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Reasons Why We Overeat and Gain Weight

Have you attempted multiple ways to lose weight only to gain it back? You exercise, try different diets, eat less, count or restrict calories, use all your willpower to not eat certain foods and then… something happens. That trigger removes your motivation and before you know it you’ve gained the weight back.

In contrast, here’s an example of someone who has lost weight and kept it off. She used to weigh 207 and has lost 43 pounds in a year and more than 33 inches. She was a yo-yo dieter who was stuck and not motivated to change. She didn’t like the person she saw in the mirror and avoided her as much as possible. She wore baggy clothes to hide her body. Now she smiles back at her reflection and wears clothes that she enjoys. She’s learned to love herself and she knows exactly what to do. She eats to fuel her body instead of eating mindlessly. Food no longer stresses her out and she has self-confidence. So what is different about her? Why is she able to keep it off and keep moving forward? She still has challenges and obstacles but she knows how to face them. She understands why she was overweight and that has empowered her to make different choices.

We are overweight because we overeat. We feel self-doubt, shame and we beat ourself up. Nobody wants to work on losing weight when they feel terrible about themselves. It wears you down physically, emotionally and spiritually so you turn to food for comfort without even realizing it. Here are three reasons why we fail when we want to lose weight.

1. Overdesire for food.

Desire for food is very normal. We need to feed our body and experience the dopamine (a feel good hormone) and the hormone response from eating. But our society has taken food and concentrated it. Instead of just eating one apple, we have apple juice. Fiber in foods has been reduced and we have more processed foods. Foods have been made in ways our body isn’t used to. We've taken the natural food that provides energy and nutrients and turned that into a source of concentrated “feel good” that drives us for more. Consuming in this manner increases our desire for that food. And when our life isn't where we want it to be, we turn to food to feel better because that will release more ”feel good”. We have programmed our brain to find pleasure in food, but it is fleeting. The more we eat these types of foods our desire goes up. Just like an addiction to any type of drug, you need more to accomplish the same “feel good”, and you overeat.

Your eating habits have taken a life time to develop to where it is now. By learning how to “plan” or use your prefrontal cortex, you can change those habits. You can anticipate all of the obstacles that are going to be in front of you because of over desire and over hunger and learn to manage those desires. You stick to your plan, experience more confidence and lose weight. And when you “fail” (because we all fail), you treat yourself with compassion, learn from what happened and move on.

2. Hormones are causing excess weight gain.

Hormones are what determines how you burn fat within your body and how you process food to store it as fat. Ghrelin lets you know when you are hungry and when you are satisfied. It’s negatively affected by concentrated food because it doesn’t recognize caloric intake. Leptin tells us when we are full. It also lets us know when it’s time to move. It’s blocked by excess insulin. Insulin is the most important hormone when it comes to weight loss. Too much insulin in your system causes fat storage. Bringing insulin down is key to accessing the fat on your body and losing weight. If insulin is working correctly, your hormones are balanced so you only eat when you are hungry, you know when to stop eating and you aren’t craving food. You are satisfied.

3. Willpower doesn’t work.

Willpower is not a long-term solution because you only have a limited supply of it and you will be miserable the whole time. You will be resisting your desire to eat and that which you resists persists. Here’s an example of what happens when we try and go on a diet. Let's say you’re going to cut out flour and sugar. Immediately you start getting cravings so you use will power to manage that. You're trying to push away and ignore your desire. You do fine for a few days or even weeks but then you eat/drink something not on the plan. That in turn causes insulin to go up and you are not accessing fat for fuel. You aren't losing weight so you tell ourself this is too hard, it's not working, and you quit. Willpower is not enough for lasting change.

Thought awareness is the key to lasting change. Do you eat when you are stressed, bored, or sad? Do you give into cravings without even thinking about it because you want to “feel good” and avoid what is really happening? Next time you have a craving, notice how you are feeling and what you are thinking. Instead of giving into the desire or trying to use willpower, identify it and allow yourself to feel it. Take a minute and write down your thoughts. Notice which ones make you feel a certain way and know that you don’t have to keep that thought. When you learn how to truly process your feelings, you can stop needing food as an escape.

Once you start understanding why you overeat, you can begin to make changes. You can do this! You can lose weight permanently without dieting, grow your confidence, improve your health, have more energy and overcome any new obstacles that come your way.

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