The holiday season can be a very stressful time for those who suffer from compulsive eating, as feelings of depression, loneliness, and anxiety (all of which can be heightened during the holidays) can lead to overeating and excessive weight gain.
Many people overeat to ease feelings of loneliness, disappointment, and depression. Because compulsive eaters often use food to deal with their emotions, high-caloric foods like cookies, chocolates, and nuts (all of which seem to come out of the woodwork during the holiday season) are all the more appealing.
Stefanie C. Barthmare, a psychotherapist with the Methodist Weight Management Center in Houston, Texas, said that many times feeling full doesn’t stop compulsive eaters from overeating. She added that the food may initially help ease symptoms of anxiety and depression, but it becomes an unhealthy way for people to manage their feelings, which leads to excessive weight gain. Gaining weight leads to more feelings of guilt and shame, which then leads to more compulsive eating.
Barthmare said that because this eating behavior is established gradually, the consequences are also gradual, so there is less motivation to change the behavior. Many people can gain anywhere from 5 to 15 pounds during the holiday season, so the best time to start changing the behavior is now.
She added that to initiate change, people should seek support from those around them, including family members and community support groups. Structured meal times that work with your schedule, needs, and lifestyle should be in place to help stop the cycle of compulsive eating.
Source: Science Daily, Compulsive Eating and the Holiday Season Can Lead to Serious Weight Gain, November 6, 2010