is feel better, feel comfort or be soothed. You want to forget the emotion and feel happy. It's very common for people to use food to soothe emotions but it doesn't make the emotion go away so it can be easy to carry on eating. Ever got the the bottom of the tub of ice cream only to realise you are still crying?
The resolution: When you feel a negative emotion, give it a name, sit with it and try to understand why you are experiencing it rather then trying to cover it up. I have said it before and I will say it again - our emotions are there for a reason and covering them up doesn't make them go away and is not healthy. If you do need to use food to help cope than accept this is what you are doing and still seek support to help deal with the emotion. That can be talking with a friend or seeking counselling.
YOUR FOOD IS BOOORING
You could be eating enough calories to keep your body working. Calories are just energy. But if you are not getting the satisfaction factor from your meals, you end up overeating to compensate. Time and time again I work with clients to uncover what they really love to eat and why, and once those issues are addressed then overeating becomes less of a problem. If I had a £ for every time a client said to me no matter how much I eat I always crave something sweet after.... I would be rich! The simple fact is, when you don't eat foods you actually like, your brain is still looking for something to truly satisfy you even after the largest of meals.
The resolution: Eat a wide variety of foods you enjoy - often. Mix up textures, tastes and types of food.
There are receptors and feedback mechanisms all throughout the alimentary canal. The alimentary canal is the whole passage and collection of organs used to take in and process food and expel waste. It takes time for some signals to be registered by other organs including the brain, so when you eat too fast you can take in more food than is necessary before the stop signs are raised in the body. It's extremely easy to carry on eating one you start if you are forcing past those signals. You've probably heard people say it takes 15-20 minutes for the brain to register you have eaten so take that as a good rule of thumb.
The resolution: Slow down. Easier said than done. But if you take time to sit down and eat, don't eat on the go, chew your food well and enjoy the time spent eating then you are less likely to rush it.
So there are some more descriptive notes on why it can be easy to carry on eating once you start and some simple tips to get you started. Which ones do you identify with and does this help you to make some positive changes to your eating habits?
Book in a call with me to find out how I can help you to overcome disordered eating patterns like any mentioned here.