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The Guilt-Shame-Binge Cycle of Emotional Eating

By Emily Foltz, Provisional Licensed Professional Counselor

The Guilt-Shame-Binge Cycle of Emotional EatingAt Triumph, we would like to take this opportunity to raise awareness of emotional eating and share some tips and resources to help identify and change unhealthy relationships with food.

What Is Emotional Eating?
Emotional eating is eating to feed a feeling other than hunger. It may come from a need to self-comfort, a desire to be rewarded, simply from boredom, or another emotional trigger. The difference between eating and emotional eating is that after an emotional eating event, the feeling of being full or satisfied is rarely there.

The guilt-shame-binge cycle may come into play with emotional eating. Someone eats for comfort, then feels guilty for eating, ashamed of themselves for their lack of control or for feeling fat, then eats again to comfort those negative feelings, creating a dangerous cycle. These patterns usually start early in life and can continue into late adulthood, creating unhealthy habits and contributing to serious health problems, like obesity and diabetes, as well as negative emotional consequences like negative self-image, lack of confidence, and even anxiety and depression.

The Unfortunate Statistics
Now, this problem is affecting children and teens like never before. “Childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years,” the CDC reported in August 2015. That means that today, approximately 12.5 million, or 17 percent, of children in the United States weigh more than 20% above the healthy weight targets for their height and age, according to the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

Traditional logic recommends that if we get our teens and young adults the proper nutritional and exercise information, the likely result will be weight loss. However, statistics show that most diets don’t work in the long term. According to a 2007 UCLA study, nearly two-thirds of dieters regain at least as much
weight as they lost within 5 years of the weight loss. Some dieters regain more.

Failure to Address
Underlying Emotional Issues
One of the main reasons for this low rate of success is the failure to address the underlying emotional issues leading to an unhealthy relationship with food. Identifying this and changing the pattern is a key part of the weight-loss and weight-management puzzle.

When the underlying issue is addressed, people experience increases in self-esteem, confidence, and find ways to use the power they have always had to better address the problems in their lives. For teens, that can frequently mean improved relationships with family and friends, and more confidence at school.

The Triumph Program Can Help
The Triumph program helps adults, and now teens and young adults, to invigorate their lives by becoming the heroes of their own stories, not subject to the limitations and expectations of others. This is accomplished through a three-stage therapeutic process. First, by discovering the reasons emotional eating has gained power in a person’s life through individual or group counseling, clients are able to acknowledge needs that aren’t being met, and identify how to address those feelings in healthier ways. Then, individualized support plans for each client’s goals are created by a trained health coach. Finally, ongoing support is available for maintenance and education.

Supporting Your Positive Changes
The counselors and health coaches at Triumph are ready to support your positive changes whenever you are ready to begin. Call 816-237-1820 for more information or to schedule an appointment. Triumph is located at 8080 Ward Parkway, Suite 407, in Kansas City, Missouri 64114.

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