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Overeating: What Can Cause It and 7 Ways to Prevent It

By Sarah S – Jenny Craig

If you find that you sometimes eat more than you should or that you eat even if you aren’t hungry, you’re not alone. In any given month, there are thousands of web searches for the phrase “how to stop overeating.” What’s more, research1 shows that overeating salty, sweet and high-fat foods is one of the leading causes of excess weight gain.


Barring any medical issues or concerns, which should be discussed with your medical professional, what are some ways to help identify overeating triggers and reset before it starts?  Read on for a list of the seven best strategies. 

1. Slow Down and Enjoy Your Meal

Overating_EatSlow.jpgHave you ever noticed that you don’t feel satisfied immediately after swallowing your food but start to feel full after 20 minutes or so? The science of digestion explains this phenomenon.


When you eat, your brain receives a number of signals from the digestive hormones in your gastrointestinal tract. These signals help to communicate to your brain that you are full, and scientists suspect that they also give you a sense of pleasure after eating.2 This signaling process can take several minutes, so if you eat too quickly, you can overfill your stomach before you get the message that your body is satisfied. And overeating can lead to unwanted weight gain.


The best way to counteract this delay is to simply slow down when you’re eating and practice a more mindful approach to each meal, taking a break between mouthfuls. Take your time and savor your meal, or try putting your fork down between bites. When you slow the pace of your eating, you give your brain time to catch up to your stomach. You may feel more satisfied after finishing.

2. Bump Up the Flavor

Sometimes you may eat more because your taste buds don’t find your meal satisfying. You also might add more sugar, salt and fat than needed to improve the taste of your food. But there are plenty of healthy spices and flavors you can add to give your food a little more kick.



Looking to add more zip to your salads and roasted veggies? Try adding vinegar. Not only does it add lovely flavor without extra calories, but research3 has shown that it may lower the glycemic index of foods it is added to, leading to reduced glucose and insulin levels and potentially increase feelings of fullness.


Cayenne pepper

Some like it hot! If you’re seeking a little more zest than vinegar can provide, check out cayenne pepper. These chilies contain capsaicin, which gives them their heat; capsaicin also can have metabolism-boosting properties.4



On top of its versatility in adding flavor to various types of cooking, cinnamon may offer other health benefits. For instance, one study5 suggests that cinnamon may cause reductions in fasting blood glucose levels among people with Type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance. Another study6 looked at the effects of ground cinnamon on the blood glucose levels of both normal-weight and obese subjects and found similar results. Since spikes in blood glucose levels can trigger hunger, many experts suggest that cinnamon may help keep you feeling fuller longer.7

3. Stay Hydrated

Overating_Water.jpgIt’s a simple, age-old fact: Your body needs water to function optimally. But did you know that your mind also needs it? Research8 has shown that when you’re mildly dehydrated, you can feel tired and mentally foggy; you may also notice problems with your mood. Since some people find themselves more prone to overeating when they are tired or stressed, it makes sense that filling up on fluids can help ward off overindulgence.


To prevent dehydration, get in the habit of drinking at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water each day. Also, aiming to drink a full glass of water about 20 minutes before a meal may help you feel less hungry.9

4. Avoid Drinking Your Calories

Not only are sodas and juices laden with sugar and calories, but your body also digests them quickly, which may lead to an insulin spike.10 So while you may think you’re doing your body good by loading up on these liquids, water is what you truly need. Not only is it free of calories, but as an added bonus, water can help flush your body of toxins.11


But water doesn’t have to be boring! You can jazz it up by flavoring it with cucumber, lemon or other fruits. You may also opt to drink sparkling water for some added bubbles.

5. Plan Ahead for Healthy Snacks  

Overeating_HealthySnacks.jpgWe’ve all been there: You’re hungry and limited on time and willpower, and you grab the nearest thing available—that isn’t always the healthiest option. Or you’re at a party and fill up on high-calorie snacks and appetizers. However, there are ways to avoid these problems.


One of the first things you should do is to stock your pantry with healthy snacks. If you keep healthy foods and snacks in your home, you’ll only have access to these items—and you’re much less likely to eat junk food if you need to leave your house to get it. Also, if you are on the Jenny Craig program, keep a stash of healthy items such as apples, your Jenny Craig Anytime Bars or pre-bagged veggies in your drawer at work, or anywhere that’s easily accessible—wherever you are likely to need them.


