4 Questions to Ask Yourself as to Why You Overeat

4 Questions to Ask Yourself as to Why You Overeat


4 Questions to Ask Yourself About Why You Overeat

To escape emotional eating, uncover what’s behind it. Photo Credit: ISAPA.ORG

In this article, consider these 4 questions to ask yourself as to why you overeat. If you scarf down Oreos after a hard day at work or polish off a pint of ice cream any time you fight with your significant other, the problem isn’t with your willpower — it’s with your coping skills. Food can become that go-to distraction you use to avoid tackling your biggest stressors head-on, experts say. In this way, overindulging can be a way to dodge the pressing problems in your life.

Emotional eating isn’t a new concept, but we don’t always look beyond its soothing effects. Sometimes, it turns into a habitual, maladaptive coping strategy to deal with issues like loneliness, boredom or depression. In this way, emotional eating can be similar to addictions, explains Barbara Spanjers, MS, a therapist and wellness coach based in Las Vegas, Nevada.

The solution, however, isn’t to separate food from feelings completely. “All eating has an emotional component, and we don’t want to remove that. It’s nurturing. It’s attached to memories. It encourages social connection,” Spanjers says. “The problem arises when you’re using eating or food for coping — if you’re in that pan of brownies instead of talking to your boss about what went down at work today.”

Once the brownies are gone, however, your problems will still be around. Over time, this habit of indulging in the moment can block you from achieving long-term goals, such as weight loss.

4 Questions to Ask Yourself About Why You Overeat

Sweets are soothing, but they don’t make problems go away (unfortunately). Photo Credit: Bojon Gourmet

According to Spanjers, people who lack assertiveness can often get swept up in this particular brand of emotional eating to cope with the anxiety they feel. “We often don’t want to want to take a moment and figure out what is wrong with us, but we should,” she says. “Learn to say no to unimportant things. Learn to deal with loneliness by seeking out people, not food.”

If you’re more tempted to dive into a bag of chocolate-covered pretzels instead of calling your partner to sort out your latest argument, ask yourself these five questions. Your answers will help you better understand your emotional eating habits — and learn how to break them.

1. Is This Physical Hunger or Emotional Hunger?

Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between emotionally-driven and physically-driven forms of hunger, says Spanjers, but there is a telltale clue: “Physical hunger tends to come on gradually, whereas emotional hunger tends to hit you fast,” she says.

If you suddenly notice an urge to eat (especially if you’ve just finished a meal), pause and ask yourself if you’re responding to a stress trigger like an impending deadline or disagreement with your best friend. Deal with that to feel better, says Spanjers.

2. What’s Really Causing That Rumbling in My Gut?

We often clue into our hunger because we feel it in our gut. But stress and nervousness can also make the stomach flutter. Spanjers explains that disordered eating habits and food anxieties have caused many people to feel cut off from the body’s messaging system, spurring a slew of misinterpreted signals.

“If you’re unsure if you’re experiencing physical hunger pangs, when did you start feeling it?” Spanjers asks. “Check to see if you have a reason to be anxious.” If you do, relieve the anxiety by tackling the situation or taking a few deep breaths — not by grabbing a snack.

3. What Feeling Am I Trying to Get From Food?

Even if you’ve dealt with the problem that caused your stress, you might still feel the need to soothe yourself. According to Susan Albers, PhD, a clinical psychologist at the Cleveland Clinic and author of “Eat Q: Unlock the Weight-Loss Power of Emotional Intelligence,” we are conditioned to reach for food to feel good. “It’s in so many ads. Think of chocolate, associated with words like ‘bliss,’” Albers explains.

“If you’re consistently comfort-eating, try making swaps,” Albers says. “Come up with activities that will match the feeling the food would create for you.” Say you feel calm when you eat chocolate cake and when you pet your dog: Only one is a healthy coping mechanism.

