It’s no secret that women are prone to overeating. And while it may be tempting to blame our genes, hormones, or even those three slices of pie we had for dinner the other night as the reason why we overate, many times it’s really just a result of not having enough self-awareness. What is causing you to overeat in the first place? In this article, we’re going to address 5 reasons why women overeat and how you can take back control by understanding and addressing them head on!

First of all, let’s distinguish the difference between honoring your hunger, emotional eating and stress eating. What’s the difference, you ask? Let me explain:

– Honoring your hunger is the goal.

is completely letting go of dieting and restricted food rules so you can eat when your body truly needs nourishment. As you honor your hunger, there is no judgement or shame around eating.

– Emotional eating will always lead women to overeat.

is using food as a way to cope with emotions such as stress, anxiety, depression, worry, fear, or even boredom. Food only temporarily numbs these emotions. Ultimately you feel worse in the long run because now not only are you overly full, you also carry the shame attached to overeating.

– Stress eating is exactly what it sounds like and will also lead women to overeat.

eating to manage stress in the body. Life stress will cause a change in your hormone, cortisol, usually causing it to rise. The biological response to this is to crave energy rich foods. These foods, usually higher in sugar and carbohydrates, provide a sense of comfort because of the dopamine shot to the brain.

In addition, when you are stressed beyond belief, your body will hold on to extra weight as a way to protect itself from the future potential energy demands associated with stress-related dieting or starvation mode.

Now that we’ve explained how each of these categories differ from one another, let’s take a look at 5 reasons why women overeat and what is really causing them to do so.

5 reasons why women overeat:

  1. dieting and restricted food rules. I say this all the time, but dieting sets you up to overeat. Restriction from diets creates a deficit and eventually that deficit needs to be replenished. If you have ever dieted and found yourself ravenous or you can’t stop eating, that is the rebound effect.
  2. using food to numb emotions like stress, anxiety or depression. There is no doubt that food is comforting and tastes so good. Using food to feel good momentarily won’t lead you to your desired results which is to feel great in your body.
  3. lack of self awareness about the true cause for overindulging in foods. i.e., being on autopilot and eating mindlessly without even realizing it. You may not even be aware of your own hunger and fullness which will definitely lead you to overeat.
  4. there is a little a little rebel in you. You want what you want when you want it and don’t want to be told ‘no’. If you’ve been in the diet world for any amount of time, then you’ve learned there are “good” foods and “bad” foods. This sets you up to rebel against the rules. You push back against being told what to do or what to eat.
  5. lack of self-care. Something you don’t want to admit but is so true. It’s easy for you to take care of everyone else before taking the time and energy needed to tend lovingly to yourself.

If you see yourself in any of those reasons, then you’re probably wondering, “what next?” How do you break these behaviors and stop the overeating cycle?

Here are a few tips to help you start your journey and stop overeating:

  • Stop dieting! If you know that dieting only works in 3% of the population and is so hard to sustain, then why keep doing it? Probably because you don’t realize how much success you can have learning how to eat mindfully.

Mindfulness has been studied and shown to lead to weight loss. In addition, mindfulness combined with a meditation practice showed even greater results. I strongly encourage you to replace dieting with mindfulness. You will finally feel in control of your relationship with food and your body.

Practice mindful eating so that you don’t overeat.

Eating mindfully simply means paying attention to what’s going on in your body, how hungry or full you feel before, during and after each meal. This will give you the awareness needed for making better choices later on when it comes time for taking care of yourself.

You can even find mindful eating trackers to help you learn how to be more aware and make better choices for yourself. In so doing, you will decrease your overeating behaviors.

  • Make time for self-care. Most of you women end up taking care of everyone else and you do it so well, but what about your own needs?

You put the groceries away. You clean the kitchen after dinner. And then you go to bed exhausted with no time for yourself. You’ve been running around all day doing work or looking after your home and family.

If you’re feeling depleted, run down, and resentful, you’re probably not taking enough good care of yourself. This is something important to think about. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Find 1 small thing you can do each day or week for yourself. The better you take care of yourself, the more love and patience you have for those around you.

  • Make time to get to know yourself emotionally. Do you even know what you feel half the time? Do you give yourself time or space to “feel the feels”? A famous quote by Socrates, “to know thyself is the beginning of wisdom”.

Know what you think and feel enables you to make good choices regarding what you need. You have to ask yourself what is it that I’m feeling? What do I think about this situation or person? Get in touch with you!

You’ve got to give yourself time and space for being introspective. If you don’t, then how are you going to learn anything new about who you are as a human being? How will you know how to take great care of yourself?

Put emotional disconnection aside, take time out of your day to be kinder to yourself.

Looking inward also helps you awareness when you’re not being kind to yourself. Acknowledging your feelings without judgment gives you the opportunity to practice grace and self-compassion. Without this awareness, you will just continue to beat yourself up for eating that extra brownie or not losing the weight.

  • Make sure you’re properly fueling your body and that means enough calories and nutrition! If you practice any kind of restriction or tend to skip meals, you’re setting yourself to fail.

Food is fuel and if you don’t feed your body enough, it will quit on you. You’ll feel tired and sluggish as a result of not eating enough food. Eventually you’ll be starving or so stressed out that you turn to overeating behaviors.

Set a goal of fueling your body with good energy throughout the day so you’re not in any deficit. Remember, a calorie or nutritional shortfall will lead to a higher need to replenish. That is why skipping meals or “forgetting to eat” simply does not serve you.

Now is a great time to shift old behaviors to new.

You are now aware of some common reasons why women overeat, you can take steps to shift your behaviors and feel stronger and more confident in your own skin.

Be gently and patient with yourself. Seek help and guidance to support you on your journey. You’re not alone!

Lesley Goth, PsyD is a sustainable weight loss coach. She has a free masterclass that teaches you how to know when to start and stop eating, how to stop emotional eating with one key question, and so much more! To take Lesley’s class and get more support, click here.