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Emotional Eating FAQS for Health Providers

What is emotional eating and how does it differ from binge eating disorder?

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Emotional eating is a general term for a type of disordered eating. It’s characterized by obsessive thinking about food and unwanted, compulsive eating. The behavior is often a response to psychological stressors. Especially those related to dietary control. Binge eating disorder (BED) is one form of emotional eating defined by specific criteria.

The criteria for binge eating disorder include:

  • Episodes of rapid consumption of large amounts of food in one sitting. (Occurring at least weekly, for three months or more)
  • Negative feelings of shame, guilt, and depression
  • Marked distress about the loss of control

Behavior that meets some, but not all the diagnostic criteria is still a big sign of emotional eating. It still shows a need for evaluation and treatment by an eating disorder specialist.

What signs or symptoms can help me identify an emotional eater?

Binge eating disorder is the most common of all eating disorders. But, it can be very difficult to spot in a routine medical evaluation. There are three main reasons for this:

1. There’s no specific body type associated with binge eating.

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Most binge eaters are not very overweight despite their excessive calorie intake. This may be due to their tendency to restrict their eating between binge episodes.

2. Binge eaters are ashamed about their eating and may be reluctant to disclose it.

Thus, they’re less likely to report it as a concern to anyone unless asked about it. Even their health care professional!

3. Many who struggle with the behavior may not recognize it as disordered eating.

They often think they’re like anyone else who’s concerned about their weight and tries to diet. They tend to blame their failure of self-control making them less likely to report it as a problem.

Three clues that may indicate emotional eating:

1. Focused on dieting: Always thinking about food, dieting, or weight. May ask to skip taking their weight or express anxiety about getting on the scale during a routine exam. Weight history may show wide fluctuations from over- to underweight.

2. A tendency to think in all-or-nothing terms: e.g.: “If I’m not perfect on my diet, I’m afraid I’ll become obese!” “If I let myself have one cookie, I’ll end up eating the whole box!”

3. Defensive or self-critical reaction when asked about their eating : May exhibit heightened anxiety, shame, or other signs of concern.

What should I recommend to my patient who may be struggling with emotional eating or BED?

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If any of the signs listed above apply, explore further! Ask more questions to determine the likelihood of a problem with emotional eating.

Are they restrictive about what they eat? Are they perfectionists about food choices? Do they eat meals at regular intervals, or graze through the day? Do they prefer to eat alone? Or, do they feel judged or ashamed when they eat with others.

Have they been experiencing problems or distress with eating or weight? Do they have concerns about their control around food? Do they tend to go on and off diets? Have these shifts gone to the extremes? Do they experience more than a few episodes of losing control of their eating?

The next step would be a referral for a more thorough evaluation. This should be through a credentialed mental health professional with proven experience in treating eating disorders.

Begin Emotional Eating Therapy in Illinois

As someone that provides support to others, you deserve support as well! Our expert therapists can help you better understand emotional eating so you can better help the individual you’re caring for. To inquire about emotional eating therapy in Chicago or online therapy, follow these steps:

  1. Contact Equipoise Teletherapy
  2. Talk with a caring therapist
  3. Help your client or patient get the support they need!

Other Services Offered at Equipoise Teletherapy

Emotional eating therapy isn’t the only service offered at our Chicago, IL-based teletherapy practice. Other services offered include therapy for binge eating disorder, depression treatment, and anxiety treatment. We also offer counseling for addiction, nutrition counseling, and counseling for unwanted behaviors. Learn more about our practice, or read our blog to learn more!

To learn more, go to equipoiseteletherapy.com

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