Whenever I personally find myself wondering, “Why am I eating so much?” the next question I like to ask is, “Was I hungry to begin with, and am I eating past fullness?” Because eating large amounts of food can indicate that your body needs fuel (or a medical issue, as you’ll soon see), or if you’re eating past fullness, it means something else is going on.
Sometimes eating lots of food is simply due to biology, like skipping meals or eating an unbalanced diet. In my opinion, however, biology is 10% of the iceberg with compulsive eating (you know, the part that sits above the surface). Our psychology accounts for the other 90% of the reasons why we overeat (the DEEP part that sits below the surface).
Get ready to dig deep into the reasons why you might be wondering, “Why am I eating so much?” — and what to do.
Why Am I Eating So Much? Starting with the Basics
Overeating is often a psychological issue, and that’s what I help with best! This blog is the home of Psycho-Spiritual Wellness: a path to stopping overeating using purely psychological and spiritual practices.
We’ll start by digging into some light psychology. Then we’ll explore some essential medical disclaimers (seriously essential!) and finish with DEEP psychology — my favorite part!
Here are the first places to check if you ever find yourself wondering, why am I eating so much?
1. You haven’t eaten enough throughout the day
Not eating enough is the most frequent mistake I see as an eating psychology coach. When you skip meals and go for long periods of time without eating, your hunger may come strongly and suddenly.
Then, when you sit down to eat, you may find yourself wondering, “Why am I eating so much?” The answer is: because your body is getting much-needed and over-due fuel!
Allowing your hunger get extreme often causes you to eat rapidly and this can trigger overeating. It takes time for food to reach your stomach, sometimes taking up to 20 minutes.
We can prevent “hunger attacks” and treat our bodies with kindness by planning ahead by packing snacks.
2. You skipped breakfast and/or lunch
If you want to lose weight, standard advice is to eat less than your body burns. However, in an attempt to speed up results, many of us end up eating far, far too little, and we end up binge eating as a consequence.
Skipping breakfast or lunch is a trigger for binge eating, in my experience.
Your body works hard all day to keep you alive and this takes calories. The fancy phrase for this is your basal metabolic needs — aka, the basics required to keep you alive. When your body doesn’t get those calories from your diet, we like to think we use fat as fuel.
But if you’re too stressed, your body actually prefers to use your muscles as fuel (goodbye, all that hard work at the gym!) and it will slow down your metabolism so that you stop using as many calories during the day.
I personally love eating early and eating well! Think about it this way: It wouldn’t make sense to go on a road trip with a quarter tank of gas. You want to fill up before you leave. The same goes for eating breakfast and lunch!
3. You’re replacing food with coffee and it makes you *feel* like you’re overeating
Many of us are accustomed to “saving calories” by skipping meals or, even worse, having coffee instead. Coffee is linked to binge eating because of its appetite-suppressing qualities.
Personally, when I drink coffee, I end up running around and accomplishing lots of tasks and errands — which is great! — only for my hunger to hit me like a Mack truck. I find myself wondering, “Why am I eating so much?!” and then realize that I simply just haven’t eaten enough!
Consume coffee with caution if you’re new to the idea of listening to your body to inform what you eat (instead of dieting). It’s hard to notice your hunger when your beverages are suppressing it.
4. You exercise at high intensity
Did you know that over-exercising can actually lead to overeating?
Intense exercise can sometimes act as an appetite suppressant. This is highly debated in the medical community, so you’ll need to figure it out for yourself. After you work out, do you feel ravenous or is food off your mind?
And if you don’t eat after your workout, your hunger may come suddenly and trigger that “why am I eating so much” question. And it might feel like overeating, but the truth is that you just worked out and your body needs fuel!
Whenever intense exercise is involved, it’s important to be kind to your body and nourish yourself with a variety of macronutrients (carbs, fats, and protein) after your workout.
5. You’re not eating enough fat
Fat keeps us satisfied because 1) it takes longer to digest and 2) it helps stimulate the production of hormones that signal fullness. Eating too little fat causes us to crave more food to feel satisfied.
Therefore, if you find yourself wondering, “Why am I eating so much?” take a look at how much or how little fat you’ve eaten — it could be the latter that’s triggering your appetite.
6. You’re stressed
Stress is another trigger for overeating. It increases your appetite because the stress hormone, cortisol, increases hunger and food cravings.
In particular, stress causes us to crave “hyperpalatable foods” — aka, the “good stuff” that’s crunchy, salty, sweet, and scrumptious.
Whenever you find yourself reaching for extra scrumptious food and eating lots of it, consider how much stress you’re dealing with.
7. You’re dehydrated
Sometimes dehydration causes us to crave food even when we aren’t hungry because thirst can be confused for hunger.
Personally, whenever I find myself craving fruit (and I’ve already had enough to eat throughout the day) I’m usually just dehydrated. Because as soon as I drink a cup of water, the craving for fruit goes away.
And if the craving for fruit doesn’t go away once I’ve had water, I make sure to eat it! Because not only is it healthy, but permission to eat is a cornerstones of stopping compulsive eating the psycho-spiritual way.
Your body already has all the wisdom it needs to maintain its natural weight. It’s only when we start following a diet (aka, we stop listening to our bodies) that we find trouble with our weight or eating patterns.
8. You aren’t sleeping enough
Although it may come as a surprise, sleep actually plays a role in our hunger by regulating the appetite-stimulating hormone ghrelin. Insufficient sleep has been shown to trigger higher levels of ghrelin, which can increase your appetite when you are sleep deprived.
