What Overeating Is and What Triggers It

This article, submitted by Bright Futures Treatment Center, while not exactly representative of The Anderson Method, presents some very valuable ideas and theory.

Eating is an essential part of life, but it can cause physical, emotional, and social problems when it becomes excessive. This is what is often called “overeating”. Overeating is a common problem that affects many individuals and can severely affect one’s health and well-being. Have you ever found yourself eating beyond the point of fullness or eating even when you’re not hungry? If so, you may be overeating. Understanding the triggers of overeating can help you break this cycle and create a healthier relationship with food. This article will explore and help you understand what overeating is and what triggers it.

What is Overeating?

In this section, we’ll explore the different types of overeating, the causes, and the physical and emotional effects it can have on your life. Overeating is a complex issue that can have multiple causes and affects individuals in different ways. It can range from occasional overeating, such as during holidays, to compulsive overeating. Understanding these aspects of overeating can help you create an action plan to overcome it, no matter the circumstance.

Types and causes of overeating

Overeating can take on many different forms, and it’s important to understand the different types to better address the problem. Understanding the different types allows you to gain insight into the underlying causes and develop a tailored approach to overcome overeating. Here is an overview of what overeating is and what triggers it:

  • Emotional Overeating is a type of overeating triggered by stress, anxiety, or boredom. It’s often used as a coping mechanism to deal with negative emotions.
  • Binge Eating is characterized by excessive and rapid eating, often accompanied by feelings of shame and guilt. Binge eaters may eat large quantities of food in a short period of time, even when they’re not physically hungry.
  • Compulsive Overeating is also known as food addiction. It’s a persistent pattern of overeating despite the negative consequences. This type of overeating is often driven by an obsession with food and a compulsive need to eat, even when not hungry.
  • Mindless Eating is another type of mindless eating. It occurs when individuals eat without paying attention to their hunger signals or the food they are consuming. Distractions, such as television or work, or a lack of planning and preparation can trigger this type of overeating.

Physical and Emotional Effects of Overeating

Overeating can have severe consequences for both our physical and emotional well-being. While overeating occasionally may not cause significant harm, chronic overeating can lead to a range of negative health outcomes.

Physical effects of overeating include:

  • Weight gain. Excessive calorie intake from overeating can lead to weight gain, increasing the risk of chronic health conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, and certain types of cancer.
  • Digestive problems. Overeating can cause physical discomforts, such as bloating, indigestion, and stomach pain. Additionally, it can lead to long-term digestive problems, such as acid reflux, ulcers, and irritable bowel syndrome.
  • Cardiovascular disease. Chronic overeating can contribute to the development of heart disease and high blood pressure, as well as increase the risk of stroke.

Emotional effects of overeating include:

  • Guilt and shame. Overeating can lead to feelings of guilt and shame. It is even more of an issue if overeating results in weight gain.
  • Depression and anxiety. Chronic overeating can have a negative impact on mental health, leading to depression and anxiety. This is particularly true if overeating is used as a coping mechanism for dealing with negative emotions.
  • Decreased self-esteem. Overeating can lead to decreased self-esteem and confidence because the individual may see themselves as weak or feel guilty about their changes in appearance.

Triggers of Overeating

Do you ever find yourself reaching for food even when you’re not hungry? Or do you feel helpless and powerless to stop eating even when you’re full? If so, you’re not alone. However, it’s important to remember that overeating is not simply a result of a lack of willpower or self-discipline. There are many internal and external triggers that can contribute to overeating, and it’s essential to recognize and understand these triggers to better yourself.

Internal triggers of Overeating

Let’s take a closer look at some of the most common internal triggers of overeating:

  • Emotional Factors. Negative emotions such as stress, anxiety, boredom, and depression can all lead to overeating as a means of coping. Food can provide comfort and temporary relief from unpleasant feelings, making it an attractive option when we struggle emotionally.
  • Hunger Cues. Our bodies are designed to regulate hunger. But sometimes, these cues can get off track, leading to overeating even when we’re not truly hungry. This can be due to various factors, including skipping meals, irregular eating patterns, or a diet lacking in nutrients.

External Triggers of Overeating

People often overlook the importance and effect of external triggers.

Some external triggers include:

  • Environmental Factors. Our environment can play a significant role in our eating habits. For example, social pressure to eat at certain times, the availability of high-calorie foods, or someone near us overeating can make us overeat.
  • Food-Related Cues. The sight and smell of food can also trigger overeating, even when we’re not truly hungry. This can be incredibly challenging when we’re surrounded by tempting food options. Or when we’re constantly bombarded with food-related advertisements.

