The Dangers of Overeating
by Andrea Boeshaar
My sister and I joined a wellness group about eighteen months ago. I’ve lost about ten pounds and my sister lost fifty! While we both have about fifteen to twenty pounds we’d like to lose, we’ve admitted that we’ve grown weary of the program, and the stress in our lives is such that we’ve turned to sugary treats and carbohydrates—as if those foods could magically make our stress disappear. It doesn’t. And the scale at our wellness group on Saturday mornings doesn’t lie either. But it’s a vicious cycle, one that can easily sweep a person up and into its vortex. With the holidays quickly approaching, it’s important to get a handle on overeating.
The fact is overeating is the number one reason why overweight people are…well, overweight. For instance, if I could stop at half of a cup of ice cream, it wouldn’t be a problem. My meal program allows for desserts. However, I’ve discovered it’s far too easy to give into the stress in my life and sit down with a pint of ice cream, intending on only consuming a few bites as I watch the news or a favorite TV show. But soon the carton is empty, and days later my blue jeans won’t zip! It’s an example of overeating, yes, but it’s also an example of emotional eating.
Simply put, emotional or stress overeating is using food to compensate for an emotional need, and our culture caters to it. Have you ever noticed all the fast food commercials that come on around 9 o’clock at night? Restaurants are hoping you’ll give into the impulse and make a beeline for the drive-thru. And who can resist all the delicious foods offered on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day? If your family or friends are like mine, each member loves to feed people, so we end up with enough food to feed another family for a week if properly proportioned. Holidays almost give overeaters a license to consume too much food.
However, don’t be misled; emotional overeating is quite different than physical hunger. For example, Sam is worried about the loss of a job and how it will impact his family. Instead of naming the emotional need (worry) and dealing with it, he visits a convenient fast food drive-thru on the way home from an interview. Once home and settled in, he eats dinner with his wife and kids. Clearly, he is overeating!
What’s more, there is denial and avoidance in the mix, and it usually has physical consequences. No one ever feels good after overeating. Sweets spike blood sugar and then send it plummeting after the sugar rush vanishes. Gaining weight can add depression to the stress already pressing in. The key is to recognize it, name the emotion, and address it.
Another way to curb overeating is to engage in what’s called “Mindful Eating.” Instead of watching TV while I eat my ice cream, I’ve chosen to sit at the kitchen table and simply enjoy my treat. However, that is not always the case. My husband and I have taken to eating our meals together in front of the TV with our plates on our laps. Our children are grown and gone, and it began to seem pointless to set the table for two. We know we need to change this bad habit. We’re not mindfully eating and enjoying each other’s company. We’re distracted by the television. It hasn’t really affected my husband who doesn’t have a weight problem, but for me, I tend to overeat by taking a second helping of supper because I can’t remember my initial portion going into my mouth. Then I feel guilty. Then I’m depressed when my clothes don’t fit right because I’ve gained weight. And on and on it goes.
One resource states that when emotions like sadness, anger, anxiety and worry take hold, we need to consciously turn to something other than food. If we make a conscious effort to do this for two weeks, we’ll likely have turned bad habits to good ones.
Here are several tips on how you can recognize emotional or stress overeating.
The impulse for food comes on suddenly
The craving will be for certain foods, usually sweets, carbohydrates and foods high in fat, such as pizza
The craving usually leads to mindless eating
The craving seems insatiable, unlike mindful eating where you can stop once the meal is over or you feel physically full
Once you’re able to distinguish between emotional or stress overeating and physical hunger, it’s time to replace the habit of turning to those sugary, high caloric and fatty so called “comfort foods” and turn to something more constructive. As Christians, we can turn to God and read our Bible or worship Him by playing Christian music and singing at the top of our lungs or just dancing as David did in the psalms. However, there are other ways to combat emotional overeating too.
Take a short walk
Call a friend whom you haven’t spoken to for a while
Hug a family member or play with the kids—and don’t be afraid to act a little silly too
Organize a closet
Get creative and make something like a flower arrangement
Stress or emotional eating is what my wellness program calls a “faux fix.” It really doesn’t help any of life’s trials. Jesus said He will be with us to the end of the age (Matthew 28:20), and the Lord made it clear we’re to give Him our worries and anxieties. We’re to trust Him more through our trials, not turn to food. However, it is easier said than done. Old habits die hard. But if we admit our frailty in this matter and draw on our faith, we can turn a negative action into something productive and good—and feel healthier in the process.
Andrea Boeshaar was born and raised in Wisconsin. Her publishing career began in 1994 when her first novel was released by Heartsong Presents book club (Barbour Publishing). In 2007, Andrea earned her certification in Christian life coaching and she’ll soon earn her bachelor’s degree in Business Management. Meanwhile, Andrea continues to write. Her latest novels include: Give Me Thine Heart, Love’s Guiding Light (Steeple View Publishing), and Her Hometown Heart (Pelican Book Group). In 2019, the long-awaited third installment in her Shenandoah Valley Saga will release. For more information and to sign up for her newsletter, log on to her website: https://andreaboeshaar.com/. You can also find her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter: @Andrea.Boeshaar
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