When it’s not just a case of the Saturdays, these medical reasons could explain why you can’t stop eating.
Eating can be a coping mechanism for people with depression or anxiety. Part of this might be because they don’t have enough of feel-good hormone serotonin, and eating comfort foods like pasta and bread can bring those levels up, says Holly Lofton, MD, weight management specialist and director of the medical weight management program at NYU Langone Medical Center. ‘You’re not treating depression with celery,’ she says. ‘It’s whatever your mom gave you to feel good.’ Here’s what else your food cravings reveal about your health.
During fight or flight mode, the stress hormone cortisol floods your body, which convinces your body to eat, even if you don’t physically need the calories, says Shanna Levine, MD, clinical educator at Mount Sinai School Medicine. ‘It’s not out of necessity, but cortisol tells your brain you’re not full,’ she says. ‘That’s why stress causes people to overeat.’ These are the best foods to eat when you’re stressed.
If you’re eating more than usual but are somehow still dropping pounds, your thyroid could be overproducing hormones, triggering your body to kick things up. ‘Think of the thyroid as an endocrine hormonal organ that speeds everything in the body up,’ says Dr. Lofton. ‘So you would also speed up metabolically, and increase their hunger as a result.’ The thyroid is also involved in satiety, so you might find your cravings harder to satisfy if it’s overactive, says Dr. Levine. See if your hunger is paired with fatigue, moodiness, brittle nails, or hair loss—they’re all signs of hyperthyroidism. Try these little habits for a healthy thyroid.
Overeating can lead to weight gain, but in a vicious cycle, obesity itself can also make you hungry. Excess fat could cause your insulin levels to skyrocket, making your appetite go up in response, says Dr. Lofton. Plus, fat cells make your body less sensitive to the satiety hormone, leptin, says Dr. Levine. ‘Because fat produces its own hormones, part of obesity is that people tend to feel more hungry than someone with higher metabolism and in better shape,’ she says. (Related: These sneaky things could affect your weight, regardless of diet and exercise.)
Low blood sugar can come from a number of causes, from meal skipping to pancreas problems. But the result is the same: a growly tummy while your body begs for an energy boost. ‘The body produces hunger as a signal to the brain to tell you to take in more food to have enough blood glucose to enter the cells,’ says Dr. Lofton. Here are more ways to treat low blood sugar.