Overeater – Are you one and how do you cure it?

If you want to stop overeating the best way to do this is to first identify what type of overeater you are then take steps to break that for good.

There are six types of overeater and they are:

  • Addictive eaters
  • Emotional eaters
  • Habitual eaters
  • Ignorant eaters
  • Destructive eaters
  • Angry eaters

Do you think about food all day and then, when you are eating, cram food into your mouth and eat really fast so you don’t even taste it and want more food? Do you repeat this pattern over and over? Do you crave sugar? If you have sugary snacks in the house do you eat them and are unable to save them for later or another day? Do you eat sensibly all day and only break your diet in the evenings? Are there some foods that once you start eating them you can’t stop? i.e. jumbo bags of crisps or family size bars of chocolate? Do you eat something like a bar of chocolate so fast that when it’s finished you realise you didn’t enjoy it, savour it or really even taste it? If so, you are an addictive eater.

Do you overeat in secret? Do you use food to block your emotions and feelings, i.e. eating when you are lonely, unhappy or bored? Do you prefer to eat alone and do you eat differently when eating with others? Would you find it hard to be without chocolate, sweets and biscuits? Do you at times crave food full of salt, fat or sugar? Do you eat when under pressure? Do you particularly crave carbohydrates when you are unhappy? Do you believe that certain foods comfort you and make you feel better? If so, you are an emotional eater.

Are your children or partner overweight? Do you no longer recognise when you are full and when you are hungry? Do you put on weight predominantly around your stomach? Do you eat whenever food is in front of you regardless of whether or not you are hungry? Do you finish everything and always clear your plate? Do you find it particularly hard to throw food away or ‘waste’ it? Were you always made to finish meals as a child? Do you find yourself using every occasion to eat i.e. watching television, in a car or on a train journey, at the cinema, etc.? Do you eat quickly and finish before others? If so, you are a habitual eater.

Do you think that all salad is healthy including coleslaw and the dressing? Do you think cheese is good for you and pizza is a complete meal because it has some peppers and tomatoes on it? Do you believe that bread, potatoes, cereal and milk are good foods? Do you think all foods labelled low fat, reduced sugar and diet must be good for you? Do you count potatoes as vegetables? Do you think fruit bars, fruit drinks and canned fruit are as good as fresh fruit? If so, you are an ignorant eater.

Do you sabotage your diet every time you come close to your ideal weight? Do you feel anxious and uncomfortable when you are slimmer? Do you still buy clothes in bigger sizes and keep your fat clothes? Do you shed the same 10 pounds (or thereabouts) every year then gain it back? Do you feel more comfortable when your body is covered up and uneasy when it is on show, i.e. do you prefer winter because you can wear layers and hate summer because you are supposed to wear less? Do you celebrate your weight loss success by resuming eating the foods you had denied yourself? If so ,you are a destructive eater.

Do you prefer crunchy food like crisps, nachos, apples, popcorn, French bread or very chewy food like toffee and beef jerky? Do you feel better after chewing and biting food? Do you eat something after an argument or if you feel tense or wound up because it changes your state? Do you feel agitated if you have to wait too long for your food to be served to you in a restaurant or on an airline? If so, you are an angry eater.

Overeater? Which one are you?

  • Addictive eaters crave sugary food, caffeine, junk food, colas and refined carbohydrates because they are addicted to the chemical composition of these foods. They always find these foods stimulate them to want more and have great difficulty resisting them or eating just a little of this type of food.
  • Emotional eaters find loneliness, boredom and sadness are temporarily abated when they fill their stomachs with refined carbohydrates. They fill them up quickly and they feel satisfied and sedated, even tranquillised, for a while. Comfort can briefly be found in soft sweet foods like ice cream or cake that reminds us of childhood. Depressed people often want caffeine and sugary foods. Emotional eaters try to get rid of a bad feeling fast and try to feel good even faster by using comfort foods and bulk eating.
  • Habitual eaters have often been made to eat everything on their plate. As children they were often not allowed to leave food and have conditioned themselves to continue this habit. They will eat at every occasion and eat everything in front of them without being aware of whether they are hungry or not.
  • Ignorant eaters have been completely brainwashed by food manufacturers to believe that what they are eating is healthy or harmless. They eat a lot of convenience and ready meals and believe they are as good as home-cooked food. They may exist primarily on diet foods and diet drinks but still have a weight problem. 
  • Destructive eaters usually have a deep-rooted need to hide their sexuality and feel vulnerable when they look attractive or desirable. People who have never had enough like volume and frequency of meals as they always feel they may not get enough. They often feel panicky in a situation where food is shared, i.e. a group Chinese meal, in case they get less. They feel uncomfortable when they cannot dish out their own portions and a host does it for them in case they don’t get enough to satisfy them.
  • Angry eaters like crunchy food like crisps and apples and tough food like meat and thick bread that they can chomp and chew on. Hard mastication is effective when we are feeling tense and wound up. Stressed people often want salty foods. They will always eat after a fight or disagreement to make themselves feel better.

If you fall into more than one category that is okay and not unusual. People of a normal weight will answer yes to some of the questions – the difference is it does not run their lives. It might help you to know that over 70 per cent of overeaters are emotional eaters and addictive eaters. Another 20 per cent are habitual and ignorant eaters. Only around 10 per cent fall into the destructive and the angry category. Up to 43 per cent of people use food to alter their moods every single day.

Identify Your Eating Habits and Take Action

Addictive eaters can be very successfully cured once they have identified the foods that are triggers for them. They can break their addiction by choosing to replace specific foods with something similar but healthy and not chemically addictive. Many of us have addictive traits, it’s hard to eat one chocolate, one peanut or one crisp and many of us find once we start we can’t stop. Instead of berating yourself for having an addictive trait you can absolutely use this to your benefit. It is easy to get addicted to good habits such as going to the gym, exercising, eating fruit, even drinking water. I have many celebrity clients who have what I call ‘positive addictions’– they can’t miss yoga or a gym session or they go everywhere with a water bottle as they feel ‘addicted’ to it. I have worked with many ex-addicts who became addicted to extreme sports instead of drink and drugs. You don’t need to behave in an extreme way but you can learn very quickly to replace every negative habit or addiction with a new positive one.

Emotional, angry and destructive eaters will find a lasting cure as they deal with their feelings and take charge of their thoughts, beliefs and language. Emotional eaters need to feel nourished by things other than food. Destructive eaters must feel safe as well as slender. Angry eaters need to express their emotions instead of swallowing them. Overeating is a learned response that you are unlearning through this programme.

Ignorant and habitual eaters are easier to cure because human behaviour often falls into patterns – we are creatures of habit. However we can choose good habits. Habits are easier to break if you replace them with something new. To break a habit you need to:

  1. Be convinced you can do it
  2. Make a decision to start now
  3. Initiate it
  4. Persist
  5. Allow yourself to feel a sense of accomplishment and achievement

Don’t forget that your habits, beliefs, actions and thoughts are yours to change.

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