Heart Health Articles

Therapy Targets Emotional Eating

September 09, 2017

According to the latest thinking, eating healthily and taking more exercise are not enough by themselves to combat the nation's rising obesity levels. Instead we need a better understanding of the issues underpinning compulsive eating so that psychological help can be successfully targeted.

This is an issue discussed in the July issue of Therapy Today, the official journal of the British Association for Counselling & Psychotherapy (copies of the article are available on request).

There are currently no Department of Health guidelines on offering psychological services to those suffering from eating disorders. Instead compulsive eaters are given information on food intake, and when that doesn't work there are pills to suppress appetite and, as a last resort, surgery. None of these options addresses the reasons why people are overweight in the first place and hence are consistently unsuccessful when it comes to maintaining weight loss.

Therapy has a key role in identifying the reasons why people overeat rather than simply focusing on what they eat. It can also provide compulsive eaters with the psychological tools and strategies needed to lose weight and keep it off.

Many compulsive eaters do not have secure social and emotional attachments. In the ups and downs of life, instead of using self-soothing mechanisms or asking for help from others, they reduce stress by ingesting food. Diet and exercise plans do not address their concerns, so until psychological services are available to meet these needs the obesity problem looks set to grow.

The July issue also looks at the issues surrounding childlessness, whether involuntary or as a lifestyle choice. In particular it focuses on the implications for women who are voluntarily childless in a world where women are primarily defined in relation to motherhood.

Therapy Today is now available online at therapytoday

British Association for Counselling & Psychotherapy