Are you aware that you are compulsively eating? You may not even be clued in to the fact that you are setting yourself up to go down a very unstable path that could potentially end with a severe eating disorder in addition to a psychological condition. Compulsive eating, otherwise known as binge eating, results from an irresistible urge to consume large amounts of food with no end in sight. Binge eating is usually done in secret and leads to feelings of guilt, low self-esteem and low self-worth. Triggers to binge eating can vary from emotional or psychological issues to physiological food addictions.

Those who binge eat often act from feelings of incompleteness, inability to care for themselves, and depression. Binge eating then becomes a coping mechanism to fill a void. Oftentimes this can be linked to an addictive personality disorder. Some addictions involve drugs, gambling or shopping, this addiction involves food. The food addiction, therefore, is a way to cope with whatever stressors that are being experienced.

Compulsive eating or binge eating can take on many forms. The following are some signs that show you may have an actual or potential compulsive eating problem.

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1. You eat sensibly when in the company of others, then go home and overeat when you are alone.
2. You eat when you are not hungry, but when your body does need nourishment and food you deny it and don’t eat.
3. You eat until you are uncomfortably full.
4. You are depressed, feel shame and guilt about the way you eat and your weight.
5. There are foods you can’t stop eating after you have that first bite.
6. You are experiencing fluctuations in your weight (gain and loss) due to repeated yo-yo dieting.
7. You reach for food when feeling emotional and stressed.
8. Your eating behaviors are making you and those around you unhappy.

If you are reading this and recognize some of these signs, then it is important to make yourself fully aware of the breadth of the problem and begin to look into ways of combating this. Oftentimes it begins with psychotherapeutic treatment to dig into the underlying problems that cause you to turn to food. Other health professionals that are skilled in helping you learn how to change your eating behaviors and the potential medical risks of binge eating include dietitian, nutritionists, and medical doctors.

compulsive eating

In addition to seeking guidance from psychotherapists, nutritionists and physicians, here are some tips that can help combat this potentially dangerous condition

Don’t skip meals

Skipping meals causes you to overeat at the next meal. Skipping meals also throws your metabolism out of whack and slows it down. This can lead to subsequent negative health effects such as improper hormone balance, blood sugar fluctuations and weight gain.

Practice mindful eating

Make sure to remain present and aware while eating at all times. Pay attention to your hunger and satiety signals. Eat when you are hungry and not craving; stop when you are full. Make sure to eat slowly over the span of about 20 – 30 minutes. This is the amount of time needed for your stomach to signal your brain that you are full and should stop eating.

Stay hydrated

Hunger is often misread for thirst. When you find yourself rummaging the cabinets for something to eat, but don’t know what you want, you may actually only need a glass of water to quench your thirst.

Cope with stress

Resist the urge to go straight to the refrigerator or kitchen cabinets when in a stressful and emotional situation. Instead deal with your stress by doing an activity that doesn’t involve eating, such as go for a long walk, go shopping or read a book.

Stimulus control

Learn how to control your impulses with stimulus control. This involves either completely eliminating or limiting exposure. The stimulus in this case is the trigger food. Eliminating the stimulus would require keeping it out of the house. If you don’t purchase it and keep it in the house it won’t be there calling your name. Limiting exposure would require you to keep it off the counter, out of sight and in the pantry or refrigerator. If it is out of sight, it might also be out of mind.

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Control your portions

Don’t eat directly from the carton, container or package. Instead, make a conscious effort to only take two cookies out of the bag, one scoop of ice cream or one slice of cake. Practicing portion control can help combat overeating.

Knowing what compulsive eating is and recognizing the signs can help put you on the path to recovery. Following the tips above can also help control some of the triggers and change your eating behaviors to avoid overconsumption.

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