Eating too much can have unintended short-term and long-term effects on your health. Learn why even the occasional binge can lead to unhealthy cycles.
There are many reasons why you might find yourself eating too much sometimes. You might want to celebrate a special occasion with a big meal, or perhaps it’s a way for you to release stress. Although you might enjoy the food in the moment, overeating can cause short-term and long-term health issues. Here, you can learn about why this indulgence can cause much more harm than it’s worth, and what steps you can take to reduce your food intake.
Four Signs You're Eating Too Much
When you eat too much, there are several signs you can look out for.
- You eat very quickly, without paying attention to what you’re consuming. Your brain and your stomach take some time to communicate with one another, so there can sometimes be a mismatch between how much you’re eating and whether or not you feel full. In fact, it usually takes about 20 minutes for your brain to register a satiety signal. So if you’re eating large amounts of food in a short amount of time, you might struggle to register when your body has had enough.
- Your clothes feel uncomfortably tight after you eat. Some stomach expansion is natural after a meal, but eating too much can turn this natural process harmful. As your stomach expands, it can push other organs to the side, putting stress on them. When you eat this much, you will usually notice it most easily by how much tighter your clothes feel after a meal.
- You feel tired, hot, or dizzy after eating. When you eat more food than you require, your body needs to use more energy than usual to break it all down. This can take precious resources away from your other bodily functions and can make you feel more tired. Furthermore, if the amount of food you eat requires your metabolism to speed up quickly, it can cause you to feel hot or dizzy after your meal.
- You experience heartburn. Your body produces hydrochloric acid to help you digest food. This is a natural part of the body and is completely harmless in small amounts. However, if you eat too much, your body might be required to produce much larger amounts of hydrochloric acid than usual. This can lead to the acid going up through your esophagus, which results in heartburn, a burning sensation at the back of your chest.
Why You Should Avoid Eating Too Much
Many of the signs of overeating are uncomfortable in themselves. However, in addition to causing these short-term negative effects, eating too much — especially on a regular basis — can also cause long-term health issues. This is because eating too much can throw off your circadian rhythm, which is the system in your body that controls your sleep cycle. This system is also responsible for regulating hunger, and so disruptions to your normal patterns of eating can throw your internal balance off. This can lead to disrupted sleep, which has its own set of negative health effects.
Eating too much also slows down your digestive process, since your body is unable to produce enough digestive enzymes as you need. This means your body won’t be able to convert the food you eat to energy in the most optimal way, and may instead be forced to store calories as fat. This can eventually lead to obesity-related health issues, such as cancer or heart disease.
Eating Too Much: Seven Solutions
If you notice some of the signs of overeating, here are a few things you can do to prevent yourself from eating too much in the future.
- Cut out any distractions during mealtimes. Since distracted eating can often lead to you eating more than you need to, cut out any potential distractions, like Netflix or social media. This will make it easier for you to keep track of how much you are eating, and to notice when you become full.
- Eat slowly. Since it takes your brain at least 20 minutes to register that you are full, don’t spend less time than that at each meal. If you still feel hungry after the first 20 minutes, then try eating a bit more until you reach satiation.
- Pay attention to portion sizes. If you find it difficult to notice when you are not hungry anymore, do some research on portion sizes. You don’t need to count every calorie, but it can be useful to know how much of each food group you should be eating per day.
- Eat lots of fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables can help increase your satiation without a high concentration of calories, which can make them easier for your digestive system to handle. Since fruits and vegetables also tend to be lower in fat, they are less likely to contribute to some of the negative effects of eating too much, like heartburn.
- Buy less food. If you purchase less food, especially less snack food, you are automatically setting a limit on how much you can eat.
- Save leftovers. If your habit of eating too much is related to trying to reduce food waste, you can minimize these worries by learning how to ferment vegetables and how to store food properly.
By following these steps, you can help prevent yourself from eating too much in the future.
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