In prehistoric times food was scarce and hard to preserve, and so the body had the tendency to store fat whenever it could in order to maximize survival. In this time and age, food is far from insufficient, because we live in an era where food is literally everywhere, and the diversity and accessibility are overwhelming. Over the ages, the body has retained some of its fat storing mechanisms, but in most countries we have mostly eliminated the striving need for survival, and now, while the body is still storing fat for grim days, there are no grim days.
Because of the food variety and the meaning we give to food, we basically eat for every human emotion and also because of some environmental factors. This, coupled with ever-busier, and thus ever more stagnant, lifestyles, has led to a staggering number of people who are overweight and on their way to obesity.
There are several reasons why we overeat, but becoming aware of them is the first step towards avoiding them. Here are the most common ones.
First, there are physical reasons that make us overeat.
We Eat When We’re Tired
Numerous studies have shown this to be true. The science of it is that lack of sleep influences at least two hormones that are very important in your metabolism and the signaling of hunger. Leptin is one of the two, which enforces satiation; that basically means it tells your brain to stop eating. Ghrelin, on the other hand, is the one that signals hunger, and makes you eat. Studies have shown that when you are sleep deprived your body is suppressing leptin secretion and increasing ghrelin levels, which make you overeat.
We Eat When We’re Thirsty
Especially on the days you are dehydrated, it’s easy to mistake thirst for hunger. If you haven’t drunk enough water or have drunk beverages containing caffeine or too much sugar you should first load up on some liquid before heading to the fridge.
Secondly, there are environmental reasons why we overeat.
We Eat Because There’s Food Everywhere
Literally, today when you round the corner you see a fast food restaurant. A few meters ahead there’s a bakery and a deli. Because we are flooded with so many choices and the constant sight of food, our brain is tricked into thinking it needs it.
We Eat Because We’re Mirroring
It’s a common fact that seeing other people eat will make us want to grab the fork, as well. This phenomenon has largely been called “mirroring,” and what it means, is that whenever we are in the presence of someone who is eating, we might feel signs of hunger. This is not physiological hunger, so becoming aware of this phenomenon helps realizing when you’re doing it.
And lastly, we eat for every human emotion known to man.
We Eat When We’re Happy
Eating has long been a celebratory activity. Whenever you are celebrating something or just enjoying good company, you eat. Parties are never without food, and going out in the evenings results in a lot of extra calories ingested for the day.
We Eat When We’re Sad, Nervous, Or Depressed
Whenever we experience feelings of sadness and despair, many of us tend to overeat in order to fill an emotional emptiness. Food is known to be comforting, but we are tricked into believing it will save our emotional cravings.
We Eat When We’re Bored
The so-called “couch potato” syndrome is correctly depicted with images of people eating in front of TV. Boredom is one of the most dangerous things for our health. When you fill your life with low priority things instead of high priority activities, you experience boredom, which drives you to overeat.
What To Do?
Besides becoming aware of the instances when your hunger is not physiological, engaging in physical activities is the best thing you can do to combat overeating. Your hormonal health will improve, as will your overall health, and you will feel more comfortable, more satisfied with life, and have better clarity. You will fill your days will activities that fulfill you so you will not have to fill the emptiness with food.