Ten Types of Overeating

Overeating is a common problem, but there are many different types of overeating. Here are ten of the most frequently cited ways that overeating can become a problem.

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Dangers of Overeating

Hands on stomach after overeating
Overeating can lead to stomach pain and discomfort. energyy/Getty Images

If you are prone to overeating, you might be asking yourself some of the following questions:

"Does overeating cause heartburn?"

"Does overeating cause stomach pain?"

"What are the effects of overeating?"

Overeating can lead to numerous problems, ranging from heartburn in the short term to obesity in the long term. It has also been found to be associated with many GI symptoms, including abdominal pain, particularly in the upper gastro-intestinal tract, bloating, and diarrhea. Eating too much one time won't cause obesity, but it may cause discomfort, pain, and interference with sleep.

Although we might expect that these symptoms would discourage people from overeating, unfortunately, the body adjusts to overeating by releasing dopamine -- a natural pleasure chemical -- when we overeat, encouraging us to overeat even more. So even if overeating causes pain and discomfort, we may feel compelled to continue overeating. This is an important part of how food addiction develops. So over a longer period of time, overeating on a regular basis, without adequate exercise can lead to obesity.

And just to make the situation even more complicated, there are there is not just one type of overeating. It can happen as a result of how you feel, who you are with, and many other factors. Here are ten of the most frequently cited types of overeating that can lead to pain and obesity, as can contribute to the development of food addiction.

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Binge Eating

Buffet of delicious food
Ray Kachatorian/Getty

Binge eating involves consuming a large amount of food in a short space of time. Binges, by definition, require you to eat more food that people normally do, and more food that you need. Binge eating can happen on a single occasion, or it can become a regular way of eating, leading to problems. Although binge eating in itself does not necessarily constitute a food addiction or eating disorder, binge eating is a symptom of Binge Eating Disorder, and the eating disorder Bulimia Nervosa.

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Overeating From Supersize Meal Portions

Supersize meal portions are becoming the norm. Image © Wade / Photodisc / Getty Images

Supersize meal portions extra large portions of fast food, whereby the food portion you buy is much larger than a normal meal portion. Supersize meal portions are heavily marketed, particularly in North American culture. This can easily lead to consuming much larger amounts of food than necessary, and, if eaten on a regular basis, can lead to obesity and poor nutrition.

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4
Emotional Eating

Emotional eating can be an unhealthy way of dealing with overwhelming emotions. Image © Jack Star / PhotoLink / Getty Images

Commonly cited on shows such as Oprah, emotional eating is frequently referred to as a way that women in particular eat when they feel upset or unhappy. The clichés of the girl eating a quart of ice cream after a bad breakup, or the middle aged women bingeing on carbs when she has PMS, are examples of "emotional eating" stereotypes. Unfortunately, these stereotypes can lead to the very behavior they portray in people who relate to them. What's more, men experience emotional eating as well.

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Stress Eating

Model poses as workaholic woman stress eating
Stress eating can fuel overwork. Al Rod/Getty Images

Stress eating, although closely related to emotional eating, is more heavily driven by anxiety rather than depression, and may be a way of fueling overwork when time is not taken for adequate breaks or meals.

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Sugar Addiction

Sugar can be addictive. Image © Anne Hoelz

Sweet, sugary food is particularly addictive to many people. Some overeaters binge on confectionary or other sweet foods, with chocolate having a particular allure. Parents should be vigilant that their children do not develop sugar addiction, as daily sweets consumption in childhood is related to emotional difficulties in adulthood, as well as obesity and tooth decay.

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7
Compulsive Snacking

Compulsive snacking on unhealthy foods can lead to poor nutrition. Image © Cristina Chirtes / SXC

Although eating two to three snacks a day between meals is often considered healthy, constant snacking, particularly on unhealthy snacks, can lead to overeating, whether the snacking is in place of or in addition to regular meals. Many overeaters fall into the trap of carefully plannning three healthy meals a day but not including snacks in their calorie count, thereby inadvertently overeating.

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Fast Food

Dependence on fast food can lead to obesity. Image © Microstock Photography
People who rely on fast food often overeat. Fast food is designed to stimulate overeating, typically by using a combination of sugar, salt and fat, all shown by research to be addictive. Although the ingredients of fast food may be poor quality and unappetizing, the addictive ingredients ensure a huge turnover of high calorie food, which can lead to obesity and poor nutrition.

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9
Comfort Eating

Model poses as woman comfort eating
Comfort eating can lead to overeating. Sarah Kastner / STOCK4B-RF / Getty Images
While comfort eating can be healthy in moderation, people who eat in order to deal with distressing emotions may overeat, and, in a similar way to stress eaters and emotional eaters, comfort eaters may fall into the trap of food addiction as their primary coping strategy.

10
Social Eating

Models pose as friends eating pizza
Social eating can lead to overeating. Betsie Van Der Meer / Getty Images

Social eating is a widely accepted practice, and in moderation, can be a healthy activity. But people who are constantly under pressure to eat socially, such as those who routinely wine and dine others, or meet over business meals, may be prone to overeating, particularly when the expectation is for large portions and high calorie foods.

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Boredom Eating

Boredom eating can take over when you don't have enough to do. Image © Wade / Photodisc / Getty Images
Boredom eating is a mindless approach to food, in which lack of stimulation in other areas of life leads to eating, just to feel something. Boredom eaters can be prone to binge eating, supersize portions, compulsive snacking, sugar addiction and fast food.

Sources

American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth edition. DSM-5. American Psychiatric Association. 2013. Bolin T, Korman M, Hansky J, Stanton R. Heartburn: community perceptions. Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology 15(1):35-39. 2000. Bongers P, de Graaff A, Jansen A. ‘Emotional’ does not even start to cover it: Generalization of overeating in emotional eaters. Appetite 96:611-616. 2016. Delgado-Aros S, Locke G, Melton L, et al. Obesity is associated with increased risk of gastrointestinal symptoms: a population-based study. American Journal of Gastroenterology 99(9):1801-1806. 2004. Heshmat S. Eating Behavior And Obesity : Behavioral Economics Strategies For Health Professionals [e-book]. New York: Springer Publishing Company; 2011.

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