It’s Christmas and this is a perennial topic. Feast, the table groans under the rich food. We are just eating and eating, stuffing ourselves till we are ready to burst. Stress? Anger? Why does some people eat that amount of food which are unhealthy and limit quality and time of life?
Most of the people know the relation between overeating and gaining weight. Obesity is one of the major national health problem in Western countries.
Several researches showed that the main reason of overeating is a neurological malfunction which works similarly like addiction. It can be cause by psychosocial factors, stress, depression or environmental elements. Lee and his colleagues published in Science & Society scientific review that there is a similarity between drug addiction and several types of overeating. In both addictions’ background there is a mechanism which is after an expedient behaviour (like eating chocolate) dopamine (happiness hormone) production follows which has a kind of behaviour reward nature. Sugar, fat and salt have a significant effect on our brain. For instance sweet foods have a kind of nice and painkiller effect so the taste of food often gets connected with our internal reward system. With frequent ingestion of sweets its taste links up with the emotion of settling. The reward center in our brain also gets activated by effects like external stressors, depression or the feeling of helplessness. When we get affected by them immediately we want to ease our internal tense. Most of the times we don’t even have time to recognize our appeared emotions, we suddenly discovered that we are standing in the kitchen and having already chocolate or cake in our hand. If our brain has already learnt that food/sweet provided comfort before in similar situations then it’s going to be one of the main coping mechanism (maladaptive) for dealing with negative emotions, like being angry, stressed or sad. (Emotional eating).
Our environmental factors subconsciously stimulate us to overeat. We eat more when more people are around a table and we are willing to eat till we are ready to burst. (Cohen, D. A. 2008)
What can we do to avoid overeating?
We are all the time in a hurry in this fast word and multitasking which means very often we eat while doing other things, like working, watching TV or travelling. If we split our attention we are not able to pay attention to our internal conditions and what we eat and how much. We don’t even chew our meal properly. Try to focus to the taste of your meal, its texture like a kind of mindfulness exercise. Eat slower and chew properly (min. 30 times) your meal and you are going to feel step by step how much food is enough for your body.
Use smaller plates and glasses to avoid environmental factors. Put smaller amount of food onto your plate.
Pay attention to your emotional condition, be more aware how you feel. Most of the times we eat because of our emotional internal condition. Recognize when you are sad, angry or stressed because recognition is the first step to handle overeating. Look for another relaxation technique, like sport, meditation, taking a walk or talking with a friend. If you feel that it’s too challenging for you, look for professional help.
Eating to ease internal tenses is a maladaptive coping mechanism to handle negative emotions.
“We eat to live, not living to eat”
I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a lots of love and joy for the holidays!