Compulsive eating disorder, also referred to as binge eating disorder, entails periods in which the afflicted person consumes large quantities of food without regard to feelings of physical hunger or fullness. Also, compulsive eaters greatly outnumber bulimics and anorexics in the United States. According to the Binge Eating Disorder Association (2011), this problem affects more than eight million men and women and accounts for three times the number of those diagnosed with anorexia and bulimia together.
Professionals and experts have long argued that compulsive eating patterns have a strong emotional component.
Thompson (2011) contends that compulsive overeating is characterized by uncontrollable eating and consequent weight gain. Compulsive overeaters use food as a way to cope with stress, emotional conflicts and daily problems. The food can block out feelings and emotions. Compulsive overeaters usually feel out of control and are aware their eating patterns are abnormal. Like bulimics, compulsive overeaters do recognize they have a problem.
Signs and symptoms of compulsive eating:
◦Fear of not being able to stop eating voluntarily
◦Self-deprecating thoughts following binges
◦Withdrawing from activities because of embarrassment about weight
◦Going on many different diets
◦Eating little in public, while maintaining a high weight
◦Believing they will be a better person when thin
◦Feelings about self based on weight
◦Social and professional failures attributed to weight
◦Feeling tormented by eating habits
◦Weight is focus of life
Multiple health problems may happen as the result of long-standing compulsive eating disorder, including putting on weight that leads to overweight and obesity, joint pain, high blood pressure, sleep apnea, type 2 diabetes, digestive issues, cardiac disease, and a whole host of other ailments. If left uncontrolled, the compulsive overeater might endure an untimely death.
I first noticed that I had a distorted relationship with food during my middle childhood years. My father was verbally abusive toward me, especially when he was drunk, and I numbed the emotional pain with food. After all, eating felt much better than bursting into tears on a daily basis after hearing my father tell me that I was stupid or that he would put his foot “up my ass.” In addition, my mother started anesthetizing her emotional issues in her early twenties by overeating. She still compulsively overeats to this very day, and has the morbidly obese body habitus, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and stage 3 chronic kidney disease to show for it.
Having never learned to properly deal with emotions, I spent my middle childhood and adolescence as a slightly overweight girl. I never quite became obese because I would go on a strict diet as soon as the weight scale would creep upward. Even so, I always regained the pounds plus more since my warped eating habits always returned with full force.
One day, at age 26, I got onto the scale and was horrified to see that I weighed 216 pounds, which is hefty on a short 5’1” frame. I was now obese! While compulsively eating, I would always tell myself that this would be my last unhealthy meal while promising to make drastic changes with diet and exercise tomorrow. To keep a long story short, I changed my eating habits by attempting to separate emotion from food, and ended up losing enough pounds to achieve a near-normal weight.
I am 31 years old and will always have issues with food. In fact, I still binge on occasion after a rough shift at work because it feels comforting. I wish I could seek professional help for this problem and the rest of my underlying emotional issues, but I am uninsured at this time. Millions of people are compulsive eaters, the majority of whom are keenly aware that something is very wrong. Overeaters Anonymous is a free resource. With the proper help, compulsive eating disorder can be conquered.