Addictive Eating: Are You Powerless Over Food?

The holidays of winter often bring to mind the image of a full table—and a full stomach. We gather with friends and family and feast merrily on pies and potatoes, turkey and ham and all of the fixings that many of us dearly enjoy.

There is another side to that pretty picture, however.

What if our extra consumption of calories during the winter is fueled not by good cheer and companionship, but by anxiety? And, further, what if it’s not the gathering of loved ones that we most look forward to, but the food that we can’t get out of our minds?

Also, while we may welcome gatherings with friends and family, they do bring with them extra stress and preparation. Add to the mix the anxiety caused by a sputtering economy, and many of us might find ourselves reaching for “comfort” food.

An anxiety-provoked behavior, such as overeating, is an attempt to cope with that anxiety, but as with most such behaviors, it can become a problem itself. Overeating can become a compulsion and lead to health issues such as diabetes and obesity.

This is not to say that you should reflexively turn down that second piece of pumpkin pie, but if you were dreaming of that pie for days, and if, in fact, you care more about that pie than the people around you, then you may have a problem that needs attention.

According to Overeaters Anonymous, here are a few other common markers of compulsive eating:

  1. Do you eat when you’re not hungry?
  2. Do you go on eating binges for no apparent reason?
  3. Do you have feelings of guilt and remorse after overeating?
  4. Do you look forward with pleasure and anticipation to the time when you can eat alone?
  5. Is your weight affecting the way you live your life?
  6. Do you resent others telling you to “use a little willpower” to stop overeating?
  7. Despite evidence to the contrary, have you continued to assert that you can diet “on your own” whenever you wish?
  8. Do you eat to escape from worries or trouble?
  9. Does your eating behavior make you or others unhappy?

If you think that you might be overeating compulsively, it is possible to recover. Help is available through the 12-Step programs Overeaters Anonymous and Food Addicts Anonymous, as well as a therapist or counselor.

With the help and support of others, you can uncover the reasons behind your compulsive eating, find other strategies for coping with anxiety and get on a food program that can sustain and, even, restore your health.

While you may still have those dreams about that second piece of pumpkin pie, you can also live a happy, healthy and fulfilling life without it.

**Others have found working with a well-trained wellness or lifestyle coach helped them make meaningful changes their eating habits. They received unbiased support and accountability to discover resources, explore options and implement a personal plan of action.

Author’s content used under license, © 2011 Claire Communications

Quiz: How Well Do You Manage Stress?

The impact of stress accumulates, and, beyond the ongoing, regular stress that comes from living in our high-impact culture, specific life events can really knock us for a loop. Even happy changes can cause bumps in the road, which we register both physically and emotionally. While we can’t eliminate stress from our lives, we can learn where our hot spots are and how to best reduce and manage the stress we do experience.

You won’t be scored at the end, but answer true or false to the following questions, and elaborate a bit on those that feel especially relevant.

T /F   1. I set the pace for the day by beginning with peaceful thinking either through reading an inspiring passage, saying a prayer or acknowledging the gift of a fresh, new day.

T /F   2. Throughout the day I live in the moment. I don’t brood about a past event or fret about the future.

T /F   3. Each day I do something physical even if it’s just a walk around the block or a 20-minute workout.

T /F   4. I eat healthfully and take the time to enjoy my meals. I set aside work, driving and other activities while I eat. No multi-tasking.

T /F   5. I think positively. I view problems as challenges and obstacles as opportunities.

T /F   6. I can say no when I need to.

T /F   7. I leave open time in my day for doing something spontaneous. Or doing nothing.

T /F   8. When I sense tension in my body, I practice progressive muscle relaxation, beginning with my face and moving down to my feet. I remember to breathe.

T /F   9. My daily “to-do” list contains only what can be accomplished in a day—even if it’s only part of a larger project.

T /F   10. I am willing to settle for “good enough.” I don’t make constant demands on myself to have the “-est” of anything (cleanest house, finest yard, best meals).

T /F   11. Throughout the day, I create peaceful images in my mind where I can retreat for a moment to rest and refill. A sunlit beach, a shady forest, a quiet stream.

T /F   12. When I am aware of feelings of anger, irritability, cynicism beginning to build, I replace them with thoughts of peace, hope, patience, joy.

T /F   13. I use my time and energy to make changes where I can and accept the things I cannot change.

T /F   14. When I am able, I plan events that I know will cause stress (moving, giving a party, buying a new car) around times when less is going on (a quiet time at work, no pressing deadlines, no holidays in sight, etc.).

T /F   15. I use a journal not just to write about stressful events and problems, but to express my thoughts and feelings.

T /F   16. I plan time off regularly. One day a month, just for me. A weekend away. A long vacation.

T /F   17. I talk to my friends and family about what’s going on with me, and when I need to, I seek guidance and counseling from professionals.

If you’re going through an especially stressful time or experiencing difficulty dealing with stress in your life, don’t hesitate to ask for help.


Author’s content used under license, © 2008 Claire Communications


“My candle burns at both ends/it will not last the night.” —Edna St. Vincent Millay

Burnout resists simple definition because it affects so many aspects of an individual’s life. In their book, Beyond Burnout, authors David Welch, Donald Medeiros and George Tate, describe burnout as a condition that affects us physically, intellectually, emotionally, socially and spiritually.

One of the first physical symptoms of burnout is fatigue. Intellectually, there may be a loss of creativity and sharpness in problem solving; cynicism may replace enthusiasm. Emotionally, the loss of dreams and expectations can result in feelings of helplessness and depression. In the social realm, isolation overtakes feeling of involvement, and spiritually, the person experiencing burnout may feel a lack of meaning or purposelessness to her life.

According to a recent study, one in three Americans is expected to burn out on the job in the near future and, in the two years preceding the study, 14% of the work force quit or changed jobs due to job stress. How can you avoid becoming one of the burnout statistics?

First, recognize the warning signs:

  • feelings of frustration and never being caught up
  • a feeling of lack of control about how to do your job or what goes on in the workplace
  • emotional outbursts
  • withdrawal and isolation
  • dread of going to work
  • frequent sickness or health problems
  • increased use of alcohol, drugs or food consumption
  • a desire to quit (or run away) but a fear of doing so

Taking a few days off or a vacation to Tahiti won’t contain the burnout. Neither will simply leaving one job for another. Burnout has more to do with attitudes, work styles, and behavior than it does the specific job situation. In other words, burnout may be primarily an act of self-immolation.

How to Avoid Burnout


Take the time to set goals and objectives, review them with others, make sure they’re attainable and clear.

Stress management

Know your own responses to stress and develop a plan to manage it. Exercise, take breaks, eat healthfully, leave work at work, make time for play and rest. Discover what works best for you and your body and practice good self-care habits.

Support systems

Family, friends, co-workers, professional organizations—all these support systems can help in times of stress.

Skill building

Look for challenges and opportunities to learn new skills and participate in activities that use your natural skills, talents and abilities. Rather than becoming stagnant, you’ll be able to grow.


Seek a balanced and well-structured lifestyle. Avoid boredom. Determine what’s important to you and create a lifestyle that embraces and supports you.

Think positively

Replace negativity with optimistic thinking. Helpless thinking is a major contributor to burnout.

Be creative

Look for a different approach to the same problems or to unpleasant situations. Break free from your everyday routine. Let your workspace express your individuality.

Humor and playfulness

Humor reduces stress, promotes physical healing, is essential for mental health and can add years to your life. No wonder they say humor is the best antidote. Enjoy yourself.

Author’s content used under license, © 2008 Claire Communications