Eating is a fundamental pillar of life for all humans. Moreover, most of us enjoy it, especially when it’s some great tasting food! Unfortunately, we also don’t always have the best sense of when to stop, especially, in our current time when we have access to not only good-tasting foods but in immense quantities.
While we may poke fun at humorous situations such as Homer Simpson eating until he can’t physically move, in reality the consequences of eating too much can range from a simple mild stomach ache in the short term to the many health risks associated with chronic obesity such as cardiovascular disease or diabetes.
Moreover, often overeating is not as dramatic as eating until our pants are about to burst, but rather simply eating more than we need at the current time, or eating until we’re full rather than eating until we’ve gotten the nutrients we need.
We do not have the natural constraints our ancestors did to prevent us from overeating. In evolutionary terms, most humans couldn’t overeat as large-scale agriculture and food processing generally weren’t available until fairly recently in human history. Currently, most humans and certainly Americans have access to more food with convenience than ever before.
So, what drives us to eat more than we need?
Despite the plethora of available resources, we are still fully capable of eating what we need. One key insight is the emotional connection to food many people have. Research has shown that many people tend to eat more or overeat when they are feeling sad, depressed, or struggling with an issue.
A study in the Journal of Adolescent Health researched the eating habits of adolescents who eventually developed eating disorders like binge eating. The primary result they found was “These results indicate that it is important to consider depressive symptoms in overeating.” One of the primary signs that we may be eating too much is to monitor the reason for eating. Are we eating because we are hungry, or because of an emotional issue, we are dealing with?
Another consideration is symptoms of Hypoglycemia or low blood sugar. An article from the Medical University of Warsaw stated that Hypoglycemic symptoms can lead people to eat more in order to satisfy urges to increase insulin, thus it is always important to remember to practice moderation when eating sweets as they lead us to eat far more than we actually need.
Finally, there is no better warning system than your own body. Excessive constipation, blockage, bloating, vomiting or stomach aches is your body giving you feedback that it has had enough. More often than not, if you feel a constant need for laxatives or antacids it is most likely your body telling you that you’ve taken in far more food than you need. Additionally, your body’s energy level and mental alertness are signs of eating too much. While we all enjoy a finely cooked meal or delicious snacks, biologically speaking food is simply fuel for our body to consume and turn into energy. However, when we bog our system down with excess fuel or fuel of poor quality A.K.A junk food, our energy will decrease, we feel sluggish and less alert and rather than increasing our energy, it will feel like we decreased it as we overloaded our digestion system.
In conclusion, I think I speak for most people when I say that we love food! Our bodies love food as well as it is the energy that allows it to move and function, however when we have too much our best warning system is our body and our brain telling us.
Our brains tell us through our emotions, we very often have far more food than we need for emotional reasons such as depression or stress.
We have to be aware of our current state to avoid these pitfalls. In addition, our bodies tell us through our own energy levels and digestion system when we’ve had too much. The signs are there and our brains and bodies are telling us, we just have to listen!