Do you struggle with episodes of overeating? You’re not alone.

There are many reasons why you may overeat – the good news is that you can make simple changes to your routine and environment that will set you up for smart eating success.

Here are some common causes that lead to overeating and ways you can manage them.

You’re not eating enough healthy fats. Fat is no longer the enemy, and it’s not necessary to continue to buy into the myth. Fat-free products are made to taste good by adding sugar – which has no nutritional value and leaves you hungry. Eating fat does not make you fat. In fact, it is essential for your health and weight loss. The key is to include healthy fats found in foods like avocado, salmon, nuts and olive oil. You still need to watch your portions though because fat is higher in calories than other macronutrients.

You’re overestimating the healthfulness of certain foods. Essentially, you buy into the health halo effect. The health halo effect refers to the act of overestimating the healthfulness of an item based on a single claim, such as being low in calories or low in fat. US researchers report that consumers frequently confuse “low fat” with “low calorie”, resulting in the overconsumption of certain foods.

You’re overestimating the value of exercise. Exercise is essential for good health, but you can’t outrun your fork!  If you exercise and think you’re burning a lot of calories, it may make it easier for you to say yes to eating larger portions or overindulging. Brisk walking for 20 minutes burns 100 calories, which is equivalent to one banana, so choose your foods wisely!

You eat out more often than not. Restaurant meals on average are about 1200 calories, despite your best efforts to chose a healthy option. One reason is because the portion sizes are super-sized. Another reason is that most foods are prepared with extra fat and sugar, which triggers you to eat more.

You’re skimping on sleep. When you are sleep deprived, levels of hormones that are responsible for controlling hunger get thrown off: ghrelin (the “hunger hormone,” which stimulates appetite) increases, while leptin (the “satiety hormone,” which triggers fulness) decreases. To make matters worse, low levels of leptin have been shown to increase your cravings for carbohydrates, which often don’t curb hunger the same way protein and fat does. The National Sleep Foundation recommends 7 to 9 hours of sleep.

You’re eating mindlessly. If you’re preoccupied while you’re eating- whether it’s by the newspaper, your computer or your friends – you’re probably eating without paying much attention to your food. It takes twenty minutes for your brain to get the signal from your stomach that you are full, so it’s important to stay focused on your food.

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