Roasted turkey with homemade stuffing, maple-glazed ham, cheesy potato casseroles, pumpkin pie and other calorie-laden desserts made from scratch represent a sense of comfort and with that comes the temptation to eat in excess. The holiday feasting and indulging starts on Thanksgiving and continues on through New Year’s Day, a time when resolutions are made — and most center on getting back in shape.
Along with looking forward to spending time with family and loved ones over the holidays comes an equal share of stress and anxiety that often set off triggers that cause us to overeat.
Some people may be able to stop after a slice of mom’s homemade apple pie, but for others who suffer from binge
eating disorders, a condition in which people cannot control the amount of food they eat, the one piece of pie sets off a chain reaction of needing more sweets to fulfill the craving, rendering them unable to stop eating.
“That pie often opens the floodgates to cravings, and many of us have spent holiday season after holiday season telling ourselves to have just one little treat,” says clinical psychologist Dr. Denise Lamothe, a leading expert on
emotional eating and resident psychologist for Bach Original Flower Remedies.“Instead we binge our way through, not only the holiday season, but also well beyond the New Year.”
How Common is Binge Eating?
Binge eating disorder, also known as compulsive overeating, affects an estimated 3.5 percent of women and 2 percent of men, making it a more common eating disorder than anorexia and bulimia. And not all people with binge eating disorders are obese or overweight.
The danger is that most people with this disorder don’t seek out help until after they have put on excess weight and are experiencing health problems.
Emotional Eating and the Food Addiction Connection
Whether it’s warming up a bowl of chicken noodle soup after a long day or grabbing a box of chocolate chip cookies and large glass of milk for comfort after an argument with a significant other, emotional eating provides us with a temporary outlet for dealing with stress. It’s when food becomes the main coping mechanism for stress that it turns into weight gain, obesity and out of control food addiction.
Emotional eating is often used as a replacement or substitute to:
- Fill a void in your life
- Feel better or cheer yourself up
- Calm down or soothe your nerves
- Escape from problems
- Cope with stress and worries
- Reward yourself
Oftentimes people with binge eating disorders do what they can to hide their problem from others to avoid embarrassment and sneak times to eat by themselves when others aren’t around. If you think you have, or know of someone who may have, a problem with binge eating, there are six symptoms of binge eating to look out for:
- Inability to stop eating or control what you’re eating
- Eating huge amounts of food at a rapid pace
- Continuing to eat even after you’re full
- Putting food in hiding spots or stockpiling it to save to eat later
- Eating normal amounts when around others, but gorging yourself once you find time
- Eating non-stop throughout the course of the day with no designated meal times
What Happens When Binge Eating is Left Untreated?
The shameful feelings that keep binge eating a secret can eventually start to take a negative impact on physical, emotional and social health and lead to insomnia, suicidal thoughts, depression, anxiety, substance abuse and another health problem that can take a big toll on your health — weight gain.
Over a period of time, overeating catches up with the physical body and usually turns into obesity, which is linked with several medical complications. Some common health problems that are associated with obesity include:
- Type 2 diabetes
- Gallbladder disease
- High cholesterol
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Certain types of cancer
- Joint and muscle pain
- Gastrointestinal problems
- Sleep apnea
Tips to Overcoming Binge Eating
One of the most important things to do in escaping the grasp of binge eating is creating new life patterns and establishing a new and healthy relationship with food, one that focuses on your nutritional needs as opposed to your emotional ones. Healthy eating means planning and preparing wellbalanced meals, making healthy food choices when eating out, listening to your body and breaking out of emotional eating patterns.
Taking a proactive approach by building strong support groups, maintaining a close connection with your family and friends and soothing your emotions by practicing relaxation techniques are great life strategies to implement in your daily schedule to help you conquer binge eating.
Seven Helpful Strategies to Beat Binge Eating
1. Don’t skip breakfast—Get a jumpstart on your metabolism by beginning each day with a healthy breakfast. Taking a pass on breakfast often leads to episodes of overeating later in the day.
2. Keep junk foods out of the house— The easiest way to avoid junk foods, desserts and unhealthy foods, which
often triggers binge eating, is by not buying them
3. Stop dieting—The thought of deprivation and hunger that is often attached to the word “diet” elicits increased urges to overeat. Instead of focusing on restriction and dieting, think of being kind to your body by enjoying nutritious foods in moderation
4. Start exercising daily—Along with the obvious benefit of weight loss, exercise also offers many emotional benefits such as being a natural mood elevator and stress reducer, both of which will help stop emotional eating. Including a mind-body exercise regime is the most ideal way to address your physical and emotional needs
5. Learn and practice stress-relief strategies—Find some healthy stress-relieving techniques that you can utilize during weak moments. At home or at work when stress levels feel overwhelming, find a place you can take a break creating a calming atmosphere to help relieve stress that invokes your body’s natural relaxation response. For many people this can take as little as 5 minutes to 15 minutes by simply focusing on relaxing images of tropical places and or on past relaxing experiences with loved ones A nurturing calming break accompanied by relaxing, soothing music thanks to today’s technology with ear pieces are ideal tools for stress reduction, and using it repeatedly helps to develop a “relaxation habit” so that you find yourself automatically relaxing during break periods of the day.
6. Make good nutrition a lifelong habit —Eating healthy doesn’t mean that you have to deprive yourself of the
foods you love. Rather it’s about increased energy levels, feeling good about yourself and making wise food
choices that will greatly improve your overall health. Incorporate plenty of fruits and vegetables as part of your
daily intake. These food groups offer a big bang for your health buck, as they are high complex carbohydrates, fiber,
vitamins and minerals
7. Experiment by trying a wide variety of foods—Now is the time to explore the produce section and try vegetables and fruits that you’ve never tried before. Healthy eating is a great opportunity to expand your horizons and open yourself up to trying new foods.
This also means altering your diet to be mainly fresh, whole foods, rather than processed varieties. When prepared with locally grown ingredients from a source you trust, these are among some of the safest meals you can eat.
Because you’ll know what you’re eating is so good for your body and mind, it’ll likely help improve your mood too, making it less likely that you’ll feel like overeating late