Compulsive overeating is not a sign of weak willpower or greediness. It is often the only way to release pent-up emotions. Therefore, working on this disorder requires cooperation with a psychotherapist, and sometimes even a doctor who can prescribe pharmacological interventions.
Binge Eating Disorder (BED) is an eating disorder that affects 2-5% of the general population, while up to 30% of obese people are affected.
WHAT IS COMPULSIVE OVEREATING?
The disorder is more of an act of overeating, usually driven by impulse, rather than an actual feeling of hunger. Unlike mental bulimia, it does not involve subsequent purging behaviors such as vomiting or the use of laxatives.
The amount of food consumed by an individual in a single session far exceeds what an average person of the same gender and body weight would eat.
A characteristic symptom of the disorder is a strong sense of shame after the act of overeating, as well as a strong sense of guilt for what has happened. Depressive mood and negative self-evaluation are also present.
To determine if someone has a problem with overeating, check if the person has binge eating episodes at least once a week for the following three months. If these behaviors are repeated and the amount of food consumed significantly exceeds what most people would eat, seek help from a professional, such as a dietitian or psychotherapist.
WHEN IS IT KNOWN THAT IT IS COMPULSIVE OVEREATING?
The criteria that help determine if a person has a problem with compulsive overeating are as follows:
- eating excessive amounts of food despite not feeling hungry,
- ending the eating with a feeling of extreme overeating,
- eating alone,
- suddenly reaching for food, even though other food was eaten less than half an hour ago,
- eating much faster,
- feeling guilt and shame after eating, as well as disgust with oneself.
Criteria for the severity of the disorder:
- 1-3 binge eating episodes per week indicate mild disorder,
- 4-7 suggest moderately severe disorders,
- 8-13 excessive consumption indicates severe disorders,
- 14 or more makes the condition very serious.
WAYS TO DEAL WITH COMPULSIVE OVEREATING
Since overeating is often the result of an inability to regulate one’s own emotions, it is essential to take care of this area of your life. People with BED are more likely to succumb to sadness and find it difficult to regulate their emotions, so a necessary part of treatment should be visiting a psychotherapist and establishing an individual plan.
Compulsive overeating is often the result of prolonged tension due to, for example, the inability to set boundaries.
On the other hand, when we have a toxic relationship, poor relationships with parents or a partner that projects into a feeling of constant tension, then ways of better communication with loved ones are discussed, thinking about leaving a toxic relationship, or another way to regulate family matters and interpersonal relationships.
The basis of successful therapy is to first eliminate the source of tension and at the same time teach the patient other, healthy ways to ventilate emotions, such as running, going to the cinema with a friend, or any activity that brings pleasure and relieves excessive tension.
If other mental disorders, such as depression, are the underlying cause of binge eating, one way to reduce overeating is taking antidepressants.
Working with a dietitian
Part of compulsive overeating is also related to irregular eating. There are people who have a hearty breakfast, then dive into work and have their next meal in the late afternoon or evening.
For the body, this is too long of a time interval, which often causes these people to rush to the refrigerator when they return home and try to eat what they didn’t eat during the day. Over time, this can turn into compulsive overeating, which exceeds the caloric value of the meal.
People who are trying to lose weight and follow various diets that are too calorie-restrictive are also at risk of developing compulsive eating habits. The longer this situation persists, the greater the risk of overeating again.
A calorie-restrictive diet is not the only reason why the body wants to compensate for the lack of vitamins or minerals by overeating. It can also be due to poor nutrition.
This means that we can consume up to 2,000 kcal per day, but if they come mainly from processed foods, carbohydrates, such as candy bars, chips, etc., the body will want to compensate for the nutrient deficit at some point, resulting in impulsive eating of anything it gets.
To prevent binge eating, it is necessary to work with a dietitian who can arrange a calorie-dense and nutritious diet for us. In addition, thanks to the fixed eating times determined by professionals, the body will stop starving and eating too much food at once.