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What is Compulsive Eating and What Can I Do About It?

Upon first glance, eating should be one of life’s simple pleasures. Once you’ve scratched the surface, it seems you’ll uncover an endless list of pitfalls. From calories to ingredients, from quantity to quality, there’s plenty to ponder. But what does it mean when eating becomes compulsive eating…and what can we do about it?

What is Compulsive Eating?

Everyone experiences those times when they eat past the point of feeling full. Compulsive eating is more of a pattern. Strictly speaking, the diagnosis may be “binge-eating disorder” and it may involve eating when not hungry, eating too rapidly, and choosing to eat alone due to shame. Other symptoms include:

  • An acute awareness of abnormal eating habits and focus on body weight
  • History of dieting and weight fluctuations
  • Hoarding and hiding food
  • Depression or mood swings
  • General fatigue
  • Either a loss of sexual desire or embracing a trend of promiscuity

Binge-eating disorder is a mental and physical condition that requires treatment. It is nothing to be ashamed of but also not something to be downplayed.

The Physical and Emotional Impact of Compulsive Eating

Compulsive eating lowers your quality of life in many intertwined ways. Of course, it can contribute to a broad range of physical conditions, e.g. heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, kidney disease, arthritis, high cholesterol, and stroke.

On a parallel track, the binge-eating disorder can condition your mind to treat food/eating similarly to substance abuse. The act of eating is euphoric and temporarily masks the shame, depression, anxiety, and loneliness one feels. This is a recipe for addictive behavior. It’s easy to feel out of control and set the cycle in motion.

Are you binge eating? Could you have binge eating disorder? This quiz assesses binge eating behaviors and severity, which can indicate an eating disorder.

5 Ways to Address Compulsive Eating

1. Understand What is Happening

Compulsive eating is not about lacking self-control or being lazy. It’s likely a blend of brain chemistry and emotional distress. You can’t change this with affirmations alone. You have a diagnosable disorder that needs your attention as much as if were an upper respiratory infection.

2. Skip the Pep Talks

Whether it’s a well-meaning loved one or self-imposed rituals, pep talks are not in the healing protocol. While positive thinking is always helpful, again eating disorders are not about laziness or lack of will.

3. Take Lots of Tech Breaks

Societal pressure has always played a huge role in body image. Social media has ramped that up in the past decade. Carefully curated posts cloud your head as you scroll, scroll, scroll. Give yourself a chance by scheduling in non-negotiable tech breaks — several times a day.

4. Create Carved-in-Stone Eating Rules

General guidelines are easy to circumvent. With the help of a professional (nutritionist and/or therapist), you can make rules that must be followed. Such structure can go a long way in re-imagining your relationship with food and eating.

5. No More Diets. Choose “Eating Habits” Instead.

One of the many problems with the concept of dieting is the temporary aspect. If you just do this thing for this amount of time, you’ll get this result. It’s a recipe for disordered eating. Instead, move towards long-term eating habits as a goal. Take the focus off the scale and aim it towards a healthier future.

Knowing When to Ask For Help

Learn what compulsive eating is Like all issues, compulsive eating appears in degrees. There are instances when it can be managed by diligent self-care. The suggestions listed above may sometimes be enough in mild cases. However, it’s not only important to recognize compulsive eating. It’s absolutely essential to know you’re not alone.

Enlisting the support of a trained therapist is a proven path when dealing with any type of disordered eating. Healing is possible but quite often, it’s a road best traveled with an experienced guide. Please reach out for a consultation soon. Eddins Counseling Group, in Houston, TX, has experienced therapists that specialize in disordered eating. Call us today at 832-559-2622 or book an appointment online.

Rachel Eddins, M.Ed., LPC-S, CGP on Twitter
Rachel Eddins, M.Ed., LPC-S, CGP
Rachel’s passion is to help people discover their personal gifts and strengths to achieve self-acceptance, create a healthy relationship with food, mind and body, and find meaning and fulfillment in work and life roles. She helps people create nurturance and healing from within to restore balance and enoughness and overcome binge eating, emotional eating, anxiety, depression and lack of career fulfillment.

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