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What Kind of Overeater Are You?
I attended a workshop entitled “Nutritional Psychiatry: Your Brain on Food” which had a section on Binge-eating Disorder or BED. (CE International, www.ceinternational.com, Ginger Schirmer, PhD, RD). It included a description of five types of overeaters that I found interesting, although I’m not sure I agree with them being all that different. I’m blogging about them because doing so may help you identify why you overdo with food and develop strategies to avoid doing so.
First, consider what Dr. Schirmer had to say about food addiction: that no food is addictive, but that we can form an addiction-like relationship to foods that changes our brain and body chemistry much as it would if we were dependent on drugs or alcohol. I’ve heard others describe this dynamic as having an eating addiction. At any rate, when you read the categories below, remember that Dr. Schirmer isn’t talking about the food being addictive but your biochemical reaction to it.
- “Compulsive overeating is characterized by an addiction to food. An individual suffering from compulsive eating disorder engages in frequent episodes of uncontrolled eating, or binging [sic], during which they may feel frenzied or out of control.” As a former binge-eater, I’d say it’s habituation to eating, not food addiction.
- “Impulsive overeating is due to appetite, not hunger” and “can increase intake several hundred calories per day.” Schirmer described this kind of eating as walking by a bakery, seeing your favorite croissant, and without any thought, going in and buying it and eating it on the spot. I’d say bingo once again.
- “Impulsive-compulsive overeating” is when “people think about food all day long.
She said that people with bulimia often have this type of eating which “is particularly common in children and grandchildren of alcoholics or people who have a significant family history of alcoholism.” I’m okay with this too.
- “Anxiety overeating” happens “Often without realizing it” and “individuals can fall into a habit of eating when they feel worried, nervous or stressed.” I’m not sure I understand the difference between this and the next one.
- “Emotional overeating is when a person eats more than they need due to negative feelings that they are experiencing. If this type of eating becomes a regular pattern, it may result in other negative consequences to the patient.” This is true, but it’s also true that any of the other four types could have the same result.
I do think it’s worthwhile to consider which of these elements characterize your eating and come up with ways that you could prevent overeating from happening.