Have you ever in your life eaten compulsively without really knowing why? Are you going straight to the fridge or the pantry when you need to relieve your pains? Are you stressed? Do you suffer from insomnia? ¿Do you feel guilty?
Hand psychologist Santiago Cid Paz from Madrid (Spain), we discuss about a topic that increasingly is affecting more people: anxiety. And, more specifically, binge eating due to anxiety. We help you to know the causes of anxiety and how you can face it.
Santiago Cid Paz
Specialist in anxiety, Madrid (Spain)
1. Many people come to Dietetics and Nutrition departments because want to lose weight, but manifest a pronounced anxiety about food that makes difficult to eliminate those extra kilos. How can we know where this anxiety comes from and why is reflected in our eating behavior? Does it have to do with the need of feeling ‘satisfied’ in other aspects of life?
Anxiety is a symptom that something is wrong in our lives. Hence comes from ourselves, from the way we face our lives and, at certain moment, overflows us, manifesting as symptoms of worry or fear inside ourselves and with behaviors such as binge eating or another ones.
When we eat compulsively we are looking for an instant relief to all this suffering we have inside, so while we’re eating we are not suffering or thinking about our problem. More than surfeit oneself, it relieves us, but only for a moment because long term it will make us feel even worse.
2. What we eat and the way we do that also influence our anxiety levels. Which kind of psychological patterns could you give to these patients in order to beat anxiety? How important is to be aware of this disorder is suffered and to initiate a process of understanding about it to be overcome?
As this is a problem that has to do with how we manage our lives and not just with what we eat, the pattern would focus on taking charge adaptively and, therefore, it’s vital to be aware of why are we suffering and what can we change to stop feeling bad.
3. When someone has an anxiety attack, why high caloric content and rich in simple sugars meals are chosen? Why do they need that immediate and excessive satisfaction?
Because just in this moment it’s the only way to relieve your discomfort, you don’t know another method and compulsively repeats what you have learned that can comfort you. Heavier meals can help us distracting during more time because they cause heavier digestions and make us feel more satisfied, reducing momentarily our levels of concern. It’s true that what relieves us instantly has an opposite effect long term because it is keeping all the real problem you’re having.
4. Small changes in our lifestyle like improving our diet could influence positively when treating anxiety processes, but how could also help psychological therapy?
Psychological therapy will help you to know your real problem, the cause that leads you try to ease your discomfort through food and not by another adaptive and healthy solutions. Once understood, will seek to recover the true control of your life, your thoughts and emotions in order to handle your problems in a way that they don’t lead you to be paralyzed, to feel panic or binging, but helping you to address them and restore balance.
5. Stress and concerns excess are always present in patients with anxiety about food. From your point of view, what this marked connection might be?
Food occupies an important place in our life as it’s a basic need and we spend a lot of time eating. Moreover it’s, quite often, when we stop and can take a stock of our day. When we’re wrong this balance is interpreted as negative, getting nervous, so the intakes will go at the same speed that our thoughts and emotions.
6. Which emotions are related to the anxiety about food? How can we enhance positive emotions and control the negative ones in order to enjoy a more balanced emotional state?
Emotions may include: anxiety, sadness, anger, rage… They may be variable, but the common point is the feeling of being overwhelmed. We need to find the stability in the balance between what we think, feel and do, and how we perceive ourselves, how we perceive those around us and our future. In this equilibrium we will find the positive emotions that will lead us to do things more adaptive. It will be very important how we perceive ourselves, i.e. our self-esteem, because with a balanced self-esteem won’t opt for binge eating as a solution to our problems.
7. From our point of view, regular practice of a sport is always advisable for these patients, as well as conducting activities that help relaxing mind, such as yoga. What do you think about?
It’s always advisable for everyone. In my opinión, it’s vital to achieve the balance we seek in our lives, becasue it helps us to release energy, to secrete pleasant hormones and to connect to our body, even more when we perform mental work. Several studies have analyzed and compared the effect of medication and exercise to our mood, showing that they could have the same effect.
8. Sometimes, directly connected with the high rates of childhood obesity, we can find children who manifest anxiety about food (bakery abuse, fast food, sugary drinks, sweets,…), ¿what this anxiety at such a young age might be? How can we help them? What role do parents play in this process?
In our society there is a big problem of reconciling family and work life, enhanced by the economic crisis and this means parents can’t just spend time with their children due to work schedules, producing large emotional problems which can lead to problems with food. Many factors may be involved in the onset of anxiety problems. Haste can casue not to have enough time to cook and must opt for fast food. Meanwhile, parents can help their children trying to spend quality time with them, playing and enjoying, and letting them be children, as well as instilling a healthy eating since childhood.
9. Is important sleeping enough and enjoy a quality sleep to start our day without much anxiety? Why?
Anxiety is a process by which our body perceives that there is a danger and prepares us to defend ourselves or escape. Keeping so many hours without rest is a sign that there is some danger that don’t let us rest. Resting is important for our body to relax and see no need to be anxious constantly since there is no real danger.
10. Which negative consequences for our health may have an anxiety process extended in time and not treated properly?
Anxiety problems without psychological treatment often lead to isolation and depression, therefore the consequences would end up losing many social relationships, couples and, in severe cases, even job. Keep in mind that anxiety can come to dominate our lives making everything uncontrollable and we tend to avoid anything due to fear.