The 2 Root Causes Of Overeating

For years I tried to lose weight. And for years I wasn't successful with any of the things I tried, at least not in the long term. 

Each time I decided to go on a diet, I focused on what food I would eat and what exercises I would do. 

That's it. That was my game plan. And every single time I wasn't successful.

Until I learned the 2 root causes of overeating.

The 2 Root Causes Of Overeating

Let's talk big picture for a minute.

We know the cause of being overweight is overeating. We are overweight because we eat more food than we need to. It's as simple as that. 

But, have you ever wondered what causes overeating? Why do we eat more food than we need to in the first place? 

I never really asked myself that before. But once I did, my entire world changed. 

Ok, so why do we overeat? Two reasons:

  1. Over-hunger 
  2. Over-desire

Let's talk a little more about each of these. 

Root Cause #1: Over-hunger

Over-hunger is feeling hungry too often because of hormonal imbalance. And that hormonal imbalance is typically caused by sugar, flour, and concentrated foods as well as eating too often. 

There are three main hormones that cause over-hunger. 

Hormone #1: Insulin

You may have heard about insulin. It's a hormone that stores or burns fat. 

Thinking about the big picture...if you want to lose weight, then your body must be able to burn fat. Insulin is the hormone that will store or burn the fat. 

So, insulin is very important to weight loss. 

Let's say we eat lunch, a sandwich and salad just to use as an example. Once we eat, the insulin in our blood rises and the fat is stored in our body alongside the fat that's already inside our body from previous meals. 

The fat will continue to be stored inside our body unless we give our body a chance to burn the fat that's already inside. 

How do we give our body a chance to burn fat that's already inside? By allowing our insulin levels to go down.

There are 4 main ways we can get our insulin levels to go down:

  1. Stop eating sugar
  2. Stop eating flour
  3. Stop eating concentrated foods
  4. Eat less often 

So, if you want your insulin level to go down, focus on those four things.

Sugar, flour, and concentrated foods can spike your insulin in crazy ways. And eating all the time is more likely to keep your insulin level high. 

Let your insulin regulate a bit and burn fat that's already inside your body from previous meals. 

Hormone #2: Leptin 

Leptin is a hormone that tells you when you're full. Insulin can block this hormone. 

So, if insulin is spiked, leptin will have a hard time telling you when you're full. 

If you don't know when you're full, you'll likely eat way more than you need to. 

Hormone #3: Ghrelin 

Ghrelin is a hormone that tells you when you're hungry. Concentrated foods make it hard for ghrelin to work the right way. 

So, if ghrelin isn't functioning properly, your body will have a hard time telling you when you're hungry. 

If you don't know when you're truly hungry, your body is basically confused. And it's way more likely that you'll overeat.

Root Cause #2: Over-desire

Over-desire is feeling the artificial desire to eat because of things happening in the brain. Things like our belief systems around food, not wanting to feel our feelings, and these things called neural pathways.

In my opinion, understanding each of these things is the MOST IMPORTANT thing you can do for yourself if you're trying to lose weight. Seriously. So, let's dive a little deeper. 

Belief Systems

First, let's define what this is. A belief is basically a thought we've been thinking over and over again. We've thought it so much that it's become a deep-rooted belief for us. It's like we think it (we believe it) without question. It's automatic. 

For most of us, our belief systems are formed as children. And because we've thought certain things for so long, they're very deep-rooted in us.

As adults, many of us don't consider challenging these beliefs because they're so deep within us. They feel like the truth. They feel automatic. 

But challenging them is exactly what we need to do.

Start by asking yourself these questions: 

  1. What do you believe about food and weight loss?
  2. What are the lessons your parents taught you?
  3. What do you believe about your ability to lose weight? 
  4. What do you believe about your life? 

Now, challenging our own beliefs will feel uncomfortable and every part of you will want to resist it. That's completely normal. I recommend focusing on one belief at a time. Baby steps. 

So, answer the above 4 questions, look at your answers, and decide which belief you want to challenge first. Pick one that isn't serving you now. One that isn't helping you lose weight and reach your goals. 

I must eat 3 meals a day.

Is this really the truth? Is this serving you? Do you want to continue believing this?

Challenge it. 

What do you want to believe? 

You may want to continue believing that you must eat 3 meals a day. That's fine. Or you may want to challenge this belief and change it. You get to decide. 

Desire Not To Feel Feelings

This is super important. Whether we realize it or not, many of us eat to avoid or numb our feelings. I used to be queen of this. 

Let's say it's the end of the day and I'm just walking in the door from work. I feel exhausted and frustrated so I reach for the bag of cookies. Mmmm, these cookies are so good.

The cookies are definitely numbing my feelings and temporarily making me feel better. All of my thoughts about my day seem to disappear. 

Until...

I look down. I see crumbs. I see an empty bag of cookies. 

I ate the entire bag and I didn't even realize it. Now, I'm starting to feel exhausted and frustrated again. And I've added some new negative feelings, like disappointment in myself. On top of it all, I physically feel sick from all the cookies. 

Does this story sound familiar? 

Sometimes we eat to numb our negative feelings. We basically desire not to feel. But the feeling always comes back around again. And we usually feel worse. 

So, the trick here is to learn how to feel our own feelings. Learn how to feel the good and the bad. Learn how to just sit with those feelings and accept them without numbing them with food. 

I'm not saying it's easy to do this but it's a necessity to lose weight and keep it off in the long term.

Learning to feel feelings may sound simple but it's a really important skill we must learn to lose weight. It's like learning to walk for the first time or learning how to drive for the first time. It takes practice. And practice leads to mastery. 

Do you sometimes eat to numb your feelings? What are the common feelings you have that you try to avoid? 

Neural Pathways 

You may be wondering what neural pathways are.

Think about them like a bunch of pathways in the brain (kinda like highways we drive on). Like the pathways (or highways) for our thoughts and beliefs. 

Our neural pathways strengthen when we consistently make decisions to do something, like overeat, and this makes those decisions feel automatic.

In order to successfully lose weight in the long term we must de-condition specific neural pathways in the brain. We must weaken these neural pathways. 

How? By learning the skill of allowing urges. If we allow a significant number of urges (like 100) then our neural pathways will change. 

Let's talk about our previous example. 

It's the end of the day and I'm just walking in the door from work. I feel exhausted and frustrated so I reach for the bag of cookies. I stop myself. I allow myself to feel exhausted and frustrated. And I allow myself to process the urge I'm feeling. 

After a few minutes, the urge goes away. 

If I do this 100 times or so, the neural pathways in my brain will change. And I'll feel less desire to overeat. 

Does this sound too good to be true? It isn't. And it's exactly what I recommend you focus on if you want to lose weight. 

The Wrap-Up

If your goal is to lose weight, focusing on diet and exercise alone will only get you so far. But focusing on the 2 root causes of overeating can get you to your goal and help you keep it off forever. 

Create a new goal: removing over-hunger and over-desire from your life.

Now, I want to wrap-up by telling you that I'm not a doctor or a hormone expert. I strongly recommend you speak to your doctor if you think there's a problem with the regulation of your hormones.

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