Understanding and Overcoming the Addiction of Overeating

Discovering Inner Self
13. August 2021
The Connection Between Human and Planetary Health
20. August 2021

Understanding and Overcoming the Addiction of Overeating

Listen to “Understanding and Overcoming the Addiction of Overeating”.

Overeating is an addiction and, for the first time in human history, global obesity has become a more significant health problem than lack of nutrition.

Addiction has many forms including drugs, sex, gambling and food. Food addiction becomes a problem when the need to eat becomes compulsive or uncontrollable. This compulsive behaviour can have many triggers, but the most common are in response to emotions, such as stress, sadness, anger or fear.

We all overeat from time to time, but people with food addictions often overeat every day. They eat, not because they are hungry, but because they are trying to cope with hidden pain. 

Like an iceberg, overeating is driven by what lies underneath the surface. The impulse to binge or overeat does not arise in a vacuum. Overeating is an energy-releasing behaviour. It is driven by emotion and is a coping strategy in the face of overwhelming emotions, experiences, triggers, panic, and fear. When you overeat, you bring yourself ease, temporarily moving and softening the build-up of tension from this emotional pain. 

Understanding the emotional role that food serves in your life can bring relief (healing the shame or guilt you feel about not being able to control the overeating), understanding and empowerment. 

Here are some of the key emotions that cause overeating

Comfort: You find comfort in eating; it is soothing and relaxing.

Stress: You eat to relieve your stress.

Control: You can’t control anything else in your life except what you put in your mouth.

Boredom: You eat because you can’t find your purpose and are passive.

Loneliness: You eat because food is your friend and companion.

Protection: You use excessive weight as a form of protection from sexual attention and possible abuse, often as a reaction to trauma. 

Many foods, especially carbohydrates, increase the production of serotonin and tryptophan, allowing us to experience a much needed but temporary feeling of calm. In these cases, your body is reacting to food like it’s a drug because it is literally changing your biochemical reactions. Your body isn’t craving nutrients or calories; it’s craving comfort.

Unfortunately, there is no easy solution to addiction as treatment needs to address the individual’s emotional, physical, and psychological needs. There is no supplement, mental trick or magical remedy out there. The path begins with treating yourself with compassion and learning to think of eating primarily as a way of nourishing your body.

Understanding that the obesity epidemic is affecting more than just your waistline and health can help you look at the problem in the broader sense and take steps towards healing.

While most people probably think about obesity as a health problem, it also has serious economic and ecological consequences. We know that overeating is bad for human health, but it is also bad for the planet.

Scientists calculated the ecological impact of food wasted from eating more than necessary, and the numbers are staggering. 

Scientists say food that is eaten beyond physiological needs, manifesting as obesity, should be considered waste. With this taken into account, excess body weight corresponds to roughly 140 billion tonnes of food waste globally. 

Almost 20 percent of the food made available to consumers worldwide is lost through overeating or waste alone.

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