Many of us eat chocolate when we want a treat, or when we’re having a bad day – and where’s the harm in that?
We don’t just eat for health; the fact is eating is one of life’s pleasures. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t enjoy food or use it now and then to lift our spirits: as the saying goes, “all things in moderation.” The difficulty comes when comfort eating becomes our main way of dealing with upset.
Comfort eating provides a distraction from difficult thoughts and negative emotions but when it’s our only way of coping it can easily get out of hand: a bar of chocolate or a slice of toast can be the trigger for a full on binge. Many people who overeat like this say that whilst they’re bingeing everything else seems to stop: they feel in a world of their own where difficult thoughts and feelings can’t touch them. It’s only afterwards that the distress returns, only when it does it’s made worse by uncomfortable bloating, concerns about weight gain, frustration, guilt and shame.
Such negative feelings in the aftermath of a binge can erode self esteem and increase vulnerability to future stresses and from here it’s easy to see how a vicious cycle can develop: upset leading to binge eating and binge eating leading to greater vulnerability to future upset so making binge eating ever more likely. Many specialists see such vicious cycles as being at the heart of eating disorders.
There’s no harm in eating for comfort now and then, but if you find yourself trapped in the vicious cycle then it can be useful to know that there are ways of breaking out. Whilst many people can break out on their own and with the support of friends and family, some people will need professional help.
If you are struggling to manage disordered eating then perhaps the Student’s Health Service can help. The Service offers specialist support for people with eating disorders and many students have used it to turn their lives around. If you think you might need specialist help then the first step is a visit to your doctor. Whilst it can be embarrassing to talk about such problems, all our doctors are fully trained and highly experienced in working with people battling eating disorders. they may refer you to the practice’s psychologist or on to a more specialised doctor. There’s no shame in seeking help: rest assured you’ll be treated in confidence, with respect and sensitivity.