What is compulsive eating?
(Compulsive eating is sometimes called Binge Eating or Over-eating Disorder)
Sufferers of compulsive eating often use food as a coping mechanism to deal with their feelings – they rely on food for emotional support. Some compulsive eaters are often caught in a vicious cycle of binge eating or overeating and depression. Compulsive eating is a problem for men, women and children of all ages.
The compulsion to overeat during a binge can be incredibly strong and applies to all food types, but usually those with high calorie and/or fat content. When a compulsion hits, the sufferer may ‘raid the fridge’ ‘rummage in the cupboard’ for any food that fulfils the desire to binge of over-eat.
Typical behaviours of compulsive eating sufferers
- Pick at food all day, (an all-day binge), and feel like you can’t stop yourself overeating
- Eat very large quantities of food in one go, (often high-calorie)
- Find that you eat without really thinking about it
- Eating large amounts of snack foods while watching the TV or other passive activity
- Feel quite out of control during the compulsive eating
- Binge eating chocolates, but it can be any foods
- Binge eating sessions are triggered by an upset – getting stressed at work
- Use food to cheer yourself up if you’re feeling unhappy
- Use food to congratulate yourself for any minor reason
- Feelings of guilt, shame, disgust, and depression after compulsive eating of a large amount of food
- Have low self-esteem – feeling worthless
- Feel lonely and empty or have a deep sense of loss
- Binge eating temporarily relieves the stress of these feelings but starts the cycle again
- Eat normally or restrictively in front of others
- Then make up for eating less by overeating in secret
- Feel full before a meal but still eat it
- Feel full after a meal but still go for ‘seconds’
- As a result, you are likely to be heavily overweight, and in danger of developing health problems because of it.
- Compulsive eating is a way of masking problems, often connected with close relationships. Compulsive eaters often deal with problems in life by denying there’s anything wrong.
- Compulsive eaters are constantly struggling and unhappy with their weight. The number on the weighing scale often determines how they feel about themselves.
- Medical complications can also be severe and even life threatening for compulsive eaters.
Don’t let your eating problem go too far. Get help ASAP.
What should I do?
If you feel you are developing an eating problem, then getting help early on is very important.
You may wish to see your GP. They can check that symptoms, (weight loss or gain), are not due to an underlying physical condition.
If there are no such underlying conditions causing the problem the eating problem needs to be treated ASAP before it gets a strong hold on you. Treatment is usually through changing both your eating pattern and addressing the emotions behind it.