Do you reward yourself with food and find you’re always overeating? Treating yourself and overindulging occasionally is fine, but when it’s a regular occurrence you can end up feeling pretty rubbish. Overeating often makes you feel fatigued and lethargic.
But did you know you could be more likely to indulge in overeating because of your DNA? Understanding how your personal genetic factors contribute to food binges could help you avoid common overeating issues and let you get your health back on track.
Your diet and your DNA
A study into food reinforcement found there’s a genetic component linked to food desire behaviour and a tendency to overeat. Among the people in the study, those who were considered obese and had a certain version of a genetic marker related to the DRD2 gene were more likely to try to use food as a reward.
Basically, this genetic marker influences how the brain uses dopamine (a neurotransmitter relating to rewards and behaviour). If you’ve got the genetic marker, it can make you more likely to engage in behaviours that provide immediate rewards, like smoking or overeating.
Five tips to manage overeating
When food is so tasty and enticing, it can be hard to stop ourselves from tucking in to more than we need at mealtimes – or snacking more often than necessary. If your DNA makes you love food too much, take a look at our tips for managing a genetic tendency to overeat …
- The most important meal of the day ...
Think that skipping breakfast means you'll lose weight easier? In fact, a 2014 study showed that people who regularly dodge their morning meals end up consuming 500 more calories per day than those who do eat breakfast. Try these scrumptious and healthy breakfast recipes to wake you up and leave you feeling energised for the day ahead.
- Choose low-GI foods
When your blood sugar levels drop too low, you might get cravings for a quick sugar fix from unhealthy snacks like chocolate and pastries. A good way to control your blood sugar levels is to choose foods with a low glycaemic index (GI), which provide natural, slow-release energy. As a rule, low-GI foods typically tend to be less processed, like whole wheat bread, brown rice and rolled oats, so choose wholegrain options where possible. Also, try bulking up your Bolognese or stew with kidney beans and lentils to make it lower on the GI scale. Here are a few tips on how to follow a healthy low-GI lifestyle.
- Savour every bite
Rushing through your meals means you’re more likely to overeat. That’s because it takes around 20 minutes from when you started eating for your brain to realise it’s full! On top of this, taking your time over food by chewing properly is better for promoting healthy digestion. At mealtimes or snack breaks, make sure you sit down, relax and be mindful about how quickly you’re eating.
- Cut back on the booze
Drinking too much alcohol can wreak havoc on your diet. Alcohol weakens your impulse control so you’re likely to give into your instinctive food cravings. So that’s why downing a few pints at the pub often results in a late-night takeaway … Or perhaps, you’ve woken up hungover and you whip up a huge full English, which ends up being much more calorific and fatty than your usual breakfast. You don’t need to give up drinking all together – just be conscious of how it affects your eating habits, avoid binge drinking and follow these tips for cutting down your weekly units.
Find you go red after a few glasses of wine? Your DNA could make you flush after drinking alcohol. Find out more in our alcohol flush reaction blog.
- If you fail to plan, you plan to ... overeat
A good way to control your overeating is to keep a food diary of everything you’ve consumed over the week and plan your upcoming meals. Take Sunday afternoons to prepare all your portable lunches beforehand. That way you’re less likely to gorge upon a feast at the office when you choose the unhealthiest and biggest meal deal option. You’ll also save a bit of money too!
Improve your overall health with a DNA Diet Test
Our DNA Diet Test kit can tell you if your genes make you more likely to overeat, allowing you to act and gain control over your own health and wellbeing. Knowing your own DNA can give you insights into all aspects of your health – the DNA Diet Test also tells you about your risk of vitamin deficiencies, your reaction to alcohol, allows you to understand how you metabolise caffeine, and much more. Discover more about the inner you with our DNA Diet Test today.
Need more help?
If you’re worried about your overeating habits and believe you may have an eating disorder, speak to your GP. Read the NHS’s guidance on binge eating disorder to find out about more serious chronic overeating conditions.
Epstein LH et al. (2006) “Food Reinforcement.” Appetite 46, 22-5.
Epstein LH et al. (2007) “Food Reinforcement, The Dopamine D2 Receptor Genotype, And Energy Intake in Obese And Nonobese Humans.” Behavioral Neuroscience 121, 877-86.
Morton, L.M. et al. (2006) “DRD2 genetic variation in relation to smoking and obesity in the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal, and Ovarian Cancer Screening Trial.” Pharma Cogenetics Genomics, 16(12). 901-10.