Eating myself to death (5 ways to stop)
In this blog we will look at the statement, “eating myself to death”, in terms of what normal eating is, what is meant by emotional eating, compulsive eating, binge eating disorder, and ways to cope with it.
Eating myself to death
Yes, eating too much can ultimately kill you by increasing your risk of obesity, cholesterol, diabetes and high blood pressure. There can be various reasons behind eating too much like emotional eating, compulsive eating, binge eating disorder, etc. Eating more than what your body requires, that too mainly unhealthy foods, can make you feel emotionally, mentally as well as physically fatigued and increase your risk of chronic diseases.
This refers to the process of eating foods that your body requires to metabolise energy to go through day-to-day tasks necessary for living. The process of eating is deemed normal when the person consumes routinely meals, in response to the demands of the body.
These meals are normative in terms of quantity and frequency of food intake, when compared to others of that age, with similar physical requirements. There can be differences depending on the person’s appetite, metabolism and level of activity.
However, as long as eating is neither dysfunctional, nor maladaptive occasional binges as well as unhealthy eating are also acceptable, for example: when attending social gatherings.
This happens when you tend to eat in response to emotions and not because your body needs it. It might lead you to eat more frequently as well as in higher quantities than those around you, as well as than what you should.
You might end up subconsciously reaching for more food, even despite being full. Doing tasks might seem tough without food. You might be reaching out for certain kinds of food when you’re happy, or upset, or stressed.
It might even lead to feeling like you are losing control over your eating habits, leading to more binging episodes. Common triggers for emotional eating include:
- Having a lot of work to do
- Times of leisure
- Stressful and anxious times
- When feeling happy or excited
- In response to boredom
Thus, emotional eating can be defined as eating to feed your emotions, as compared to feeding your body. Another term for the same is stress eating, as that is the most common trigger for emotional eating.
It generally results from an unhealthy relationship with food. Given time, an emotional eater switches from merely eating in response to emotions, to massively overeating in response to emotions, since he/she is unable to get salvation from his/her original consumption.
Signs of emotional eating:
- Eating when you are stressed, like when you have work to do, especially when you’re up alone at night
- You eat in response to your emotions, and turn to food for comfort when feeling low, upset, sad or disappointed.
- Food is your go to when you need to be comforted
- Your eating is out of control, try as you may you can not stop yourself from eating
- You end up eating to feel happy, and feel annoyed in the absence of food
- You see eating as a necessary friend to your happiness, and need it to celebrate good news.
- You eat in response to boredom, or other emotions even despite already being full
- When you aren’t eating, you end up spending most of your time thinking about eating
- Having random food cravings is a part and parcel of your day to day life.
Compulsive overeating or compulsive eating, (also known as binge eating), is an aggravated form of emotional eating. It happens when eating becomes a compulsion. You no longer have control over your cravings, and end up eating compulsively when triggered to do so, and in some situations, even without the need for triggers.
You get pulled towards eating, despite being full, or knowing otherwise. No matter the cost of obtaining this food, it no longer serves as a deterrent. You would go out in the middle of the night to get what you need.
Not complying with these compulsions causes distress, and even anxiety. Having complied with these food related compulsions might give you instant relief for a while,, but ultimately makes your dependence on food stronger, and leads to an intensification of the aforementioned negative feelings.
The foods that are a likely choice for binges are foods dense in calories, empty nutritionally, and more like a tool for self punishment. Healthy foods have been reported to give less gratification as compared to unhealthy food choices.
These episodes are followed by feelings of excessive guilt, shame, or annoyance. These in turm perpetuate the binging episodes because the only way you know how to deal with/ cope with these feelings is through binging.
Thus, a vicious cycle forms, which ultimately impacts your self-image and self- esteem. It increases the likelihood of indulging in negative self- talk, and negatively impacts mental health, leading to disorders related to body image, eating disorders, depression or anxiety.
Further, it ends up making you more fatigued because more energy of your body goes into digesting and metabolising all that unnecessary food. It leads to mental as well as physical fatigue. You end up feeling emotionally drained as you keep feeling more and more out of control of your condition.
Binge eating disorder
Binge Eating Disorder (BED) is a known eating disorder in which a person develops a pattern of binge eating which they come to rely on as a way of coping. This could be due to underlying issues and other risk factors, like depression, struggling with body image etc.
It must be noted that as with the other eating disorders, a person diagnosed with binge eating disorder cannot be treated by diet alone, as it is not just a condition of eating but is caused by underlying psychological factors as well. In other words, all the eating disorders are serious mental conditions that require timely and appropriate treatment and support.
How to stop
- Identifying triggers
No matter how much you promise yourself that you wouldn’t binge tomorrow, it becomes nearly impossible unless you identify what actually triggers you to binge.
Some common reasons people binge are:
- When they are stressed
- When they have to do something they don’t want to
- Wtahcing others eating
- Receiving good news
- Passing food stalls or restaurants
- Seeing specific types of food
- Feeling upset
- Returning home from somewhere
- Going to a place with free or unlimited food
- When it is time to normally eat/ normal mealtimes
- When they’re up at night
- When they are bored
- When they are watching something on the TV/ at the movies
This is the first step to stopping emotional eating.
