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What Drives Overeating

I often start my group sessions with “what does food mean to you?”.

Personally, I use food to show affection, if I like you I will bake you a cake, I will offer to have you over for dinner or invite you for coffee.

I love the social aspect of food but unfortunately this is often when I over eat and make less healthy choices.

There are a number of habits that can lead to overeating, some you might not even realise!

Who you hold as company

Our weight is influenced by those around us.

Spending time with friends that exhibit good self-control and healthy behaviours are more likely to help you adhere to your goals.

Unfortunately, the opposite is also true, unhealthy habits can also rub off on us.

“See food and eat it” diet

If you see others eating or you have food within arm’s reach you are more likely to mindlessly snack.

Keeping yourself busy at work or with friends and away from food makes you less likely to crave “discretionary” foods.

Early experiences

Your first five years of life can strongly influence your eating behaviours for the rest of your life.

As a young child, if you were bribed with food to complete good deeds or comforted with a “treat” when upset, often this can result in emotional eating later in life.

If “treats” were deprived of or hidden from you, or you were forced to finish everything on your plate as a child, can result in difficulties with self-regulation late in life.

Don’t deprive yourself!

I’m a little stubborn and if someone told me I couldn’t have a particular food, that is all I’m going to want.

Very restrictive diets can result in the body “fighting” against the highly restrictive behaviour both physically and psychologically.

As a result when we finally give in, we are more likely to overeat which can lead to an unhealthy cycle of binging and restricting.

Dopamine - What makes you happy?

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is responsible for pleasure.

When we eat, our bodes release dopamine.

High sugar foods often result in a bigger dopamine response, which is why sweet foods are almost addictive.

Studies have shown that obese individuals have fewer dopamine receptors, which means they need more food to get the same “high”.

Other fun facts

You will drink more from a short, fat glass rather than a tall, thin glass.

Artificial sweeteners can program the brain to crave sugar.

You will eat the size you buy, so always choose the smaller size option.

Meals that include a number of different tastes (sweet, sour and savoury) together, increases the number of taste receptors that are stimulated, making you likely to eat more.


  • If you buy large chips, you will eat large chips even if you weren’t overly hungry.

  • Clean out the cupboards - if you don’t have trigger foods in the house, you aren’t going to be tempted.

  • Plan your meal and eat enough at each meal - if you restrict yourself early in the day you are more likely to over eat late at night.

  • Swap clear jars to a ceramic version, because if you can’t see it you are less likely to want it.

  • Motivate your friends and family to make healthy changes with you. Try a Sunday walk instead of lunch for your weekly catch up.

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