4 Questions to Ask Yourself About Why You Overeat

Tough deadline at work? Snuggle your pup instead of reaching for snacks. Photo Credit: Getty Images

4. What Are Some Practical Ways Can I De-Stress?

A lot of stress-management advice is unrealistic for the times you need relief the most. “Take a vacation, take a bubble bath. If the kids are screaming, grabbing the M&Ms is easy. Taking a bubble bath is hard,” Spanjers says.

She and Albers both suggest making a list of ways you can deal with your biggest stressors in the moment. “Come up with five things you find relaxing, five places you find calming, and five sayings that improve your mood,” Albers advises. “This could be yoga or putting on pajamas, going to a park or your quiet bedroom, or a mantra or prayer.” Write them down on a piece of paper so you’ll commit them to memory.

Remember, there’s nothing wrong with enjoying a good meal or savoring a delicious dessert. “Food is fabulous,” Spanjers insists. “If you want a glass of wine to unwind with your girlfriends on a Friday, that’s great. But if you need it to get out of your house, that’s not good. It’s when it comes at the expense of dealing with real problems that food becomes a problem.”

What Do YOU Think?

When are you most likely to soothe yourself with food? What are your strategies for avoiding emotional eating? Share your suggestions for healthy ways to de-stress in the comments.

Processed Food Worse Than Cigarettes


By Dr. Mercola

About 90 percent of the money Americans spend on food goes to buy processed food. What’s worse, new research shows that, astonishingly, more than half—nearly 60 percent, in fact—of the food Americans eat is ULTRA-processed.

Basically, half of what the average American eats in any given day are convenience foods that can be bought at your local gas station.

Moreover, those ultra-processed foods account for 90 percent of the added sugar consumption in the U.S.  Data from a nationally representative food survey was used for this study, which found that:

  • On average, 57.9 percent of the calories people eat comes from ultra-processed foods
  • 29.6 percent of calories comes from unprocessed or minimally processed foods (such as meats, eggs, milk, and pasta)
  • Processed but not ultra-processed foods (such as canned or preserved foods, cured meats and cheeses) account for 9.4 percent of calories
  • 2.9 percent of calories comes from “processed culinary ingredients” such as vegetable oil, table salt, and sugar
  • Less than 1 percent of daily calories comes from vegetables

Excessive Sugar Consumption Drives Disease Statistics

The dangers of eating too much added sugar have been well-established, and have even become officially recognized. For the first time ever, the 2015-2020 U.S. dietary guidelines now recommend limiting your sugar intake to a maximum of 10 percent of your daily calories.

Decreasing sugar consumption is indeed at the top of the list if you’re overweight, insulin resistant, or struggle with any chronic disease. Research has shown that as much as 40 percent of American healthcare expenditures are for diseases directly related to the overconsumption of sugar.

More than $1 trillion each year is spent on treating sugar and junk food-related diseases, which runs the gamut from obesity and diabetes, to heart disease and cancer. 

According to a report on the global cancer burden, published in 2014, obesity is responsible for an estimated 500,000 cancer cases worldwide each year. A more recent British report estimates obesity may result in an additional 670,000 cancer cases in the U.K. alone over the next 20 years.

For over half a century, nutritional guidelines have focused on cutting saturated fats and cholesterol, and we now know that this was a very serious mistake.

As fats were removed from processed fare, the sugar content increased (to make the food palatable), and sugar is the real culprit of virtually all diseases previously blamed on dietary fats.

What is Ultra-Processed Food?

Anything that isn’t directly from the vine, bush, tree, or from the earth is considered processed. Bread and pasta, for example, are processed goods. Ditto for anything canned or frozen.

Depending on the amount of adulteration the food goes through, processing may be considered minimal or significant. “Ultra-processed” foods are at the far end of the significantly altered spectrum.

