Identify Obsessive Overeating
Food brings pleasure.
This is why we associate good feelings with holiday Christmas cookies, a birthday cake or a glass of wine with a friend.
But for some, obsessive overeating is rooted in the need to amplify this pleasure – in a way that usually ends up being destructive to mental and emotional health.
What is Obsessive Overeating?
Obsessive overeating is characterized by a need to consume large quantities of food in one sitting. Often classified as binge eating disorder, obsessive overeating is like other addictions: it showcases a lack of control and an inability to stop, regardless of negative outcomes. A person who overeats to this degree usually has secretive behavior when it comes to food, such as overeating alone or hiding the amount of food he or she consumes.
Though health experts aren’t entirely sure what causes obsessive eating, most agree that it is rooted in the addictive part of the brain that craves pleasure and reward through external means.
“For some, it’s alcohol,” former FDA Commissioner David Kessler, M.D., told WebMD. “For some, it’s drugs. For some, it’s gambling. For many of us, it’s food.”
When certain foods are eaten, endorphins are released in the brain, creating a positive experience that a person wants to repeat – over and over again. Over time, the behavior becomes habit, and the habit becomes reinforced every time food is used to cope with negative feelings or stress.
Blame the Food
But obsessive overeaters aren’t just driven by emotional factors. Many of the processed foods that are part of the Standard American Diet are loaded with excessive sugar, fat and salt. These types of food light up the senses in a feel-good way.
“When someone consumes a sugary, fatty food they enjoy, it stimulates endorphins, chemicals in the brain that signal a pleasurable experience,” writes Elizabeth Lee at WebMD. “Those chemicals stimulate us to eat more of that type of food – and also calm us down and make us feel good.”
Continuing to eat foods that are high in fat and sugar bring back the “thrill,” causing a person to eventually need more of the substance to achieve the same feeling – not unlike an alcoholic who develops tolerance.
When to Get Help
Sometimes overeating is just circumstantial. Certain situations can trigger periodical binge eating as a result of stress or depression. However, if overeating is a way of life for you, it’s time to seek professional help. Your primary care physician can recommend qualified treatment professionals to help you cope with urges and create healthier habits when it comes to eating.
Source: Web MD