Ever had one of those days when you can’t stop eating? You’ve eaten three meals that should be satisfying, yet you’re still nibbling at food. Some people experience this occasionally. Others often.
Regardless of whether you can’t stop eating junk food, or just food in general, it’s not necessarily solely due to a lack of willpower, so stop berating yourself.
Sometimes the reason we can’t stop eating is due to a hormonal fluctuation or a lack of sleep. It can even be the result of something as simple as having eaten a high GI breakfast.
There are also some unexpected reasons you are always hungry. We look at 10 of them below.
NB If you are concerned you may be a binge or compulsive eater, seek advice from a medical professional.
10 Reasons You Can’t Stop Eating
If you’ve ever eaten take out or dined out, then can’t stop eating the next day, it could be due to a fluctuation in your leptin level.
Leptin is a hormone that switches off our hunger signal. Anything that interferes with its production or how strongly our body responds to it, increases our appetite.
A study in the US proved that eating food containing the flavor enhancer monosodium glutamate (MSG), makes us resistant to leptin. Additionally, MSG has a high level of sodium – about one-third that of table salt – which tends to increase thirst. We sometimes mistake thirst for hunger. When this happens, we keep eating in an attempt to satisfy our “hunger” to no avail.
Most restaurants stopped using MSG years ago, but it is still added to many packaged foods, including some crackers, potato chips, frozen meals, and ketchup. Before purchasing, check the label on the packet to make sure the product is “MSG free.” When dining out, look on the menu to see if it states that the meals are free of MSG. If in doubt, ask your waitperson before ordering.
If you find you can’t stop eating, give some thought to your fluid intake. People who don’t drink enough fluids may think they are hungry when they are, in fact, thirsty. The confusion comes about because the part of our brain that signals hunger also signals thirst. We may reach for a chocolate bar when what we need is fluid.
To avoid this scenario, top up with fluids regularly. Start your day with a glass or two of water and have at least 8 x 8-ounce glasses throughout the day. If you feel hungry and you haven’t had any fluids for a while, drink some water. Delay eating for 15 or 20 minutes and see if your hunger subsides.
3. Your food choices
It’s not calories that satisfy our hunger but nutrients, including fiber, protein, and healthy fats. You could eat junk and processed foods all day and still feel hungry. This is due to them causing a spike in blood sugar that stimulates our appetite.
When we eat foods that are high in sugar or high GI carbs that break down into sugar, the sugar hits our bloodstream very quickly. This causes our blood sugar level to skyrocket. Our body then secretes extra insulin to process the sugar. When our blood sugar drops back down, it does so suddenly and often it will drop lower than it should. When this happens, we feel hungry again.
Some foods that have this effect include cakes, cookies, pastries, potato chips, white bread, noodles, pasta and fried food. Swap these for high protein foods that dump less sugar and fewer carbs into the bloodstream.
Good protein choices include nuts, seed, low-sugar fruits like apples and pears, vegetables and cheese. If you base your diet around these and other healthy proteins and low GI carbs, you will feel satisfied for longer.
4. Your workout
Some of us find that working out suppresses our appetite. Others believe it increases it. This usually relates to the type of exercise we do.
Exercising at a consistent pace for 30 minutes or longer is thought to increase hunger due to our body requiring more glucose to use as fuel. Having a light snack a half an hour before exercising can help to prevent this, as can doing interval training, rather than exercising at the same pace throughout your workout.
An Australian study involving male cyclists found that they ate less after a 30-minute exercise session if this was split into 15 seconds of high-intensity cycling, followed by 60 seconds done at a slower pace.
5. Watching TV
It’s hardly surprising that seeing ads for food or viewing a television cooking show can make us hungry. However, you may be surprised to know that programs containing violence and death can have the same effect. This is thought to be because the storylines subconsciously make us reflect on our mortality.
