Why do I overeat? Have you found yourself asking that question at the end of the day when you feel bloated or perhaps the next morning when you step on the scale? If so, you are not alone. Considerably more than half of the women over 50 are overweight, and a third are obese. Our sedentary lifestyles are certainly a contributing factor, but at the heart of the problem, we simply overeat.
You’ve undoubtedly read (or observed) how restaurants have contributed to our overeating by serving giant portions. There are lots of good tips out there on how to handle the problem, i.e., ask the waiter to box half of it to take home before serving the food, order an appetizer instead, etc., but restaurants, most likely, aren’t your biggest downfall. There are lots of other bigger contributors to weight gain.
There are at least 7 habits that many of us have fallen into over the years, and the answer to “why do I overeat” is often found in a combination of the following bad habits.
While you may think you can distinguish between being hungry and being thirsty, you often can’t. And, even if you aren’t thirsty, often a glass of water or sparkling water will get your mind off the idea that you need to eat and ultimately satisfy your urge at the time. Try it the next time you want to reach for a snack.
This would seem almost counterintuitive. One would think if you are awake more, you would be burning more calories. However, the problem is women who aren’t getting enough sleep are going to bed later, and therefore have opportunities to eat more. Also, if you are sleep-deprived, either not getting enough minutes of sleep or enough good quality sleep, your metabolism will not function properly.
If you have high cholesterol, you may have been told to eat a low-fat diet. However, it is usually not the healthy high-fat foods that raised your cholesterol. More and more research is concluding that a good amount of fat is needed to keep you sated for several hours. Include more “good” fats in your diet like olive oil, fatty fish like tuna and salmon, and avocados. Even full-fat yogurts are better for you than lighter versions with added sugar. You’ll feel fuller longer by eating more fat, and you’ll eat less in the long run.
If you’re eating cereal and fruit for breakfast, it may be setting you up to crave sugar all day long. In a Prime interview with M.D. turned nutritionist Dr. Laura Lefkowitz on Why Postmenopausal Women Can’t Lose Weight, she recommends a protein source such as eggs or avocado and a piece of toast from sprouted bread, but no fruit. She says having sugar in the morning, even if it’s fruit, can set you up to crave sugar all day long. She instead recommends eating your fruit around 4:00 with some protein when your body has a natural dip in energy. Answering the question of “why do I overeat” may be as simple as what you consume for your breakfast.
Mindless eating is something we all know is bad, but we still do it. A good way to break the habit is to vow not to eat anything unless you are seated at a table with a plate and silverware. It will make you concentrate on what and how much you are eating. It will also cut out eating passed on hors d’oeuvres at a cocktail party. Eat before you go, and you’ll eat a lot less fattening food. Also, stop scanning your phone while eating; you tend to eat more and feel less satisfied because you weren’t mindful of the meal you were ingesting.
When you chew gum, you stimulate the gastric juices and produce saliva, all things that signal the body that food is on its way. When none arrives, your stomach will signal your brain that you’re hungry – even when you aren’t. The other really bad thing about chewing gum is the sugar or artificial sugar, both of which will make you crave more sugar.
If you are surrounded by other overweight people, you will eat more because they do. While you can’t leave your family, you can set an example by eating less yourself. Encourage overweight friends to join you in making changes to what and when you eat. If they continue to tempt you with stops at the ice cream parlor, you may need to rethink spending time with them.
You might, however, have the opposite problem. You have a skinny husband or best friend who has a high metabolism and needs to eat a great deal more food than your body can process. The best resolution is to enlist their help. Let them know you are trying to lose weight and ask that they eat their desserts or particularly fattening meals when they aren’t with you.
Whatever you do, especially if you are obese, make some of these small changes to get your eating in check. The news for anyone obese is not good. The list of health risks tied to obesity is a long one. It is scary and an excellent reason to make changes sooner than later. You’ll be able to stop asking yourself, “why do I overeat” and instead, look forward to a longer, healthier life.
If you are serious about losing weight and keeping it off, consider joining Prime Women’s PLATE weight management program. You’ll be joining other women over or approaching 50 in a new way of eating designed just for our age group. Now with meal plan creation.
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