- Understand what you consume during such situations
Having identified what your triggers are, it is also important to understand what you eat during certain triggers. For instance people tend to report craving something sweet when they’re upset, and savoury when they are happy.
Fast food, and easily available highly processed snacks are common binge-worthy foods consumed during leisure times. This step should allow ou to answer the question, “What do I think of eating when this happens?”.
- Detach from such triggers
Next comes understanding why or how certain foods got associated with certain triggers. The link or association was formed because there was a point in your past when you were conditioned to eat during that circumstance, and it’s up to you to identify what that past event(s) were, so you come to full consciousness about it.
For instance, feeling hungry as soon as you get home might be because in the past you were forced to eat as soon as you got back from school, irrespective of whether you were hungry or not.
Identifying the association between triggers and compulsive eating might help you get past such compulsions as irrational beliefs about the same would get debunked.
- Resolve the root- triggers itself
Some triggers like stress could be stopped at the root, by resolving them. Stress management could help curb the trigger of eating due to stress by helping in management of stress without the need for food.
Learning relaxation techniques could be helpful with the same. Finding substitutes to food in times of boredom, or avoiding boredom itself, by setting tasks for yourself throughout the day could be another helpful strategy.
- Eat based on needs, and just that
To be able to do this, you need to stop eating based on unrelated factors or extrinsic cues like because the food was simply available, or because the occasion had an abundance of food, or because of conditioning (like popcorn with movies) etc.
Other cues that can prompt unnecessary eating is just because it is time to eat like breakfast, lunch or dinner. We should avoid putting too much on plate, put a little less than you think you will require and if you still need more you can always go for a refill.
Simply put, eat because your body needs it, not because you think or feel you should eat.
- Avoid restrictive diets, try eating intuitively
The Bingeing cycle often follows periods of restrictive eating. Trying to go on very strict diets because you feel you do not deserve to eat because you have been ‘bad’ during your binges can harm you.
Restrictive diets do more harm than good, you might see fast results, but they are hardly sustainable. It is recommended to follow intuitive eating instead. Make conscious choices about your food and respect your body’s demands.
Take ownership of your meals. The power to decide what to feed your body lies in you. Don’t give this power away to the situation, the people, or even food itself. Another tip is to listen to your body. It will give you hunger cues when your body needs the food, wait for these cues and train yourself to be more conscious towards them.
Eating smaller meals more frequently throughout the day and sticking to regular mealtimes may also be helpful.
- Educate yourself about what you’re eating!
Unconscious eating promotes overeating because we do not realise what or how much we have eaten. While we chew our food, our eating behaviour doesn;t register metnally. One tip is not to mix eating with other activities.
Another thing that promotes eating way too much is not knowing what nutrients or food groups are contained in what you’re eating. Being more mindful of what you’re eating and how it will impact your body would make it easier for you to follow healthier diets.
In this blog we discussed the statement, ‘eating myself to death’ in terms of what normal eating is, what emotional eating is, compulsive eating is, what binge eating disorder means and how to stop yourself from eating too much.
Frequently asked questions (FAQs): Eating myself to death
Can you eat yourself to death in one sitting?
Although it is very rare, there are a few reports of people dying from overeating. A person’s food pipe tore because there was no space in his digestive tract to hold the food he was eating anymore, leading to death.
What should I do immediately after overeating?
Some things that may help are: trying to relax, drinking a lot of water, staying active afterwards etc.
Why am I unable to stop eating?
This could be due to a binge episode that could happen due to emotional or compulsive eating. It could also follow a day/ few days of restrictive eating. Sometimes unconscious eating can also promote binges.
Why do I feel better after eating?
Food works on the principles of instant gratification and gives you immediate pleasure. However, if you end up bingeing or eating foods you think are ‘bad’ for you, it can be followed by feelings of self loathing, guilt and regret.
What are the symptoms of overeating?
Stomach expanding beyond a normal size, in such a way that it ends up pushing against your other organs and making you uncomfortable is a sign of overeating. This discomfort may make you feel tired, drowsy or sluggish as well.
What not to do after eating?
You should avoid sleeping. Smoothing, bathing, having fruits or tea immediately after having a full meal.
. Jennings K.A., (2019) A quick guide to intuitive eating. Healthline.
. Agboola J., (2020) My depression is causing me to eat myself to death. What can I do? Quora.
. How I overcame Emotional eating part 2: deep entanglement (n.d.) Personal excellence.
. 12 signs of emotional eating and why it’s bad for you. (n.d.) personal excellence.
. How to stop emotional eating, a crucial guide, part 1: tackling the causes of emotional eating (n.d.) Personal excellence.
. How to stop emotional eating, a crucial guide: part 2 rebuilding a healthy relationship with food. (n.d.) Personal excellence.