Compulsive Eating: Getting the Help You Need
Do you find yourself eating to make yourself feel better? Many of us relate food to happiness. If you find yourself eating whenever you’re depressed or anxious, this may also be true for you.
It’s said that people are supposed to be merry and jolly during the holiday season but many of us are just the opposite, and we eat to deal with it.
At least 30 million people of all ages and genders suffer from an eating disorder in the United States. The overconsumption of food is a huge problem.
Compulsive Eating is a type of eating behavior where one continues to eat even after they are full or will eat a significant amount of food when they are not hungry. People may also eat alone or in secret. Some also feel upset and guilty after eating. The desire to eat is linked to emotional distress rather than to hunger.
Our five senses can make food more alluring, especially when trying to avoid unwanted feelings. Our sense of taste, smell, and sight help us distinguish which foods we consider a pleasure to eat and bring us joy. During emotional distress, these senses help your brain recall which types of foods you find palatable.
When feeling down, you eat the foods that give you a sense of euphoria and reduce unwanted feelings in the moment. Eating food can be comforting and it can also create a numbing effect.
How Do Compulsive Eating Habits Begin?
Compulsive eating habits usually begin at an early age. A parent who fed you whenever you felt bad or to show you love, taught you how to soothe yourself using food. The message to a child is, “Eat whenever feelings become uncomfortable,” instead of dealing with them by other means or “I need to eat to feel loved.”
Over time, eating can become a way to deal with problems instead of a means of nourishment. This can be the beginning of a lifelong battle.
How to Deal with Compulsive Eating Habits
Having a safety plan can help you avoid compulsive eating habits during the holiday season. Here are five helpful strategies you can use if your stress levels rise and food urges tend to get out of control during the holiday season.
First, use other forms of self-care throughout the week, such as taking a scenic walk or a hot aroma therapy bath. Second, don’t leave foods you find irresistible around the house. If you’re the host, provide healthier options and let guests take food home when the party ends.
Third, don’t go to a holiday party hungry. Drink lots of water before eating. Fourth, have an accountability partner who can provide a healthy distraction instead of using food as entertainment. Fifth, engage with others and remind yourself not to have any expectations.
Stay in the moment and enjoy the festivities as they unfold. If you want to see long-term results with eliminating compulsive eating, making an appointment with a therapist to explore what’s under your emotional eating would be an option to start.
Overeating feels good in the moment, but just like with any other maladaptive behavior, it has a negative cost in the end, making eating to feel better counterproductive. When emotional eating goes untreated, it can cause obesity, food addiction, problems with weight loss, and possibly lead to eating disorders such as bulimia and anorexia. These problems can cause you more stress and emotional anguish.
Getting Help for Compulsive Eating
Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) is commonly used to treat eating disorders. Techniques such as food journaling can help you track compulsive eating. A mood scale can give you a better understanding about what emotions trigger you to eat.
Learning to self-monitor can help you identify the trigger before the urge to eat becomes out of control. Getting underneath the feelings can help you find the source of the problem and a therapist can help with uncovering what those are.
If some of the behaviors mentioned in this article sound familiar to you, call Culver City Christian Counseling right away for a consultation with a therapist. Don’t continue suffering alone or thinking you are the only one with unhealthy behavior when it comes to food. You’re not alone; help is available.
“Kitchen Shelves,” courtesy of Brooke Lark, unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Smelling the Flowers,” courtesy of Katy Belcher, unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Solitude,” courtesy of Humphrey Muleba, pexels.com, CC0 License; “Time Alone,” courtesy of Ravi Roshan, unsplash.com, CC0 License