Overeating, or eating even after you’re full, is fairly common. We overeat at parties, family gatherings and holidays. But overeating can also contribute to obesity and the development of eating disorders.
Overeating is eating past the point of fullness. When we overeat, we eat even though we aren’t hungry. If it becomes a habit, overeating can lead to weight gain and eating disorders. But overeating isn’t binge eating disorder.
Overeating is very common, and it’s biological. When you’re stressed, your body makes more of a hormone called cortisol. Increased cortisol is a fight-or-flight response that, among other things, tells you it’s time to find food. It can make you crave foods high in sugar, fat or salt.
There are other factors at play here, too. How fast you eat, what you eat, when you eat and what you’re doing while you eat can all contribute to overeating.
Occasional overeating can cause stomach pain and indigestion, alter how your body regulates hunger and contribute to weight gain.
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When you overeat, you may feel:
You may also have these symptoms for other reasons, not just overeating. If these symptoms last more than a day or so, they may not be related to overeating. If they get worse or last for a week, contact a healthcare provider.
The discomfort from overeating should start to get better a few hours later. Getting some exercise and drinking water may help you feel better faster.
Overeating is eating past the point of fullness. But while you’re eating, it can be hard to tell when to stop, especially if you eat quickly or are busy with other things.
Typically, your body regulates hunger with hormonal signals. If it’s been a while since you last ate, your levels of a hormone called ghrelin rise, which makes you hungry. After you eat, the hormone leptin tells you you’re full.
Overeating overrides these signals. This disrupts the balance of the hormones that regulate our hunger and makes us more likely to eat for pleasure instead of energy.
You might not notice you’ve been overeating for about 20 minutes or so after you stop eating. Then, you may feel tired or have an upset stomach.
There are many causes of overeating, some related to the foods themselves, and others related to why or when we’re eating. Causes of overeating include:
If you overeat, feeling shame or blaming yourself won’t help you feel better. Remember that overeating is common. You might feel bad for a few hours and it’s important to be kind to yourself while your digestive system works. There are some things you can do to help your body digest your meal and get you back on track. For example:
Possible side effects of antacids include:
Although occasional overeating is common, it can change how your body regulates hunger and lead to unwanted weight gain. One of the main reasons we overeat is because it feels good. So, doing more things that make you feel good that aren’t eating may help. Practice good self-care: Move your body, get enough (but not too much) sleep and limit social media.
Other things that may help you stop overeating include:
Yes, overeating can lead to nausea and vomiting.
Overeating once or twice a year shouldn’t cause lasting weight gain. But if overeating becomes a pattern, then it will. When you feel discomfort from overeating, be gentle with yourself. Get some light exercise and drink some water. And don’t drastically reduce your caloric intake the next day. Eat — mindfully — when you’re hungry.
Overeating makes your body work harder and redirects blood flow away from other organs to your busy digestive system. This can make you feel tired or sluggish. The foods we’re more likely to overeat also tend to be higher in carbohydrates, which can cause a sugar rush followed by a sugar crash.
If you find yourself overeating more than once per week for a few months, it might help to discuss your symptoms and eating behaviors with a healthcare provider.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Everyone overeats from time to time. Be kind to yourself. It may help to understand why you eat and what happens in your body when you eat (and overeat). Getting some exercise and drinking water should help relieve the discomfort. While occasional overeating is OK, if you overeat more often, you may gain weight or develop chronic conditions. If you find yourself overeating regularly, reach out to a healthcare provider.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 02/07/2023.
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