Behaviors Related to Compulsive Eating

A compulsive eater is a person who eats more than they need or want to, ie. compulsively, not in response to signs from their stomach inciting hunger, but rather for other reasons.

Stomach hunger is an experience they do not allow themselves to feel very often. They usually eat before this experience ever comes about. At times, feeling hungry is quite scary, and generally detecting signs of physical hunger is a difficult task which becomes confused with other sensations and feelings. The person becomes obsessed with food and is constantly thinking about buying food, cooking food and eating it.

Compulsive eaters are not necessarily overweight, as they might contain their weight be fierce dieting between binges, or taking laxatives. In many cases, the eating correlates with being or feeling overweight, and having a very low self image or unrealistic perception of their own body size. Situations such as going out to dinner with friends, and once there, eating a big meal with the others or depriving themselves by eating small quantities (whilst feelings of deprivation and frustration grow) may often result in them returning home and raiding the kitchen. In these raids (or binges, as they are also called) they will not be at all selective in the food they consume – rather they will eat anything at hand. This usually means the food consumed is not tasted, absorbed, or nourishing. The feelings that are bound to follow are those of being out of control, of guilt, weakness and anger. If the compulsive eater buys sweets, they feel guilty. If they eat in a public place they feel others are judging and watching them do so. They will often eat their children’s leftovers. They will not usually think of what they want to eat, but rather what they should eat, or what is available. They will hardly ever feel fully satisfied with what they have eaten, or when they have eaten.

Approx 30% of the population in western society today are mildly to extremely overweight. Not all the above patterns exist for every compulsive eater, but many are familiar for most. 

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