If you've ever gone to the fridge because you're bored, ordered a pizza because you're upset, or served yourself another portion just because it tastes good - then you could be one of the 2.5 million Brits who regularly eat too much.
According to the experts, there are five types of overeater. If you agree with three or more statements in one category, then you may be at risk.
1. The Secret Binger
For secret bingers, food is a way of trying to gain control. According to Dr Helena Fox, psychiatrist at Capio Nightingale hospital in London: "They usually hold rigid attitudes towards food - what they 'can' and 'can't' eat."
Are you a secret binger?
2. The Happy Eater
- You always seem to be on a diet but you struggle to stick to it.
- Sometimes you let yourself go and when you do, you keep eating even when you're full.
- You binge in secret because you feel guilty.
- You may be a normal weight but you feel fat.
Happy eaters get a great deal of pleasure from food. Food gives them a sense of satisfaction and often evokes happy memories. However, without imposing limits on this pleasure, a happy eater can quickly become overweight and put themselves at risk of diabetes, heart disease and stroke.
Are you a happy eater?
3. The Comfort Seeker
- You love food more than most things in life - you enjoy cooking it, preparing it, talking about it and eating it.
- You are overweight but you're not that bothered by it.
- Cooking is what makes you happy and taste always comes before health so you never skimp on ingredients.
- You are happy with few emotional or family problems.
Comfort seekers tend to be unhappy and often depressed. They eat high-fat food for the sugar rush which triggers chemicals in the brain to simulate a feeling of happiness and warmth. Dr Fox said: "Overeating for any emotional reason is an unhealthy coping mechanism."
Are you a comfort seeker?
4. The Panic Snacker
- You eat because you feel down, even when you're full.
- You have strong cravings for junk food.
- You find it hard to control your weight and this makes you unhappy.
- You panic when you don't have access to food.
Stress and pressure can make panic snackers eat too much. Stress is thought to trigger the release of a chemical called ghrelin, which also happens to induce hunger. If you've ever grabbed a chocolate bar after a stressful work meeting to calm your nerves, you may be a panic snacker.
Are you a panic snacker?
5. The Fridge Magnet
- You overeat during stressful situations, like looming exams or deadlines.
- You store food in your desk or make regular trips to the vending machine.
- The act of eating makes you feel safe.
- You eat quickly without savouring flavour - you just like the sensation of eating.
Lots of people over-eat simply because they're bored. People at risk of this category include stay-at-home-parents, freelance workers and unemployed people. Sometimes when you have nothing to do, you might wonder to the kitchen and inspect the cupboards for a tasty treat. If you distracted yourself with another activity, you might not feel the urge to eat.
Are you a fridge magnet?
- When you've got nothing to do you inspect the fridge.
- You spend a lot of time at home.
- You eat proper meals even when you don't feel hungry, just because it is 'dinner time'.
- Food is functional, not pleasurable.
Eating too much, for whatever reason, is a bad and dangerous habit. According to the Institute of Psychiatry (IoP), one person in five has an eating disorder, and three out of five are compulsive overeaters.
The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence reports that nearly half of all binge eaters experience depression and 60% of sufferers are female.
Learning to eat healthily and in moderation takes time and practice. Working with a qualified nutritionist could help you to find foods that make you happy without compromising your health.
To find out more about overeating, please visit our Binge Eating Disorder page.
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