Coping with Overeating

Overeating can be challenging. But with the right tools and strategies, you can take control and find lasting solutions.

  • Identify your triggers. Understanding what overeating is and what triggers it is crucial in managing this behavior.
  • Change your mindset: Focusing on positive thinking can improve your self-confidence, reduce stress levels, and improve mental health. These are just some of the benefits of changing your mindset.
  • Adopt a healthy lifestyle: Incorporating healthy habits into your daily routine, such as regular exercise, mindfulness, and proper nutrition, can help you overcome overeating.
  • Seek professional help: A therapist or counselor can provide the support and guidance you need. With their help, you’ll understand what overeating is and what triggers it for you. Furthermore, they’ll be able to help you create a better relationship with food that’ll skyrocket your recovery from overeating.



Reduce Stress, Reduce Snacking

reduce stress and anxiety

Sunshine Behavioral Health’s healthcare editor Pam Zuber discusses the link between stress and overeating and how to reduce stress without overindulging. 

Reduce Stress, Reduce Snacking  

Stress is everywhere. It can be overwhelming and cause us to seek comfort in various ways. Many people have coping mechanisms that provide comfort for a short period of time. People might smoke cigarettes, go for a walk, or take up a hobby.

Others look to comfort foods. While there are many ways to relieve stress, some coping mechanisms are more harmful than helpful. Eating snack foods, for example, can lead to weight gain and various health issues.

Reduce Stress – Reduce the Urge to Snack

People who are under stress and use food as a coping mechanism can actually cause more problems for themselves if they don’t learn to control their eating. Relying on comfort foods can be devastating.

Obesity, eating disorders, and an increased risk of diabetes and heart disease are all possible repercussions of using food to soothe one’s mood.

Instead, consider doing other things to reduce stress:

Exercise Regularly

Stress can break down the body and mind. It can weaken the body and contribute to depression and anxiety disorders. Exercise may reverse these processes and prevent the body and mind from deteriorating.

Regular exercise doesn’t simply strengthen the body. It also clears the mind. Physical fitness stimulates the brain to release endorphins, substances that elevate the mood and promote positive feelings.

Walk Outside for 30 Minutes

Walking outside for 30 minutes or longer is beneficial in many ways. Being outside exposes you to fresh air and sunshine, and both can contribute to good health. Fresh air clears the mind and gives you a chance to think through stressful situations.

As you walk, pay attention to the scenery. Enjoy the view and look for little things that give you joy. You can also invite a friend to walk with you. Good conversation is a great way to reduce stress and gain new perspectives.

Participate in Hobbies

Practicing a hobby can also help you take your mind off the things that may give you stress. Music, art, and various crafts are popular hobbies for relieving stress or frustration, for example.

Engaging in hobbies distracts us from our worries, while creating something beautiful can turn a negative mood into a positive one.

Breathe Deeply

Deep breathing exercises bring much-needed oxygen to the body. This can clear the mind and allow you to focus your energy on the positive aspects of your life.

As a bonus, you don’t need any equipment or tools, and you can perform deep breathing exercises anywhere at any time. Deep breathing is beneficial far beyond just relieving your stress. It also strengthens your cardiovascular system as well as your overall lung function.

Start a Meditation or Guided Imagery Practice

Guided imagery and meditation are other practices that can minimize stress. They may also help you find ways to solve your problems.

These tools can be relaxing because they allow you to momentarily forget your troubles and go to a place of comfort and solace. By focusing on the present, you may be able to think more clearly while your stress and frustration fade away.

Receive Massages and Therapeutic Touch

Therapeutic touch and massage therapy can also be effective stress relievers. They break up tension in the muscles and other soft tissues and allow people to release physical stress.

Massages can improve blood flow, while regular massage and therapeutic touch can be calming and help reduce stress and discomfort.

Practice Yoga or Tai Chi

Yoga and tai chi reconnect the body and the mind. They can re-establish the mind/body balance and promote calming and overall well-being. Both include deep breathing exercises and structured movements that can relax the body and soothe the mind.

Performing either of these on a regular basis can help you maintain a state of balance to keep stress and frustration at bay.