When we think about the fact that we will die one day we may question whether or not we’ve lived up to the standards of society, without even realizing we are doing this. People who feel they have fallen short, commonly turn to food or drink to distract themselves from these thoughts.
The good news is, you won’t have to give up watching your favorite murder mysteries. According to those in the know, by looking in the mirror before reaching for that snack or a second serving of food, you can quell the urge to overeat.
6. Lack of sleep
A surprising reason why you can’t stop eating could be due to not getting enough sleep. It’s been shown that getting less than 7 hours sleep a night, significantly increases appetite. In fact, some people who don’t get a good night’s sleep can end up eating as many as 1,000 extra calories the next day. If you don’t sleep well for an entire week, that means you could take in an extra 7,000 calories over the course of the week. That’s the equivalent of two pounds of fat.
Aim to sleep for at least 7 hours a night, but 8 hours would be better. People who get less than 7 hours sleep tend to gain weight more readily. This is mainly due to an increase in ghrelin and a decrease in leptin, two hormones that regulate hunger.
Another reason we tend to gain weight when we’re sleep-deprived is that when we’re tired we are usually less active, so we burn fewer calories. We may also make poor food choices, reaching for sugary, high carb foods to give us an energy boost. And, being awake for more hours, give us more opportunity to eat.
7. Drinking warm water and lemon juice
Starting the day with a glass of warm water, and the juice of half a lemon is said to have a range of benefits, including that it aids digestion and can help us lose weight.
What many people don’t realize is that this combination can stimulate the appetite, so we may find ourselves eating a larger breakfast than we’d intended. If you find yourself doing this, there’s no need to give up your morning ritual. Instead, try adding a small amount of coconut oil to your lemon water.
Combine lemons, warm water and coconut oil for a fat flushing cocktail that will boost your vitamin C intake and give you an energy boost. The water component will keep you hydrated. The coconut oil will be converted directly into energy by your liver, and the lemon and coconut oil will regulate your metabolism. The combination of water and oil also tends to suppress appetite, so you will feel satisfied eating less.
8. Drinking alcohol
A common reason we can’t stop eating is due to having drunk alcohol. Though alcohol contains calories, these don’t satisfy us in the same way the calories in food do.
While wine or other alcoholic drinks don’t increase appetite in themselves, when drinking these we tend to overeat. This is partly because food smells better after drinking alcohol, and it can even taste better. So instead of eating less food to compensate for the extra calories contained in the alcohol, we tend to drink more.
Studies have shown that alcohol suppresses the production of leptin and other chemicals that signal the brain that we’ve satisfied our appetite. It can also lower our resolve, making it easier to reach for an extra slice of pizza or chocolate cake.
If you feel like a drink, stick to one or two, two or three times a week at most.
9. Weight loss
When we diet, our body does everything it can to maintain our weight and regain any weight we’ve lost.
Researchers at the University of Melbourne, Australia, found that weight loss increases ghrelin, a hormone that triggers us to eat. We can’t fight nature, but we don’t have to make things harder on ourselves either.
Our stomach secretes Ghrelin when it is empty, so try to eat small portions of food more often, rather than three large meals a day. Be sure to include plenty of protein and fiber-rich foods in your diet, as these will keep you feeling satisfied for longer.
10. Bubble bath
The weirdest reason why you can’t stop eating could be because you use bubble bath. Yes, you read that right! Bubble bath comes in some pretty amazing scents nowadays. These include vanilla, chocolate, caramel, and candy, among others that smell like dessert. When exposed to these scents, many dieters find that their appetite increases.
Researchers are not sure why this is the case, but it’s thought that we notice the scent more when we’re dieting. We may then crave the food that is on our banned list and give in to temptation.
Final Words on Weird Reasons You Can’t Stop Eating
The reason you can’t stop eating junk food, or any food for that matter, could be related to one or more of the above. Some may sound a little far-fetched, but all have been proven, so give them some consideration. A few simple lifestyle changes could be all you need to start losing your excess pounds.