Examples of ultra-processed foods include breakfast cereals, pizza, soda, chips and other salty/sweet/savory snacks, packaged baked goods, microwaveable frozen meals, instant soups and sauces, and much more. In the featured study, ultra-processed foods were defined as:

  • Food products containing several ingredients that are not traditionally used in cooking
  • Besides salt, sugar, oils and fats, they can include artificial flavors, colors, sweeteners, and other additives “used to imitate sensorial qualities of unprocessed or minimally processed foods”
  • These ingredients may also be added “to disguise undesirable qualities of the final product”
  • They typically contain preservatives and chemicals that give them an unnaturally long shelf-life

Ultra-Processed Foods Contain FAR More Sugar Than Processed Foods

The difference between processed foods and ultra-processed foods in terms of sugar content is quite dramatic.

The researchers found that about 2 percent of the calories in processed foods came from added sugars. By definition, unprocessed or minimally processed contained none. Ultra-processed foods, on the other hand, got 21 percent of their calories from added sugars.

Not surprisingly, the authors of the featured study concluded that: “Decreasing the consumption of ultra-processed foods could be an effective way of reducing the excessive intake of added sugars in the USA.”

On a positive note, the researchers also found that there were significant differences in how much ultra-processed foods people ate.

One in 5 people (about 60 million Americans) actually got more than 70 percent of their calories from real food (i.e. unprocessed or minimally processed), and only 30 percent from ultra-processed fare.

As noted by Time Magazine: “7.5 percent of the people with the lowest processed food consumption actually met the federal dietary recommendations of eating no more than 10 percent of daily calories from sugar.

So if people avoid processed foods, it’s possible to reach recommended nutritional requirements.”

So there is a ray of hope. In my view, eating a diet consisting of 90 percent real food and only 10 percent or less processed foods is a doable goal for most that could make a significant difference in your weight and overall health.

I realize for many  this is a challenge, but I know it is doable. Unless I’m travelling, my diet is very close to 100 percent real food, much of it grown on my property. One just needs to make the commitment and place a high priority on it.

Carb-Rich Foods are As Risky As Cigarettes

In related news, research suggests refined non-vegetable fiber carbs such as potatoes, bagels and breakfast cereal are as risky as smoking, increasing your risk for lung cancer by as much as 49 percent.

Your risk is particularly high if you’ve never smoked. Among smokers, eating a high glycemic diet was associated with a 31 percent increased risk for lung cancer. As reported by UPI:

“A high glycemic index, a measure of the effect of carbohydrates on blood sugar levels, was linked to a greater chance for developing lung cancer, researchers at the University of Texas MD Andersen Cancer Center found…

While increased levels of carbohydrates can increase the risk, the researchers said the quality of carbohydrates, rather than the quantity, has the strongest effect.

Foods such as white bread and puffed rice cereal are highly refined, which is why the researchers suggest swapping them out for whole-wheat or pumpernickel breads and pasta.

“The results from this study suggest that, besides maintaining healthy lifestyles, such as avoiding tobacco, limiting alcohol consumption and being physically active, reducing the consumption of foods and beverages with high glycemic index may serve as a means to lower the risk of lung cancer,” Dr. Xifeng Wu, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Texas, said…”

High glycemic foods, i.e. refined carbs high in sugar, promote insulin resistance and obesity, and this isn’t the first time a connection has been made between a high-sugar and/or obesity and cancer.

In fact, cancer specialists who discussed the cancer trend at the 2015 American Society of Clinical Oncology conference in Chicago warned that obesity will likely overtake smoking to claim the lead spot as the principal cause of 10 different types of cancer within the next decade. Obesity is also associated with worsened prognosis after a cancer diagnosis, raises your risk of dying from the cancer treatment, and raises your risk of additional malignancies and comorbidities.

Half of All Americans are Pre-Diabetic or Diabetic

Other recent research suggests that nearly half of all adults living in California now have diabetes or prediabetes, and most are not even aware of it. (For a list of pre-diabetes and diabetes rates by county, see the original news story.) According to Harold Goldstein, executive director of the California Center for Public Health Advocacy which commissioned the report: “This study is a wake-up call that says it’s time to make diabetes prevention a top state priority.”

