From the fast-food ads we encounter on our daily commutes to the decadent dessert recipes that pop up in our Facebook feeds, our lives are filled with food cues. On top of that, science suggests that lifestyle factors like drinking alcohol regularly, skimping on sleep and watching hours of TV can drive us to take in more calories than our bodies need.
Before stress-eating your way through another day, read on to discover some of the common behaviors that could be turning us into bottomless pits.
Alcohol is a bigger contributor to overeating than camping out in front of the television or falling short on shut-eye, according to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Research. Scientists say that drinking increases levels of ghrelin, a hormone that makes you feel hungry, so don’t be surprised if you shovel in more dinner after downing a glass of wine.
Having a drink with dinner may also leave you hungry after a meal that would typically fill you up. In a study at Laval University in Canada, subjects had either a high-fat appetizer along with an alcoholic beverage or a lower-fat (and therefore less filling) appetizer without alcohol at lunchtime. The high-fat/alcohol consumers ate more of their entrees — and more of their dinners later that day — than those who didn’t have a drink.
2. Too much TV
People who watch TV for more than two hours a day are more likely to be overweight, according to a study from the USDA. Close to 60 percent of Americans fall into that category, and researchers found they tend to consume larger amounts of high-calorie snack foods, pizza and sugary soft drinks. They also help themselves to higher-calorie dinners than those who watch less than an hour of TV a day.
3. Inadequate sleep
When you can’t tear yourself away from a late-night rerun of Law & Order, you won’t just be tired the next day. People ate 221 more calories worth of snack foods the day after getting 5.5 hours of sleep compared to the day following an 8.5-hour snooze, according to a study from the University of Chicago. At that rate, you could pack on almost a pound after two weeks of sleep deprivation.
Skimping on sleep lowers levels of the fullness hormone leptin while increasing levels of ghrelin, a combination that revs up your appetite, according to researchers at Stanford University. What’s more, lack of rest stimulates areas of the brain that associate food with pleasure, according to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.
4. Food porn
If you’ve spent even five minutes perusing recipes on Pinterest, you understand that looking at food makes you want to eat. Viewing images of delicious dishes lights up the brain’s reward centers and can make those with active mental responses to food overeat, according to a study published in the Journal of Neuroscience. Food porn also drives up levels of ghrelin, even if you just ate a meal, according to a study published in the journal Obesity.
If you’re trying to lose weight, you’re even more likely to be seduced by food imagery. Dieters ate 60 more calories of candy after watching a television program that featured the sweet treat, while non-dieters ate the same amount of candy whether it was on TV or not, according to a study in Appetite.
5. Gluttonous pals