One of life’s great pleasures is good food. Throughout life, we associate food with family and celebration. Consequently, overeating is easy, especially when food tastes so delicious. Many people struggle with regulating their portions or make excuses for overloading their plates.
The answers as to why humans overeat are many and varied. For some of us, our overeating habits are private, as is our compulsion to overeat. We hide it because of shame and other feelings relating to different facets of our lives. People who eat excessively and do not hide it would appear not to care, but that is likely far from the case. Research tells us that overeating is a primary cause of obesity, but possible underlying causes encompass food addiction and an array of disorders and mental health issues.
Perhaps the most common eating disorder is compulsive overeating. A person may eat compulsively to feel better, which works as a temporary fix, but in reality, it is quite the opposite. We often use food to soothe ourselves or give food to assuage the feelings of another. This act is as old as time and ingrained in our lives and psyche.
Our emotions are soothed and sometimes numbed by consuming food. Overeating behaviors attempt to cover or excuse our feelings of failure, doubt, exclusivity, anxiety, depression, and grief. Compulsive overeating is a behavior that affects many people. Treatment attempts to work with the biological causes of hunger, satisfying hunger and coping with the range of causal feelings and emotions. Recovery strives to pinpoint food and overeating triggers and focuses on nurturing the physical and emotional sides and self-care.
The most common eating disorders include bulimia nervosa, binge eating, and anorexia nervosa. It is a misconception to assume that eating disorders are a choice. They are, instead, serious illnesses. Telltale signs are a preoccupation with food and severe or frequent weight changes.
Bulimia involves eating large amounts of food followed by attempts to overcompensate by forced vomiting, exercise, and laxatives. Binge eating, the most common eating disorder, involves large amounts of food intake but no purging afterward. Anorexia, the most dangerous eating disorder, involves starving oneself without the ability to regulate food intake. This disorder can be fatal and has the highest death rate of any other eating disorder.
People of any age, background, or gender can struggle with an eating disorder, and research indicates causal influences as a combination of genetic, biological, psychological, and social. Therapy may include psychotherapy, counseling, and medication.
Reducing overeating, binge eating, and other eating-related disorders may require a combination of therapies and treatments, and each individual’s plan is unique to their recovery. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a proven method of psychotherapy that is effective in various treatment plans. It is a therapeutic technique combining cognitive and behavioral therapy that relies on research-driven evidence. CBT is effective in helping a person recognize their negative thinking patterns and beliefs and change them.
Another effective treatment is a type of psychotherapy called family-based therapy. This treatment is beneficial for families of children with anorexia nervosa to learn about their responsibility toward their child during recovery. Family therapy has been effective in both promoting weight gain in the patient and improving their eating habits and overall outlook.
Nutritional therapy is an integral part of any treatment of eating disorders. Additionally, medications are used in the treatment of eating disorders when necessary. Antidepressants, mood stabilizers, and antipsychotics are some medications doctors may prescribe for eating disorders and resulting symptoms that may also present. Associated mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression, may require treatment using any or all of the above therapies.
Is Compulsive Overeating Preventable?
Although compulsive overeating is not preventable in all situations because people and their background histories are different, however, following certain guidelines may reduce the probability:
- Be aware of your triggers to overeat. For example, if you binge at a family barbeque, you can stay away or be mindful of the food offered and its portions. Fill up on veggies first.
- Fad diets and diets are restrictive. They limit you to a few items, and nothing else may work temporarily, but the urge for a fuller diet soon returns, and you are more apt to overeat.
- Self-care and self-love go a long way. You know what is good for your body. Feed it accordingly.
- Emotions can drive you straight to comfort eating. Be mindful of emotional eating.
- Try to eat at the same time every day. Of course, this is not always possible, but practicing consistency may help you eat healthier.
- Seek support from your support system. Look to a friend or loved one, or join a support group such as Overeaters Anonymous that has effective and extensive support for eating-related struggles.
Everyone can use a little support when trying to lead a healthier lifestyle. If you experience complications beyond your control, do not hesitate to reach out to a loved one or a health professional.
Both your mental and physical health are essential to your overall well-being. Eating disorders can disrupt the balance in your life and affect your mental health, including your ability to cope well in your daily life. Stress-related anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues may result. If you or a loved one are experiencing any of these concerns, please know that you do not have to go through it alone. We can help with our programs designed with supportive treatment and growth in recovery, improving your quality of life. Call SoCal Mental Health today to talk with one of our helpful staff for more information on our programs at (949) 502-2041.