As reported by Marinij Health:

“Nationally, diabetes rates have tripled over the past 30 years. In California, the rate has increased by 35 percent since 2001…Some health experts say one way to address the diabetes epidemic is to impose a tax on sugary beverages. Berkeley became the first city in the country to pass a soda tax in 2014, but similar efforts have repeatedly failed in the Legislature…

[H]owever, two legislators — Democratic Assemblymen Jim Wood, of Healdsburg, and Richard Bloom, of Santa Monica – [have] proposed a “health impact fee” of 2 cents per ounce on sugar-sweetened sodas and other drinks. And last month, a Field Poll about childhood obesity-prevention policies showed more than 7 in 10 of voters polled believe there’s a close link between a child regularly drinking sugary beverages and diabetes.”

In 2008, pre-diabetes and diabetes affected 1 in 4 Americans. Then, research published last year which looked at data up to 2012, found that HALF of all Americans are now either pre-diabetic or diabetic. In all, 12 to 14 percent have full-blown diabetes, and another 38 percent are pre-diabetic. So California is not unusual in that sense. Moreover, as in California, African-Americans, Hispanics, and Asian-Americans are nearly twice as likely to have diabetes as Caucasians.

Why Diabetes is Such a Dangerous Disease

Diabetes has become so common that many don’t even bat an eyelash anymore, but this is a serious mistake. Aside from the potentially deadly side effects of diabetes drugs, which I’ve covered in previous articles, the health complications that diabetes fosters are many, including but not limited to the following:

High blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke – 75 percent of diabetics have high blood pressure (130/80 mm Hg or higher). Death from heart disease and risk for stroke is 2 to 4 times higher among people with diabetes. Amputations – In 2004, 71,000 lower limb amputations due to diabetes were performed in the U.S.
Blindness — Diabetes is the leading cause of new cases of blindness among adults aged 20 to 74 years Dental disease — Almost one-third of people with diabetes have severe periodontal disease
Kidney disease – Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure.

In 2005, more than 45,700 people began treatment for end-stage kidney disease in the U.S. and Puerto Rico, and another 178,700 were living on chronic dialysis

Pregnancy complications — Poorly controlled diabetes before conception and during the first trimester of pregnancy among women with type 1 diabetes can cause major birth defects in 5 to 10 percent of pregnancies, and spontaneous abortions in 15 to 20 percent of pregnancies
Nervous system disease — About 60 to 70 percent of people with diabetes have mild to severe forms of nervous system damage such as: impaired sensation or pain in hands or feet, poor digestion, carpal tunnel syndrome and erectile dysfunction Cancer– People with prediabetes have a 15 percent higher risk of cancer, especially cancers of the liver, stomach, pancreas, breast, and endometrium.

Women with diabetes have a 50 percent greater risk of developing colorectal cancer than women without diabetes.

People with the highest insulin levels at the time of a cancer diagnosis also have significantly increased risks of cancer recurrence, as well as a greater risk of being diagnosed with a particularly aggressive form of cancer

What’s the Key to Resolving Insulin Resistance and Diabetes?

The answer can be summarized in three words: Eat real food. Intermittent fasting, or the more accurate term, Time Restricted Feeding (TRF), can also be helpful. When you fast, your liver burns off the available liver fat, and by temporarily depleting your liver fat stores you restore metabolic stability to your liver and improve hepatic insulin sensitivity.

Exercise is also an important component. Studies have shown that exercise is beneficial and increases insulin sensitivity, whether you lose weight or not, and even if you’re physically active as little as 2.5 hours a week can be beneficial. When it comes to diet though, the long-term and most sustainable answer is to simply cut way down on ultra-processed foods, and to think of “diet” in terms of unprocessed whole foods, with which you then cook from scratch.

