Q. I wonder if you could explain why it's not good to eat too much and what effects too much food has on the body (apart from the obvious weight gain).
I'm not talking about unhealthy foods but all the stuff that is good for you... I often carry on grazing on nuts, seeds, oatcakes, peanut butter, whatever is to hand, kidding myself that it's ok as it's all healthy stuff.
A. Overeating, even if it’s with healthy choices has nothing to do with true hunger so there are going to be a variety of other factors at work behind it. Let’s take a look at five…
Our thoughts: Perhaps we’ve developed a subconscious fear of going hungry. Or perhaps we’ve got used to thinking about food most of the time i.e. following lots of diets and obsessing about our weight. This creates an unhealthy obsession with food where it’s constantly craved but at the same time seen as the enemy that must be warred against.
Our emotions: Comfort eating is the way we reward ourselves or self-medicate with food to dull pain, cheer ourselves up or hide from dealing with things. Once we are convinced of the benefits of ditching the junk food and eating a real, natural food diet, it is easy to continue to comfort eat but switch the chosen foods to healthier options.
Our hormones: Our appetite is designed to be controlled by two hormones, ghrelin which stimulates appetite and leptin which suppresses appetite. After about 20 minutes of starting to eat, our bodies release leptin to tell us that we’ve eaten enough and we can stop now.
So if we are eating too fast, gobbling our food down, then it’s easy to overeat before the signal arrives. Of course, add to that, the fact that we are not very good at reading our bodies signals here in the West, having by and large, become detached from our bodies, and we may just ignore the signal OR simply not even recognise it.
Learning how to eat mindfully is very helpful here. This essentially means learning to focus on what we’re eating, clearing meal times of all distractions, chewing well and focusing on the food, how it tastes, the textures and listening for that full up signal so you stop right there.
Spend some time getting to know your genuine physical hunger feelings and then use that feeling as the cue to eat. You’ll learn to eat only when you are genuinely physically hungry. I’ll include a link in the Wednesday email to a video on that topic.
The more we get back in tune with our bodies the more in control we become.
Lack of sleep: Research has found that restricted sleep can stimulate ghrelin secretion and/or suppress leptin secretion which simply means that not enough sleep increases your appetite and leads to overeating.
A carbohydrate-rich diet: can drive some people to overeat because high-carb foods tend to disrupt blood sugar levels which can then trigger cravings for more carbs. Also, carbohydrates don’t fill us up like, say protein does, so if your diet is full of carbs rich in sugar and/or starch then it becomes almost impossible to control your food intake.
As regards the consequences of overeating on healthy foods, it mainly does come down to the extra calories and subsequent weight gain they cause.