Most people who find themselves caught in a cycle of compulsive overeating already know that hunger is rarely the reason behind the behavior. Underlying issues, both minor and serious, often trigger binge eating, and must be addressed in order to stop overeating. While triggers such as stress or boredom may be easy to identify on one’s own, compulsive overeating can also be the symptom of a disease such as bulimia nervosa, which needs to be diagnosed and treated by a health professional.
If the source of the stress itself can’t be avoided, compulsive overeating caused by stress can be mitigated by taking a daily multivitamin, which can help prevent cravings triggered by stress. Simply not having snack foods within one’s home can greatly reduce the chances of compulsive or mindless overeating, as well as limiting one’s groceries to ingredients rather than pre-prepared foods and microwave meals. In order to snack occasionally without slipping into binge eating, purchasing boxes of individually-wrapped snacks can help maintain portion control.
Those who find themselves binge eating because of boredom should try to replace eating with another activity in order to occupy themselves during trigger periods. For example, if someone finds that he or she most often overeats compulsively while sitting in front of the TV, then either watching TV should be avoided or eating should be replaced by another activity during TV time. Activities such as knitting, exercising, or ironing could be performed while watching TV and keep one too occupied to eat at the same time. Mints or suckers that take a long time to dissolve can also be a better replacement for other snack foods, as they let one feel as though they’re eating continuously.
Compulsive overeating caused by bulimia nervosa is characterized by the habit of forcing oneself to vomit after eating compulsively, also known as a “binge and purge.” If bulimia is the cause of one’s compulsive overeating, it must be treated by a medical professional in combination with psychological counseling. Like anorexia nervosa, bulimia is a disease with psychological roots that causes one to associate guilt and shame with food, which results in food deprivation followed by compulsive overeating and purging.