Feeling Out of Control with Food?
You Can Overcome Compulsive Overeating
What is compulsive eating? Compulsive eating is essentially feeling “compelled” to eat by cues other than hunger. Compulsive eating also correlates to obsessive thinking about food – thinking about what you might eat later, thinking about what is available, and thinking about what you’ve already eaten. Compulsive overeating refers to consuming large (large meaning anything greater than typical – it’s relative) quantities of food when not hungry on a regular basis. It can also mean eating compulsively after restricting food (usually earlier in the day for example). This type of eating behavior feels out of control and compulsive in the sense that the person might be thinking, “I’ve already had enough, I feel full, why can’t I stop eating!” Some describe it as feeling like an addiction – food addiction.
You might feel compulsive only with certain foods, such as sugar or cheese. You might feel as if you are addicted to food. You might be, but not in the way that you think. With food, it’s the process of using food that becomes addictive. For example, you might eat sugar to soothe pain and over time that process becomes an addictive cycle. You crave sugar when you feel pain. In an sense, it’s like using food as a drug.
If you are feeling compulsive with food, you might feel out of control and frustrated with yourself. It’s important to acknowledge that there is nothing wrong with you. Your brain is working to soothe and comfort you when you’re in distress. Everything is working as it should. What’s needed is to heal the source of the stress and find new ways to soothe. This is how therapy can help.
Why can’t I stop overeating? Isn’t it just a question of willpower?
It takes extraordinary willpower to keep trying to go on diets or make changes to eating patterns. If willpower were the only issue, this problem would have been solved long ago! Willpower is actually a finite resource in our brains and can get used up by all of the mental tasks we do in a day as well as emotions such as anxiety or depression.
The reasons behind emotional eating/compulsive eating are always complex, and are typically about both past and present stressors, biochemistry, and genetics. Often, people have a long history of using food to meet needs other than hunger, including distraction, soothing and companionship. To change eating habits permanently, these needs must be met in new ways. Otherwise, the person will revert back to emotional eating/compulsive eating as soon as a stressor occurs.
Treatment for Compulsive Eating
Compulsive eating treatment involves more than just looking at your relationship with food. All factors that may be contributing to the “compulsivity” of eating are examined before a treatment plan is put in place. Often treatment involves identifying the primary triggers to compulsive eating and ways of slowing down to break the cycle and learn new skills.
For many people, treatment for compulsive eating often involves attending to areas in
your life not related to food. This might include:
– connection with self
– healing emotions and creating nurturing self-talk
– boundaries and relationships
– needs, purpose, and passion
– biochemistry, hormones, and physiology
What does “recovered” mean?
Recovered means eating and moving in response to body needs most of the time. Your body’s needs will vary day to day.
It does NOT mean never eating compulsively again. Emotional overeating may always be “in your toolbox.” People without disordered eating eat for “emotional” reasons.
It means eating to check out will become rarer and rarer, with less and less food, for shorter and shorter episodes.
It means one episode will not, by default, lead to another.
It means an episode will get your attention right away; you will know the real need, let go of any anger at yourself for eating, and meet the real need as best you can.
Recovery is a journey, not a destination. You will recover at the rate that is just right for you!
What is compulsive eating? It’s a way you’ve learned to cope that is no longer serving you. For help with compulsive eating in Houston, Tx, contact us to schedule an appointment with an individual therapist or simply to get more information on what might be the next step for you. We also offer a group program, which can be helpful in learning skills and gaining support from others.