Truly, a major part of the problem is that so few people take the time to cook their own meals anymore. But relying on a “gas station diet” of ultra-processed foods is a recipe for insulin resistance, obesity, and related diseases that will ultimately cost you a fortune in medical bills and shorten your lifespan.

When you consider the ultimate, long-term price tag of all this convenience food, the time you invest in cooking will pay tremendous dividends. Remember if you want to be healthy, you or someone you trust needs to spend some serious time in the kitchen preparing your own food.

If you’re insulin/leptin resistant, have diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, or are overweight, you’d be wise to limit your total fructose intake to 15 grams per day until your insulin/leptin resistance has resolved. For others, limit your daily fructose consumption to 25 grams or less. This can be pretty difficult unless you eat real food, and the reason for this is because ultra-processed foods are eight times higher in sugar than minimally processed or unprocessed foods.

Replace Refined Carbs With Healthy Fats and Moderate Amounts of Protein

Since you’re cutting a lot of energy (carbs) from your diet when you eliminate processed sugars and grains, you need to replace them with something better, including:

    • As much high quality healthy fat as you want. Your body needs saturated and monounsaturated fats to stay healthy, in appropriate quantities, as they provide many beneficial effects, contrary to what you have probably been told.30 It is good to target about 90 percent of your fat calories from them. If you’re insulin resistant, you may need upwards of 50-85 percent of your daily calories in the form of healthy fats.

Good sources include coconut and coconut oil, avocados, butter, nuts, and animal fats. Remember—fats are high in calories but small in volume, so when you look at your plate, vegetables should be the largest portion by far, as they are not calorie dense.

  • Moderate amounts of high quality protein found in organically-raised, grass-fed or pastured meats and dairy products, fish, legumes, and nuts. Aim for one-half gram of protein per pound of lean body mass, which places most people in a range of 40-70 grams of protein per day. Use the chart below to help you.

Fermented Foods and Fiber Help Prevent Diabetes

Optimizing your gut health is also important. Multiple studies have shown that obese people have different intestinal bacteria than lean people. Recent research also suggests your microbiome can influence your risk of diabetes. Fortunately, optimizing your gut flora is relatively easy.

You can reseed your body with good bacteria by regularly eating fermented foods (like fermented vegetables, especially fermented with starter culture that has strains that produce vitamin K2, natto, raw organic cheese and miso) or by taking a high-quality probiotic supplement.

Recent research also shows that increasing your fiber intake can help prevent diabetes. In this study, those who had the highest intake of fiber (more than 26 grams a day) had an 18 percent lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes than those with the lowest intake (less than 19 grams a day).

One way that a high-fiber diet may be protective against obesity and diabetes has to do with your intestinal bacteria’s ability to ferment fibers. When you eat foods high in fermentable fibers, such as cabbage, beans, and other vegetables, the bacteria in your intestines ferments them into butyrate and propionate, which are short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) involved in sugar production.

Just be sure to get most of your fiber in the form of vegetables, not grains, and focus on eating more vegetables, nuts, and seeds. The following whole foods, for example, contain high levels of soluble and insoluble fiber.

Chia seeds Berries Vegetables such as broccoli andBrussels sprouts
Root vegetables and tubers, including onions and sweet potatoes Almonds Psyllium seed husk, flax, and chia seeds
Green beans Cauliflower Beans

Artificial Sweeteners Cause Cancer

By Dr. Mercola

If you’ve added the artificial sweetener sucralose (brand name Splenda) to your diet because you think it’s a healthy alternative to sugar, you’re being dangerously misled. Research from the Ramazzini Institute has linked the popular sugar alternative to cancer, specifically leukemia.

The findings were first presented at a London cancer conference in 2012 and prompted The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) to downgrade Splenda from its “safe” category to one of “caution.”

Now that the study has been published in a peer-reviewed journal, CSPI has again downgraded Splenda, this time from “caution” to “avoid.”

