We all overeat at times, but when it becomes a pattern and it happens in connection with characteristic emotions, it’s called emotional overeating. Emotional overeating is also different from simply eating more calories than you expend because it mimics an addiction. There is a trigger (usually an identifiable feeling, or set of feelings), a feeling of lack of control over one’s behavior (also seen as the inability to inhibit the impulse), and feelings of guilt and shame about the behavior.
Often the emotional overeater, like an addict, knows that the behavior is causing harm to his/her life, and yet is unable to stop. The emotional overeater’s life can also begin to narrow, much like the addict’s, as social connections are let go of, previously enjoyed hobbies and personal pursuits fall by the wayside, and the primary source of relief becomes the addictive behavior.
Yet the difference is that we can’t simply stop eating the way an addict can use abstinence as a treatment goal. Similarly, emotional overeating is not a behavior that responds to simply being told to stop, because the emotions that underlie the behavior remain.
In fact, being told to stop typically increases the feelings of shame that an emotional overeater already struggles with – often making the behavior even worse. This reality is evidenced by the astounding number of people who struggle with emotional overeating as well as the collective conclusion by the majority of experts in the field that the role of emotions in obesity and weight loss treatment approaches is consistently being overlooked.
What is needed is a different approach. Those who treat obesity, weight loss, and emotional overeating need to look beyond the behavior to understand the emotions that drive it. They need to see emotional overeating not as a lack of willpower, an indication of a character flaw, or an inadequacy, but rather a cry for help. They need to understand the psychological and social obstacles that accompany emotional overeating as well as the patterns that drive it. And then, they need to help their clients unravel their identity from that of a person who is not good enough, and whose behavior is shameful, and begin to build a sense of self that supports healthy eating patterns, distinguishes physical hunger from emotional hunger, and finds ways to meet unmet emotional needs in fulfilling ways.
Emotional Overeating: Practical Management Techniques is a 4-hour online continuing education (CE/CEU) course that discusses the causes of emotional eating and provides cognitive and behavioral exercises that can help to eliminate the addictive pattern. Statistics report that Americans are an increasingly overweight population. Among the factors contributing to our struggle to stop tipping the scales is the component of “emotional eating” – or the use of food to attempt to fill emotional needs. Professionals in both the physical and emotional health fields encounter patients with emotional eating problems on a regular basis. Even clients who do not bring this as their presenting problem often have it on their list of unhealthy behaviors that contribute to or are intertwined with their priority concerns. While not an easy task, it is possible to learn methods for dismantling emotional eating habits. The goals of this course are to present information about the causes of emotional eating, and provide a body of cognitive and behavioral exercises that can help to eliminate the addictive pattern. Course #40-26 | 2011 | 44 pages | 30 posttest questions
This online course provides instant access to the course materials (PDF download) and CE test. After enrolling, click on My Account and scroll down to My Active Courses. From here you’ll see links to download/print the course materials and take the CE test (you can print the test to mark your answers on it while reading the course document).
Successful completion of the online CE test (80% required to pass, 3 chances to take) and course evaluation are required to earn a certificate of completion. Click here to learn more. Have a question? Contact us. We’re here to help!
Professional Development Resources is a nonprofit educational corporation 501(c)(3) organized in 1992. We are approved to sponsor continuing education by the American Psychological Association (APA); the National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC); the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB); the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA); the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA); the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR); the Alabama State Board of Occupational Therapy; the Florida Boards of Social Work, Mental Health Counseling and Marriage and Family Therapy, Psychology & School Psychology, Dietetics & Nutrition, Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology, and Occupational Therapy Practice; the Ohio Counselor, Social Worker & MFT Board and Board of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology; the South Carolina Board of Professional Counselors & MFTs; the Texas Board of Examiners of Marriage & Family Therapists and State Board of Social Worker Examiners; and are CE Broker compliant (all courses are reported within a few days of completion).
Target Audience: Psychologists, Counselors, Social Workers, Marriage & Family Therapist (MFTs), Speech-Language Pathologists (SLPs), Occupational Therapists (OTs), Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (RDNs), School Psychologists, and Teachers