5 Sneaky Reasons Why You Overeat

You think you’re doing all the right things, but the scale won’t budge. Or, if it does move, the dial goes the opposite way that you want it to.

There are many reasons for overeating, and some of them are obvious, like junk food binges, fasting until ravenous, and more. Identifying your triggers is one way to stop unhealthy eating behaviours. But what about when you don’t know you’re over-consuming calories? We’ve found five common, yet sneaky reasons why some people overeat.

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1. You Eat Too Many ‘Healthy’ Foods

There is such a thing as healthy junk food, from sweet potato chips, antioxidant chocolate bars, sugar-free sweets and more. But just because a food is labeled as being a healthy alternative, that doesn’t mean that it’s low in calories. A recent study in the Journal of Marketing Research, as covered by CNN, found that when people consume foods with fitness-related branding, they unknowingly eat more and exercise less. We know not to gorge out on fat-laden, high-calorie snacks, but when it comes in a package with health messaging, we give ourselves the green light. But now you know to be more aware, even when you are eating healthfully.

2. Your Hormones Are Against You

There is a hormone in the brain, GLP-1, that monitors eating and caloric intake, and according to an animal study from Rutgers University, reports Quartz, that hormone can be manipulated to restrict caloric intake or cause overeating. The researchers say that when we eat fatty foods, we get higher levels of dopamine, which signals happiness and reward and encourage us to eat more to keep feeling good. But when they adjusted GLP-1 in the animal subjects, it prevented the dopamine release and instead ate according to their natural caloric requirements. While we can’t exactly monitor the GLP-1 hormone, we can watch out for fatty foods that instigate overeating.

3. You’re Happy

Overeating is often associated with feeling down – that’s the reason they call ‘comfort food’ comfort food. But you don’t have to be sad to overeat. In fact, one Dutch study, as referenced by the Daily Mail, suggests that happiness can also be a culprit. Emotional eaters, those who eat in response to certain feelings as opposed to hunger, can also happen when they have positive feelings, such as being happy, cheerful and upbeat. Recognizing cues to overeating is helpful. That way when you’re feeling happy – or even sad for that matter – you can be aware of your relationship with food and how to handle it. Not sure what kind of an emotional eater you are? Take this quiz from Psychology Today.

4. You Can’t Sleep

Never underestimate the power of sleep on your health. According to the National Institutes of Health, not sleeping enough each night could put you at risk for overeating and obesity. Those who sleep less than average end up consuming foods that are higher in calories and carbs, which often leads to overeating. Why? A good night’s sleep is associated with better levels of the hormones responsible for feelings of hunger and satiety, as well as insulin, which affects blood sugar levels. Make sleep a priority and see if it helps your diet.

5. You’re Addicted To Food

According to psychiatrist Dr. Judith Orloff, overeating can sometimes manifest itself as a serious mental health issue, and she likens food cravings to that of a drug addict. Is this you?: Cravings are intense. Food isn’t just a simple pleasure, it’s a crutch that consumes you. You self-medicate stress, mood-swings and more with food. Dr. Orloff’s advice: recognize triggers for food cravings, try breathing exercises, take a bath, focus on exercise and seek out therapy to help deal with your addiction.