Stress management can take many forms. While some people turn to snack food or drugs and alcohol, others look to healthier options. Understanding how stress affects you can help you determine the best ways to cope. Finding healthy ways to handle your stress is essential for good health and emotional well-being.


cdc.gov – Coping with Stress

hopkinsmedicine.org – Tips to Manage Stress Eating

health.harvard.edu – Exercising to Relax

huffpost.com – National Walking Day: 5 Ways Walking Helps to Relieve Stress

headtohealth.gov.au – Purposeful Activities – Hobbies

uofmhealth.org – Stress Management: Breathing Exercises for Relaxation

wa.kaiserpermanente.org – Stress Management: Doing Guided Imagery to Relax

amtamassage.org – Massage Therapy Can Relieve Stress

psu.pb.unizin.org – Yoga and Tai Chi

sunshinebehavioralhealth.com – Dual Diagnosis Treatment in Austin, Texas


Pam Zuber is a longtime newspaper, magazine, and website writer with many human interest articles and feature stories in publications such as Minority Nurse, Sivana East, and the UAB Institute for Human Rights. She is also working for Sunshine Behavioral Health as an editor.


Increasing Your Real Worth

how to increase your real worth

Do you know what you are worth? Are you happy with it? Discover how to develop infinitely increasing self-worth.

Is Online Counseling Safe and Effective?

It can be. Here’s what you need to know:

Telecounseling, using the telephone to conduct legitimate counseling sessions with licensed therapists, has been occurring for close to 50 years.  Telemedicine is what they call it when doctors and other healthcare providers provide services via telephone and Internet video connection. Now, it is a common practice, a clinical mode that is studied and taught to doctors and therapists, and in many cases, covered by health insurance.

As an older Licensed Mental Health Counselor, a boomer, I have been slow to accept the rapid advance of our culture into the digital age. I was even slow to accept the idea of distance counseling via telephone, without the eyeball-to-eyeball and close-up intimacy of live personal human contact. But circumstances forced the issue, with established clients sometimes homebound, and more and more people living an hour or more away who wanted to work with me. I found that counseling over the phone worked quite well, and actually had some distinct advantages over in-person sessions. No travel time, for one thing. It’s also convenient with less stress for busy people and those uncomfortable with going to a “shrink’s” office.

Today, telecounseling is routine and accepted, and the issues that were raised as potential problems, like privacy, confidentiality, compliance with the HIPPA laws, protection of personal health information and your most guarded secrets, have been answered with services that use technology and accreditation to insure those things. Counseling via phone or video calling, if done appropriately, can be as safe and effective in many cases as in-person counseling.

The same rules apply as with any healthcare services you seek. You need to make sure you are dealing with a licensed health professional in your state. You need to check what the counselor presents in their website or other public information to see if they might be a good fit. You need to be willing to invest in at least one session to see if the fit feels right. Also, you need to be prepared to try a different counselor if your first choice doesn’t feel right.

When COVID-19 hit early this year, telecounseling was a godsend. So many people needed help to cope, and distance counseling was perfect to meet the needs for social distancing and stay-at-home protocols.

Right at that time, I noticed a lot of advertising on NPR by BetterHelp, an Internet company that promised connection with licensed counselors through your computer, tablet or smartphone. I did a little checking and found they offered access to a professional counselor 24/7 via text (the counselor would respond within 24 hours if not sooner), for $40 per week and up, depending on how much service you wanted, and you could also arrange phone or video sessions.

I balked at the idea of counseling via text or chatting. I had a lot of experience as a user of social media, and I’m certain that real counseling or therapy cannot occur with texting or chatting. However, I have also served as a mental health expert in media where “ask the expert” questions were invited, and I would provide information that was very helpful to people. It was kind of like a “Dear Abby” column and it turned out to be very helpful to the people who wrote in. In fact, lots of people get lots of help with personal problems with therapeutic ideas and information they glean from books and other quality sources. That could not be called counseling, but it is in fact referred to as “bibliotherapy” when a counselor gives you a book to read. So, while it’s not counseling, communicating with a professional counselor with questions, issues and problems can be quite helpful. As one of the “Ask the Expert” experts when answering a message from those writing in about a problem, I’d sometimes suggest, after answering their question, that they connect with a professional for real counseling if it seemed like it was what they needed. As it turns out, I believe that’s what happens when you connect with a counselor at BetterHelp.

While I was spurred to write this article by BetterHelp’s community outreach, I don’t want to give the impression that I am endorsing them. I don’t know anymore about them than you’d know by reading what they say at their website. If you are interested in looking into online counseling, I’d suggest you do what I did and Google it. You’ll get pages of things to look at and there are some good articles to read from good sources like Psychology Today and The New York Times.

One thing I’ll heartily endorse is the experience of working with a counselor. I think it’s something everyone should do. Of course, it’s my life’s work, so you’d expect that I believe in the value of it. And I think it has value even if you don’t have a terribly troubling problem, like my specialty, infuriatingly stubborn weight control. In fact, talking to anyone rather than keeping everything inside is usually helpful. Sometimes though, if the person is not a professional, they can do more harm than good. It’s better to talk with someone who knows the right things to say and how to avoid making things worse.

