Help, I can’t stop eating! Don’t worry. You’re not the only one with this problem. In fact, there are many people who need help because they do not know why they can’t stop eating, even when they feel absolutely stuffed. Whether it was at a party or alone at home, you surely felt annoyed, guilty or ashamed of yourself for not being able to control your tendency to overeat.
Why Can’t I Stop Eating?
1. Lack of Sleep
Studies show that people who cut their nighttime sleeping hours by about an hour and 20 minutes consume over 500 calories more than they usually would the next day. The explanation is that lack of sleep can affect the balance of your ghrelin and leptin levels, the hormones that control appetite. Sluggishness can also make you look for more snacks during the day.
2. Skipping Meals
If you regularly skip breakfast or lunch, you may eat more at dinner, because ghrelin, your hunger-stimulating hormone is released. This hormone tells your brain you’re hungry, so if you miss a meal, this hormone runs high in your bloodstream all day long. Hah, no wonder I can’t stop eating!
3. Body Building
If you are trying to bulk up your muscles and work out all day, your body will need more calories. You may be burning a lot of calories while strength training, even without the cardio exercises. When you build muscle, more calories are burned and your body looks for more food.
4. Protein Shakes
If you are on a high protein diet and drinking shakes all day instead of eating real food, your body will naturally look forsomething to chew on. Even if you get enough calories from protein shakes, this type of diet can leave you hungry all the time.
I can’t stop eating even when I’m not hungry. That’s a common complaint. Ask yourself if you have taken enough water. Sometimes the body confuses thirst for hunger since thirst can also make you feel lightheaded and fatigued. Try to drink lots of water during the day. Studies show that drinking two cups of water just before eating a meal can make you eat 75-90 calories fewer during the meal.
Do you see yourself eating more when you are stressed? One study actually found that NFL fans ate more fatty foods when their team lost than when they won. Food can have a soothing effect, so if you are constantly stressed, you may be eating more even when you are not really that hungry.
7. Distracted Eating
Sometimes, without knowing it, you are eating more than you should when you are doing something else while eating snacks. For example, if you are munching junk food while watching TV or working on your computer, you might not even realize you’ve finished a whole bag of chips.
8. Social Environment
When you go out to eat with friends, you may eat more than you planned to. Talking and having fun while eating, or eating as others do can also make you go over your calorie count.
Eating while drinking alcohol can take away all your inhibitions and forget your diet. Aside from increasing appetite, alcoholic drinks like beer can also increase your calorie intake.
10. Multiple Serving Package
I can’t stop eating potato chips! Many food products are packed in large packages that are meant to contain multiple servings. If you eat straight out of this packaging, you may be eating more than just one serving. So stop eating from a gallon of ice cream or a jar of nuts and just get a small portion in a cup or small plate that is meant for one serving.
11. Empty Calories
Foods that contain a lot of calories but are poor in nutrient or fiber content can make you eat more because they never make you full. Instead of eating foods with empty calories, try taking foods that contain protein, fiber, or water, which can make you feel fuller.
12. Psychological Hunger
The mere sight or odor of food can make you think you are hungry even if you are not physically hungry. Even if you have eaten, exposure to sights and smells of food can make you keep on wanting to eat.
13. Binge Eating Disorder
Finally, the problem may be related to an eating disorder called binge eating disorder, a condition where one compulsively eats large amounts of food within a short amount of time. Affected individuals usually feel shameful or guilty afterward. People who have this problem binge eat at least once a week for at least 3 months.
What to Do If I Can’t Stop Eating
1. Create Awareness
If you can’t tell whether you are hungry enough to eat, try making your own hunger scale. For example, on a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is famished and 10 is stuffed, try to determine your level of hunger. Try not to eat, unless you are feeling at least a 5. This will help you practice more awareness and self-control. Make a visual scale and tape it to your refrigerator, office table, or wherever you tend to overeat.
2. Eat Mindfully
Try not to do anything else while you are eating your meals. Resist the temptation to use your cellphone, computer or TV while eating. This will help you eat more mindfully and will ultimately make your eating more satisfying.
3. Choose Healthy Foods
One secret to eating well is to consume healthy foods with lots of protein, fiber, small amounts of healthy fats and other nutrients. It is also advisable to eat meals regularly to make you feel less hungry.
4. Set a Timer
It may take some time before your brain realizes your body is full after eating a meal, especially if you have been eating hurriedly. This is why some people say “I can’t stop eating”,even if they are actually full. So if you’re not sure whether you should eat more, stop for a while. Set a timer for about 10 minutes and do something else, like checking your emails.
5. Keep a Food Journal
This is one of the most effective techniques to find out why, what and how much you are eating every day. It helps you become more aware of your eating habits and find out how you can improve on them.
6. Banish Trigger Foods
The most effective way to avoid eating unhealthy foods, especially on whim, is to avoid stacking them in your homes or office desks. Avoid going to the grocery store when you’re hungry or stressed out.
7. Control Your Portion
Learn how to eat small portions of food. Stick to one serving of food at a time and if possible, avoid buying foods that are packaged in multiple servings.
8. Seek Help
If you find it difficult to stop overeating on your own, consult a nutrition counselor who can help you find out what triggers your eating behaviors.