We are all too familiar with that feeling of being stuffed. For some it’s a rare occasion, but for others each meal can present the chance to eat and eat until overeating strikes again. We might do this at the end of a long day. It’s a holiday so why not? Or maybe when home alone all inhibition lets loose. Then we feel frustrated with ourselves for letting this stomachache happen….once again. The truth is that right out of the gate we are nurtured with food. We eat to live, but somewhere along the lines living to eat can become the lifestyle. We have an emotional connection to food outside of just nutritional purposes.
Yet, the act of eating can get out of control. It can become a coping mechanism for negative emotions. Some people think about food all the time. We might laugh and joke after eating large quantities at Thanksgiving, but some people feel ashamed and guilty after far too many of their meals. For some people, overeating can just be a mindless habit. The duration of the movie requires snacking and then pretty soon the box is gone and the entire liter of soda.
Some people who overeat might have an actual eating disorder such as binge eating disorder (BED). This is characterized by eating large quantities of food in a short period of time. A person with BED might do this at least once per week for the course of 3 months or longer. Eating is associated with feelings of stress, loneliness, and then guilt and regret after eating so much. To be clear, not all people who overeating have binge eating disorder. For some people it’s just a love of food, while others might suffer from negative body image. Sometime dieting gone astray can lead to overeating. Feelings of deprivation lead to a desire for foods that were off limits and the more the better. The foods that were forbidden become more and more attractive.
The composition of foods can make them addictive in nature. High fat, high sugar, and high salt foods taste to please us. The brain senses the euphoric feeling much like drug use. Then the person become dependent of these foods as they crave their comfort and satisfaction. The difference is that no one can cut food “cold-turkey”. We are faced with eating each and every single day, more than once. The act of eating can become an addiction too.
If there’s strong ties to deep emotional problems and food seems to be the solution, then seeking help is important. A person needs to determine their triggers, especially those that transpire negative body image. A counselor can certainly help. Food should also not be constantly deprived or labeled as “good” or “bad”. Tuning into hunger cues is important. Understanding the why of the overeating leads to a better solution. A change of scenery can help change the environment you put yourself in during eating. Don’t be on autopilot and let the habit carry on and on. There is a lot more to life then chewing, but we have to find a healthy relationship with food in order to be healthy mentally and physically.