Talk to a counselor, it’ll do you good.

Are Protein Shakes Really a Good Idea For Weight Loss?

In a word, “yes”. Here’s why. A real weight loss expert explains.

New clients and readers ask, “What should I eat to lose weight? What should I avoid?” I don’t answer with lists of foods and diets. Instead, I teach a method for permanent weight loss that includes the foods they like, holidays, dining out and all the things they’ll want for the rest of their lives. Success comes from building habits that include your favorite things while they keep you at your optimum weight. “Dieting” with schemes that won’t last only leads to yo-yo dieting and continuous weight gain.

However, I’m sometimes asked questions about specific foods that are easy to answer and provide immediate effective help with no study and effort. One of the questions is about the advisability of protein shakes. The answer: yes, they are a good idea, and here’s why:

1) Protein shakes are an easy way to achieve your daily caloric goals.

To lose weight, women generally need to limit their intake to about1000 calories per day consistently for an extended period of time, and men, about 1500. In our culture of big breakfasts, lunch in restaurants, meetings and break rooms with snacks and vending machines, you’ve undoubtedly discovered it’s impossible to do. It’s easy to be at 2000 before you’ve even gotten home for dinner.

By keeping your breakfast light with a 300-calorie egg-based breakfast, and then using a 150-calorie protein shake as a meal substitute at lunch, it’s easy to limit your intake during the day to under 500 calories (especially when you use my meals-and-fasting method), leaving you 500 in the budget for a satisfying home-made or prepared meal at the end of the day.

2. Protein shakes suppress your appetite rather that stimulate it.

Simple carbohydrates, like the sugar in prepared foods and fruit, act like a drug that stimulates your appetite. You feel hungry soon after you’ve eaten and it’s hard to resist eating more. Simple carbs are digested quickly and sends your blood sugar way up. This triggers an overproduction of insulin by your pancreas, which sends your brain the message that you need to eat more. We experience this as hunger and cravings. A grain and fruit breakfast often makes people ravenous by 10, while going without doesn’t.

Protein, on the other hand, takes a long time to digest and keeps your blood sugar even, without the spike in insulin and the hunger and cravings it creates.

So, you’ll find that a 150 calorie protein shake will fuel you for a whole morning or afternoon without feeling hungry again a few hours later.

You’ve got to be careful, though, in selecting a “meal substitute” shake. When you look at the nutritional information, some are loaded with sugar and they are low in protein. Some so-called “healthy” shakes and snack bars are just sugary drinks and candy bars in diguise. You’ll end up hungry in a short while just like with other sugary foods. All shakes are not equal. You’ll see some with just a few grams of protein and mostly carbs, and you’ll be hungry right away. When you have those, you can never get enough. Some of the better shakes have as much as 30 grams of protein. Those will stay with you all afternoon.

3. Protein is especially important nutritionally when you eat less to lose weight.

You’ve probably heard of the “RDA”, the recommended daily allowance of nutrients the dietitians talk about. If you don’t get enough protein, carbohydrate, fat (yes, even fat), vitamins, minerals and water, you risk compromising your health. Usually, in America, we don’t have to give it much thought because we eat so much that you can’t help but get more than enough of everything.

However, when you cut back enough to start losing weight, you risk hurting your body rather than helping it if you’re not getting enough of the right nutrients.

Remember that reducing your weight and body fat requires you to “undereat”, consuming fewer calories than you burn. (Read my article about the science of weight loss). Most of the calories in typical American foods come from carbs and fat. Our usual diets are low in protein. When you cut back, unless you pay attention, you won’t get sufficient protein.

When you undereat, if you don’t get your nutritional needs met, your body will “eat” itself to get what it needs. That’s great if it gets what it needs from your stored fat. But if you are not getting enough protein, your body will consume it’s own muscle and organ tissue, and that’s very bad. You’ll see the scale drop, but you’re losing muscle instead of fat. You’ll look and feel worse, not better. And your metabolic rate will decrease. It will become harder to lose weight and keep from gaining!

By using a protein shake with 30 grams of protein as a lunch or breakfast substitute, you can make it easy to get enough protein to prevent muscle loss even when you are eating much less than your metabolic rate.

So, yes, protein shakes are a good idea for weight loss, especially when you make them a habit for life. I’ve been using them on a regular basis to keep the calories down for over 30 years. They’ve helped me maintain my ideal weight using my method the entire time after years of being obese. I highly recommend them.