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Impulsive Eating v. Compulsive Eating

We all have cravings when it comes to food. However, some people are afflicted with more serious food issues than others.

Impulsive eating is an excessive disorder that occurs within a span of a few minutes and is associated with something like an activity, a situation, a time or anything that triggers the urge of the individual person to overeat.

Compulsive overeating is when a person is suffering with binge-type eating behaviors. It could be characterized as an “addiction” to food. This is when people may use food to cope with daily stresses and problems in their lives. A person will often use their food and over eating as a way to hide from their emotions, to fill a void or to feel numb. Both eating disorders result in (and can be triggered by) poor self-esteem and could lead to an unwanted weight gain.

Impulsive eating

Have you ever eaten the last chocolate chip cookie or finished off the last of the cold fries? Most of us have committed these diet sins, and there’s a reason: at almost ever meal, there are triggers that cause you to overindulge, even if you are no longer hungry. The problem with impulsive eating is that over time the extra bite (or two or three) at each sitting will really pack on the pounds. So as a result you may put on an extra 10 lbs over the year and not see it as it slowly builds up. Impulsive eating is usually for instant gratification without first thinking about the consequences.

Tips to combat impulsive eating:

You need to be aware of your impulsive behaviors. You must work hard to recognize your behaviors, attitudes and emotions which subconsciously contribute to the problem.

First, you need to stop yourself from the normal, immediate impulsive response and rethink your behavior. Distraction is a good technique. Brush your teeth, go for a walk. Identify behaviors, emotions or stressors that seem to be your triggers. The next time a trigger is pushed, take a step back and examine your reasons for wanting to eat.

When eating a meal, check with yourself throughout the meal and remind yourself that you can fill up on smaller portions, however  YOU CAN have more later if you are still hungry. Don’t eat until you are overstuffed.

Compulsive overeating, sometimes called food addiction, is often characterized by and obsessive-compulsive relationship with food. If you are suffering from a compulsive eating disorder, you may experience frequent episodes of binge eating or uncontrolled eating. Many individuals feel out of control. It is common for a person to consume large quantities of food far past the point of being comfortably full. The obsession may present itself by the person spending excessive amounts of time and thought devoted to food. An individual often spends too much time secretly planning how or when they can eat or fantasizes about eating alone.

Compulsive overeaters do not try to compensate for their eating by vomiting, fasting, or diet pills. Compulsive overeating usually leads to weight gan and obesity, but not everyone who is obese is also a compulsive overeater. A person who appears of normal weight can also be affected by these behaviors.

Some tips to help avoid compulsive eating:

Avoid temptation. You are much more likely to overeat if you have junk food in the house. Remove temptation by moving these foods out of the house.

Stop dieting. Strict dieting usually involves hunger and deprivation. This may trigger food craving sand the urge to overeat. Instead of restricting foods, focus on eating in moderation. Find nutritious food you enjoy and avoid labeling foods as good or bad. Try to eat more small meals throughout the day.

Exercise. Exercise is great for your health and reduces depression and stress. It is a natural way to boost your mood.

Reduce stress. Learn to handle stress in another manner that doesn’t involve food.

Compulsive eating has very little to do with hunger. Individuals will quite often eat when they are not hungry or use food to fill an emotional need. Impulse eaters may take the extra bite because it is there and they often deprive themselves of food.

Don’t try to change your relationship with food overnight. Set small goals and give yourself positive feedback. If you tell yourself “I need to add more vegetables to my diet,” it will be more positive than saying “I need to stop eating so much junk food.” Be kind to yourself and don’t expect perfection. Learn from experiences and experiment with what works best for you. In addition, there is professional help for compulsive eaters that are looking for extra assistance on their path to change.

Sources: Staci Leavit Cobran

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