It can be a bit more challenging if you’re trying to avoid overeating at parties and restaurants. It’s true that you can’t control what your friends serve at parties or what a restaurant puts on its menu, but you can decide what you choose to eat and how hungry you are when you arrive. By eating a nutritious snack before you leave home, you’re filling up with healthy food and leaving less room for tempting, unhealthy options.


If you’re dining out while trying to lose weight, review the menu in advance so you can plan healthy substitutions ahead of time. Heading to a friend’s house for a BBQ or dinner party? Offer to bring a healthy appetizer or side dish.

6. Listen to Your Body

Overeating_ListenToYourBody.jpgYour emotions—particularly stress—can impact your eating habits. And while it can be tempting to just go with how you’re feeling in the moment, listening to and understanding your body’s needs can help thwart emotional eating.


To get a baseline, pay attention to how you feel when you’re hungry. Are you happy, sad, stressed? Then think about your body. Are you truly hungry, or could your feelings be leading you to want to eat? If you’re unsure if you’re truly hungry, drink a glass of water and see how your stomach feels after a few minutes. If you’re still hungry, eat a meal.12 Focus on how you, and specifically your stomach, feel throughout the meal.


After finishing, reflect on how you feel. If you notice that your sense of fullness is uncomfortable, perhaps next time try and slow down to let your mind register your feelings of fullness.  It’s a process, learning your body’s cues is a journey that takes time, so be patient with yourself!

7. Eat With Your Circadian Rhythm

Overeating_CR.jpgWhen it comes to overcoming overeating and achieving weight loss goals, learning when to eat is just as important as learning what to eat. By eating with your body’s clock, or circadian rhythm, you can give yourself the tools to learn how to stop overeating at night and during the day.


Circadian rhythm refers to a person’s behavioral, mental and physical changes over a 24-hour period.13 These changes are divided into two 12-hour periods, which are dictated by day and night.


When you’re busy during the day, your body and its cells are hard at work. They are metabolizing and processing the food you eat. Your metabolism follows a predictable curve each day that matches the 12-hour light and dark periods during the day.


Studies show that your metabolism is highest in the middle of the day and decreases as the day goes on.14 As a result, your metabolism is less efficient in the late afternoon, evening and night. Which is why eating unhealthy snacks and large meals at night may sabotage your weight loss efforts.


The Jenny Craig Rapid Results program uses the science of your circadian rhythm to help you reach and maintain a healthy weight. The program incorporates more calories in the morning and afternoon, when your metabolism is more effective, and fewer calories later in the day.15


With Rapid Results, your day is divided into a 12-hour nourishment period and a 12-hour rejuvenation period. During the nourishment period, you eat six times over the course of a day, which helps keep your body feeling nourished. Since all the food is prepared for you, you don’t have to worry about meal prepping or portioning out your meals. You can eat the right amount of food at the right time to help prevent overeating.


When the rejuvenation period begins in the evening, your consumption of food stops until the next day. This is the time when you wind down for the day and sleep, which allows your cells to repair and regenerate.


By following these simple tips and making some lifestyle changes, you can help identify some causes of overeating make progress toward your weight loss and health goals.


Are you ready to achieve your weight loss goals? Contact Jenny Craig for a free appointment to get started!




[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29297106

[2] https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/why-eating-slowly-may-help-you-feel-full-faster-20101019605

[3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16015276

[4] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4477151/

[5] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19930003

[6] htps://jandonline.org/article/S2212-2672(12)01349-4/fulltext

[7] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2901047/

[8] https://academic.oup.com/jn/article/142/2/382/4743487

[9] https://www.webmd.com/diet/obesity/news/20150828/water-weight-meals-obesity

[10] http://www.diabetes.org/food-and-fitness/food/what-can-i-eat/making-healthy-food-choices/what-can-i-drink.html

[11] https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/water/art-20044256

[12] https://fit.webmd.com/kids/food/article/hunger-check

[13] https://www.nigms.nih.gov/education/pages/Factsheet_CircadianRhythms.aspx

[14] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3781773/

[15] Longo, Valter D., and Satchidananda Panda. “Fasting, Circadian Rhythms, and Time-Restricted Feeding in Healthy Lifespan.” Cell Metabolism, vol. 23, no. 6, 14 June 2016, pp. 1048–1059., doi:10.1016/j.cmet.2016.06.001.

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