Like any other eating disorder, overeating and binge eating don’t have one single cause. Instead, they result from genetic, emotional, psychological, and environmental factors. One’s relationship between self-worth and overeating is worth considering.
At the time of writing this article, it is estimated that 2.8 million people are affected by binge eating disorders in the United States. In addition, Breathe Life Healing Center states that binge eating is the most common eating disorder in that country. Their website further says:
Though only recently recognized, binge eating disorder affects more people than anorexia and bulimia combined. Hearing the words eating disorder, most people automatically think of anorexia and bulimia. But actually, neither of these is the most common eating disorder people struggle with.
Source: Breathe Life Healing Center
Compulsive overeating and binge eating disorder may start slowly. In many cases, it begins with mindless eating in front of the computer or television. Then, later, it may become a habit rooted in deeper issues you need to address.
The National Center of Excellence for Eating Disorders notes a few common factors among binge eating disorder patients. For example, it says that they struggle with assertiveness and often put their own needs last; they crave approval from others and may struggle with low self-worth.
If you’re overeating, you may often have trouble expressing your wants and needs and setting healthy boundaries to help you care for your needs.
And in many cases, overeating is a way for people to avoid dealing with their negative emotions after a life event triggers them.
Research shows that mood swings trigger overeating episodes. However, these mood swings don’t necessarily have to be negative to trigger an episode. The website Verywell Mind has a good article on mood swings. The article explains these areas of mood swings:
- Common Causes of Mood Swings
- Mood Swings and Mental Illness
- Lifestyle Risk Factors for Mood Swings
- Coping With Mood Swings
One of their related articles that I found to be a good read is How to Instantly Lift Your Mood, compiled by Elizabeth Scott, PhD.
Here is another interesting research from a 2006 study from the Brookhaven National Laboratory. When the researchers used an implant to stimulate the stomach, they were able to see how the brain responds to the fullness signals it receives. Furthermore, they verified that the same circuits that generate the desire to overeat also play a crucial role in eating behaviors related to calming negative emotions.
One of the main links between eating behaviors and negative emotions is in the hippocampus, which is linked to essential functions like memory, emotional behaviors, and sensory processing.
Over time, emotions may become so tied to food that any feelings of stress, anger, or boredom may lead you to reach out for a snack without much thought.
If you’re depressed, eating for emotional comfort even though you’re full may lead to overeating and even weight gain.
Moreover, overeating causes great distress to people struggling with it. The most visible effect of overeating is weight gain, which may cause more negative feelings like shame, a sense of failure, and poor body image. WebMD website lists poor body image as a risk factor for compulsive overeating.
It also causes many people to eat alone and avoid social situations. They eat alone and avoid any event that involves food or may shed light on their eating habits. Because of the intense feelings of shame, people who overeat often do it in secret.
It’s a vicious circle. Suppose you’re already depressed and struggling with feelings of self-worth. In that case, you may turn to overeat to deal with or avoid those negative emotions. But overeating only makes things worse. The weight gain, guilt, and negative social impact of overconsumption worsen the problem. In turn, you may need to overeat even more to compensate or turn to unhealthy habits to void gaining weight.
The Solutions Are There
And while the cycle may be hard to break, finding healthier ways to deal with overeating is possible. Seeking help to treat depression and feelings of low self-worth may be the first step toward reducing overeating.
But you also need to transform your relationship with food by removing any feelings associated with it. By doing this, you can get reacquainted with your body and mind. Doing this also teaches you to listen to your body and treat physical and mental struggles separately.
You can get better, and when you work on your self-worth, there will be wide-reaching benefits beyond recovery from binge eating.
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