Most of us are guilty of overindulging when it comes to food at some points in our lives.
When we eat, it can take the brain up to 20 minutes to register how full we are, meaning the resulting bloated and uncomfortable stomach could be entirely unintentional. On the other hand, you may have made a conscious decision to overindulge because it’s a special occasion.
Are there triggers to overeating?
The short answer is yes, but there can be several reasons that lead you to overeat, some of which may be linked to specific times of the year, like Ramadan and the festive season when many of us let our guard down when it comes to portion control and extra helpings. Emotions, which can be heightened at these special times of the year, can also cause you to overeat.
Some triggers to overeating include:
- Abundance of food: Food is central to many occasions throughout the year, and often comes in the form of ‘eat as much as you want’ buffets or rich multi-course menus. When faced with such a delicious and tempting array of food it can be difficult to say no, and you may find yourself eating more than you typically would.
- Socializing: Coupled with the large amount of food there is when eating out, is an increase in how often you dine out. Seasonal periods are often marked by numerous gatherings with family, friends and work colleagues, and alongside consuming more food, you can also fill up your stomach with sugary and calorific beverages.
- Stress: When you’re stressed, one of the body’s responses is to produce cortisol, which stimulates your appetite and often leads to overeating. Additionally, cortisol makes you crave sugary or fatty foods that will fill you up, but don’t deliver much nutritional value.
- Boredom: Like stress, boredom can trigger emotional eating, becoming the means by which your body derives the stimulation and motivation you’re seeking. Eating through boredom can become habitual, as it’s much easier to reach for a snack in the cupboard than it is to find an activity or task that will engage your brain and lift you out of boredom.
What are the negative effects of overeating?
Overeating can affect your health in different ways, and while its effects can be short-lived, sustained and continuous overeating can have a longer-term impact on your health.
- Discomfort: Once your stomach is full, it will continue expanding to accommodate any additional food you eat. This can place pressure on the organs around it, leaving you feeling uncomfortable.
- Lethargy: When you overeat, your body slows down and shifts its focus to digesting all that food. Additionally, as your glucose level rises, so do melatonin and serotonin levels, leaving you feeling drowsy or sluggish.
- Heartburn: As part of the digestion process, the body produces acid, but when your stomach is too full this acid can pass into the esophagus causing heartburn.
- Sleeplessness: Going to bed on a full stomach can lead to a disrupted night of sleep. A bloated or heavy stomach can make it difficult to get comfortable, while your body remains focused on digestion rather than sleep.
- Flatulence / Belching: Bloating can result from the excess gas created by overeating. Passing wind or belching can help to clear the excess gas and relieve any discomfort that might be caused by it.
- Nausea/Vomiting: As food backs up in your stomach and digestive system, it can cause you to feel sick, or to vomit.
- Weight gain: Frequent overeating can lead to weight gain when your body begins to store unused calories as fat.
- Stomach expansion: Once your body has completed the digestion process, your stomach will return to its normal size. However, regular overeating could cause the stomach to permanently stretch.
- Digestive slowdown: Continued overeating can cause your digestive system to slow down and it will take your body more and more time to break down the excessive contents of the stomach, which can further increase weight gain.
Overeating on a one-off basis or even for a few days during seasonal periods isn’t likely to having a lasting effect on your health. Eating excessively on a regular basis could, however, cause you to become overweight or obese, and this can have a more noticeable impact on your health in both the short and long-term.
If overeating is becoming a habit, consult your doctor who can help you identify what is triggering your need to overeat, and work with you to establish a healthier eating routine.