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Four Steps to Fix the Hidden Reason Why You Overeat

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Do you ever wonder why you overeat after coming home from work, after a fun outing with girlfriends, or at night?

You’re not alone. Millions of smart, accomplished, dynamic women do the same thing. The problem isn’t insufficient will power, knowledge, or discipline. The problem is sensitivity to energy.

One of the reasons why we binge is that we’re looking for a release. Our modern lifestyle of constant activity, stress and pressure keeps our bodies in fight or flight mode. This sense of always being “on” activates our sympathetic nervous system, where our brains prepare for the stress of an emergency. Our bodies hum with energy and adrenaline, like a cat ready to pounce.

While in the past, you were on alert from real dangers like being chased by a wild animal, now you’re on alert because you’re stressed, anxious, and keyed up. You're trying to tackle a mile long to-do list, keep up with your kids’ schedules, and nail your big presentation at work. You can even be on alert in social settings from the pressure of being socially “on,” of putting on your social face with others, or the stress of managing family dynamics.

So what happens when you come home from work, when you leave the party or family gathering, when you finish the presentation? When you finally let down—usually in the evening, at the end of the day—you crave food. Eating—particularly eating sugary, starchy comfort foods—is how you release, how you facilitate that let down. Your body is trying to move into parasympathetic mode, the state of relaxation, and you comply by eating. Eventually, this becomes a regular pattern.

Alternatively, you may crave junk foods in the morning—donuts, oversized muffins, pastries—as a way to jump start the adrenaline, to gear up for the day. It’s as if you’re bracing yourself to make it through the gauntlet of your daily life. It’s the same process, but in reverse.

To stop your habit of using food to “come down,” you don’t need more will power. You are not a “fat cow,” as your mind would have you believe, because you use food in this way. You simply need to give yourself outlets for that pent up energy.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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