Splenda May Increase Risk of Cancer in Mice

The researchers fed mice Splenda beginning prenatally and continuing for their entire lifespan. The mice were fed varying concentrations of the artificial sweetener: 0 ppm (parts per million), 500 ppm, 2,000 ppm, 8,000 ppm or 16,000 ppm.

A significant increase in cancerous tumors was seen among male mice, and the risk increased along with the dose. The risk of leukemia in male mice also significantly increased, especially at Splenda doses of 2,000 to 16,000 ppm.1 According to the study:

“These findings do not support previous data that sucralose is biologically inert. More studies are necessary to show the safety of sucralose, including new and more adequate carcinogenic bioassay on rats.

Considering that millions of people are likely exposed, follow-up studies are urgent.”

CSPI explained that the only other long-term feeding studies conducted on Splenda were conducted by its manufacturer. The new study, they said:2

” … [I]s more powerful than the industry-funded studies, which tested fewer animals, started exposing the animals beginning at adolescence as opposed to in utero, and ended earlier in the animals’ lives.”

After more than a decade, CSPI has finally gotten it right about Splenda in recommending that consumers avoid it. For the record, however, CSPI is generally an organization whose guidelines need to be taken with a grain of salt.

For instance, while recommending that people avoid artificial sweeteners like sucralose, aspartame and saccharin, they still consider drinking diet soda to be safer than drinking regular soda.

Splenda Is Found in 4,500 Products

If you’d like to heed the warnings and cut Splenda from your diet, be aware that it’s found in more than 4,500 products. Splenda has been smartly marketed, and it’s most known for its tag line “made from sugar so it tastes like sugar.”

It’s earned a reputation for being somehow safer than other artificial sweeteners like aspartame, which is why PepsiCo ditched aspartame in its Diet Pepsi in 2015 and replaced it with none other than Splenda.

Splenda became one of the top-selling artificial sweeteners in the U.S. in a very short period of time. Between 2000 and 2004, the percentage of U.S. households using Splenda products jumped from 3 percent to 20 percent. By 2012, Splenda generated sales of nearly $288 million.3

But make no mistake; Splenda is far from natural, even though it technically does start off as a sugar molecule. In the five-step patented process of making sucralose, three chlorine molecules are added to a sucrose or sugar molecule.

A sucrose molecule is a disaccharide that contains two single sugars bound together: glucose and fructose. The chemical process to make sucralose alters the chemical composition of the sugar so much that it is somehow converted to a fructose-galactose molecule.

This type of sugar molecule does not occur in nature, and therefore your body does not possess the ability to properly metabolize it. As a result of this “unique” biochemical make-up, the manufacturers claim that Splenda is not digested or metabolized by your body, making it have zero calories.

Splenda is supposed to pass right through you. However, the research (which is primarily extrapolated from animal studies) indicates that about 15 percent of sucralose is, in fact, absorbed into your digestive system and ultimately stored in your body.

Splenda May Decimate Your Gut Bacteria

Everything You Need to Know About Eggs

Egg Nutrition Facts

In this infographic “Everything You Need to Know About Eggs,” you’ll discover the nutritional wealth that eggs offer and why you should be stringent in choosing safe, high-quality eggs. Use the embed code to share it on your website.

<img src="http://media.mercola.com/assets/images/infographic/eggs-nutrition-facts.jpg" alt="Egg Nutrition Facts" border="0" style="max-width:100%; min-width:300px; margin: 0 auto 20px auto; display:block;"><p style="max-width:800px; min-width:300px; margin:0 auto; text-align:center;">In this infographic "<a href="http://www.mercola.com/infographics/egg-nutrition-facts.htm">Everything You Need to Know About Eggs</a>," you'll discover the nutritional wealth that eggs offer and why you should be stringent in choosing safe, high-quality eggs. Use the embed code to share it on your website.</p>