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Obesity & Disease: The Possible Effects of Overeating

Sep 24, 2009

Obesity and disease are inextricably linked. But, overeating puts more than just your physical health at risk. Overeating can effect your mental health, your self esteem and your social and family life. Your own overeating can even put your childrens' long term health at risk.

Overeating and Eating Disorders

Overeating occurs when you consume, over the long term, more food than you actually need to maintain good health. Overeating usually leads to ill health effects, such as obesity, and its attendant health risks, including diabetes, hypertension and heart disease. Overeating is often regarded as an eating disorder.

Overeating can manifest itself as binge eating or compulsive eating, what some refer to as a food addiction. Binge eating is an eating disorder in which unusually large amounts of food are consumed on a regular basis; compulsive eaters can consume up to 60,000 calories in a single day. It's one of the most common eating disorders, and those who binge eat feel such a compulsive urge to binge that they can't control. Here are some of the signs of compulsive overeating:

  • eating large amounts of food
  • eating when you feel full
  • eating rapidly during the binge
  • feeling that your eating is out of control
  • feeling ashamed of your eating, or feeling depressed, disgusted or upset about your eating
  • depression
  • anxiety
  • frequent dieting without weight loss
  • often eating alone
  • hiding empty food containers
  • hoarding food

Emotional Eating

Not all people who compulsively eat are overweight, and not all overweight people are compulsive eaters. Often, obesity and weight control problems aren't the result of an eating disorder, per se, but simply the result of poor long term dietary and health choices. Some people engage in emotional eating, in which they eat a particular food because it makes them feel a certain way, and not because they're hungry.

Here's how you can tell if you're overeating to fill an emotional void:

  • Emotional hunger comes on suddenly, whereas physical hunger occurs gradually.
  • You'll crave a specific food, and only that food will do.
  • Your hunger feels like it needs to be satisfied instantly.
  • You may eat even when you feel full.
  • You'll feel guilty after emotional eating.

Effects of Overeating

The effects of overeating extend far beyond the health risks of obesity and disease. Overeating often, but not always, leads to obesity, which can put you at risk for:

  • diabetes
  • heart disease
  • arthritis
  • cancer
  • other health problems

Overeating can also lead to acne, hair loss due to vitamin deficiency, and other cosmetic problems that may effect your self esteem and social life.

In the short term, overeating can cause:

  • nausea
  • feelings of heaviness and fatigue
  • headaches
  • insomnia
  • moodiness
  • shortness of breath 
  • chest pains

Using food to feed emotional needs doesn't solve your emotional problems. In fact, it can make them worse. Emotional eating might make you feel better in the short term, but in the long term it keeps you from meeting your emotional needs. Emotional eating only increases feelings of defeat and depression.

Overeating can damage your relationships; it can effect your self esteem, making it more difficult to form intimate connections and develop or maintain social skills. Furthermore, if you have children, they'll learn to overeat themselves by watching you, and this can cause problems with overeating and obesity for them.

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