Next time you ask, “Why am I eating so much?” check your sleep schedule. And if you struggle with getting adequate shut-eye, it could be worth a conversation with your doctor.
Why Am I Eating So Much? Looking at Medical Explanations
Before digging into the deeper psychological reasons behind the desire to overeat, it’s important to address a few more medical and biological reasons first, because they are important.
Here are some reasons to talk to your doctor if you’re concerned about eating lots of food:
9. You have a medical condition
Sometimes, a large increase in appetite signals a medical condition such as diabetes or hyperthyroidism. With diabetes, frequent hunger is a hallmark symptom; and with hyperthyroidism, the thyroid produces too many hormones, some of which regulate your appetite.
Ask your doctor to screen you for any of these conditions, among others, for proper diagnosis and treatment.
10. You’re overlooking the side effects of your medication
Certain medication like insulin (for diabetes) or antidepressants are known to increase appetite. If you’re taking any medications, pull up the label and check all the side effects for changes in appetite.
11. You could be pregnant
Finally, it’s worth mentioning that a sharp increase in appetite could indicate pregnancy. So if you find yourself wondering, “Why am I eating so much?” consider this possibility.
The DEEP Psychology Behind Why You’re Eating So Much
Alright, now we’re digging into the true meat (and my favorite part!) of stopping overeating: psychology. To me, our psychology accounts for 90% of the battle to stop compulsive eating.
Many of us know what to do to take care of ourselves. We sleep, drink water, and meal prep. (Raise your hand if you tend to overeat “good” foods!) We have our ducks in a row, and then overeat anyway, which causes frustration. Why am I eating so much when I’m doing everything right?!
Let’s keep digging.
12. You’ve become (unfairly!) trained to think that normal amounts of food are too much
Sometimes we feel like we’re “eating so much” when REALLY, we’re eating normal amounts of food!
This can happen after many years of dieting and eating as little as possible. If we’ve done this for many years, we may forget how much food our bodies need to simply function. (Remember that phrase, basal metabolic needs, that I mentioned earlier?)
Many of my readers and clients are scared to eat because of diet culture. The fear of weight gain triggers the fear of eating large amounts of food (that might not actually be large to begin with).
And it’s important to understand that this fear is making food do exactly what you don’t want it to do…
Fear triggers stress, and stress triggers your fight-or-flight response. When your body is in fight-or-flight mode, it deprioritizes digestion, because it wants to provide energy to your muscles first — you know, in case you need to run for your life, which is what fight-or-flight mode is for!
This is why, in Psycho-Spiritual Wellness, I often like to say, relax and eat what you want to eat. If you’re craving large amounts of food, and you haven’t actually eaten that much throughout the day, then let yourself eat!
Stop wondering, “Why am I eating so much?” and start advocating for yourself! “Oh yeah, I’m eating a lot because I skipped breakfast and had a small lunch and it’s already 9pm. This makes sense!!!”
13. You’ve been shamed out of eating regular, balanced meals
Tip: this is NOT a balanced meal because carbs are missing, but we have been trained to equate pictures like this with a “good” diet
During the days of calorie counting, we all decided it was “good” to skip breakfast because we’re “saving calories” for dinner. But again, why would you start a road trip with a quarter tank of gas?
You’re setting yourself up to eat large amounts of food later, because if you have a busy life (and many of us do!), you’re going to hit empty before you realize it.
Then, hunger will come suddenly and you’ll wonder, “Why am I eating so much?” which should be your cue to remember, “OH YEAH! I haven’t eaten that much today. Right. This makes sense!!!“
14. You’re overeating for emotional reasons
If you don’t resonate with anything so far, you may struggle with true, genuine overeating. Perhaps you eat enough throughout the day and you still eat a lot at night. This is where Psycho-Spiritual Wellness really shines, actually!
When we overeat and we truly aren’t hungry (and we really did eat enough to sustain ourselves throughout the day) we’re dealing with “avoidance eating,” which is one type of emotional eating.
With avoidance eating, we eat to numb our discomfort. And that discomfort could be anything: guilt, depression, anxiety, stress, loneliness, or a combination thereof.
This is where the Stop, Drop, & Feel method to stop binge eating comes into play. This tool asks you to sit with these feelings and develop tolerance for discomfort.
When we do this, we are building emotional tolerance. We’re “getting good” at being uncomfortable. And this is what takes the edge out of compulsive eating.
(Over the years, my own compulsive eating has stopped thanks to this tool, and I teach an entire masterclass on the Stop, Drop, & Feel because it’s the #1 tool in the toolbox!)
15. You’re eating out of boredom
Boredom eating is real — but underneath it, there’s usually another factor contributing to overeating.
Boredom is a surface emotion that usually sits on top of a bigger, scarier emotion. It could be the fear of missing out, the fear of a big project looming in the future… Usually it’s fear. But we can’t get to the fear if we just stop at boredom.
So if you find yourself wondering, “Why am I eating so much?” and your next stop is boredom, keep digging. You’ve only just scratched the surface of the psychology of overeating.
Phew! Did you find your reason for eating *what feels like* so much food?
I hope this article helps you understand why you’re eating so much — because often, you’re NOT. You just think you are because diet culture has trained us to eat as little as possible.
By eating balanced meals (that hit all your macros) and addressing the psychology of eating too, you’ll be on the path to feeling normal around food in no time. (That’s the end goal with Psycho-Spiritual Wellness, by the way. Woo!)
If those goals sound nice, then you’ll LOVE my free ebook below! It digs deep into the psychology of overeating — and it comes with a FREE 5-day course on Psycho-Spiritual Wellness that take these concepts even deeper.