There’s no doubt that food plays an important role in our society beyond providing us with the energy and nutrition our bodies need. However, far too many people develop an emotional overeating habit that can be harmful to their health and well-being. Even seniors are susceptible to emotional overeating, especially as they lose lots of independence and are required by doctors, family members, and others to do things they don’t want to as part of overall elderly care.
Because they face increased illness, isolation and frustration, many elderly people are likely to indulge in emotional overeating. Likewise, family caregivers that don’t get much outside help are dealing with lots of stress and frustration and food can be a quick way to boost a bad mood. Both seniors and family caregivers are at risk of emotional overeating, which can quickly take over their health and happiness.
Definition of Emotional Overeating
Emotional overeating is a form of binge eating where people seek out food as a way to deal with the stresses and problems that life brings. From frustration and sadness to loneliness and bitterness, negative emotions can make every day seem colorless and empty. For seniors in elderly care, they can even feel angry at not being able to do all the things they want.
Eating favorite foods and foods high in carbs and sugars is soothing and helps to calm emotions. Many people even feel happy when they binge on sweets or chips. The surge of pleasant feelings temporarily replaces the negative ones. For a short time, they feel fulfilled before they turn to food once again.
Signs of Emotional Overeating
Do you suspect your elderly loved one is struggling with emotional overeating or you are finding yourself in an unhealthy relationship with food lately? Here are 5 things to watch for in yourself or your elderly loved one when it comes to emotional overeating.
- Struggling with negative feelings with no healthy outlet. Seniors and family caregivers can experience a number of emotions that range from stress to boredom. If there are no healthy habits in place for dealing with emotions, food is often the easiest way to soothe themselves.
- Picking foods high in sugar, carbs or salt instead of healthy alternatives. As everyone knows, processed food has little nutritional value and leaves people feeling hungry again after just a short time. Consuming junk food for meals as well as snacks may be a sign of emotional overeating.
- Being unaware of how much they are eating. It’s easy to lose track of portions, especially when eating in front of a TV. Many people feel the urge to finish a bag or box of junk food rather than stick to a proper portion.
- Using food as a way to avoid doing other harder things, such as socializing, exercising and self-care. For those that depend on food for emotional satisfaction, they will forego other things that used to bring them pleasure. Especially in seniors, it’s easy for them to avoid past hobbies and social situations and turn to food instead.
- Growing shame and self-hate about their looks, their diet and their dependence on food. Many who are affected with emotional overeating hate themselves for what they are doing. The guilt builds up and they really start to dislike themselves and their lack of control. Unfortunately, to battle those negative feelings, they turn once again to food to self-soothe.
The good news is that emotional overeating is something that everyone can overcome. With some help from friends, family, doctors, nutritionists and home care aides, seniors and family caregivers can get the support they need to alleviate boredom, frustration and stress. They will then be able to return to a better emotional state and enjoy a more appropriate relationship with food.
If you or an aging loved one are considering elderly care in Springfield, NE, please contact the caring staff at Seniors Helping Seniors® Greater Omaha at (402) 215-0308 today.