Obesity and Compulsive Overeating
While not every obese individual is a compulsive overeater, many are. Compulsive overeating inevitably leads to weight gain and obesity.
Does the cheese cake in the freezer keep calling your name? Can't resist a chip or candy run to a convenience store during your shift? Do you supersize or buy jumbo packages? If so, you may be a compulsive overeater.
Compulsive overeaters are usually aware that their eating habits are abnormal. However, they have an obsession with food and a compulsion to eat. This obsession is demonstrated by spending excessive amounts of time and thought devoted to food, and secretly planning or fantasizing about eating alone. Telling them to go on a diet is about as effective as telling an anorexic to just eat, or heroin addict to just go cold turkey.
Compulsive overeaters will typically eat when they are not hungry and engage in frequent episodes of uncontrolled eating, or binge eating. During a binge a compulsive overeater may consume 5,000 to 15,000 calories per day. They often feel frenzied or out of control, consuming food well past the point of being comfortably full. This is followed by feelings of depression, shame, low self esteem, remorse and guilt. Not all compulsive overeaters binge, others engage in grazing behavior; eating smaller amounts of food (high calorie) throughout the day.
The good payoff is that when compulsive overeaters consume sugary and fatty food they truly enjoy it. In fact they get an addictive high from it. The brain releases endorphins and dopamine that stimulate the individual to eat more of these foods to feel good and to calm him/her down. Unfortunately, left untreated, compulsive overeating can lead to serious medical conditions including death.
Treatment for Obesity and Compulsive Overeating
Approximately 80% of compulsive overeaters who seek professional help recover completely or experience significant reduction in their symptoms. There are several options for people who want help with controlling this disorder. Behavioral therapy is used to help teach individuals how to keep track of their eating and change unhealthy eating habits. Psychotherapy helps compulsive overeaters to look at their interpersonal relationships and make changes in problem areas. Additionally, certain medications can be effective including antidepressant and Topiramate (an anti-seizure medication). In severe cases gastrointestinal surgery may be indicated. Nutritionists can help determine an effective diet plan that an individual can comply with, as well as an exercise regime. There are many self-help groups as well, including Overeaters Anonymous.
Knowing what drives overeating behavior is the first step in changing it. Compulsive overeaters need to change the way they approach food. No one said it was easy.
If you want help, start with your physician. It may be uncomfortable to discuss obesity with anyone, especially your doctor. Know that you are not the first person to enter your doctor's office with this problem. It is usually pretty obvious, and society and your mirror remind you daily. Get a complete physical, lab tests and find out if you are physically healthy enough for certain treatments. If so start an exercise regime, use your department’s gym if they have one. Better yet, invest in a personal trainer, get referrals.
When a police officer is in poor physical health it can mean the difference between catching the bad guy or giving him a chance for a clean getaway. Remember suspects size you up, just as you do them. Suspects are much more likely to try and flee or resist arrest if they feel that an officer is not going to be able to pursue or defend himself or herself successfully. This leads to the potential that the officer may need to resort to more force than would have been necessary had the officer been in shape. In law enforcement, size does matter.