Dear Dietitian: Overeaters get help

Leanne McCrate

Dear Readers: 

Now that the holidays are over and it’s back to our normal routine, some of us may resolve to eat healthier in 2019. Many of us have overindulged in certain foods and have picked up a few pounds during the holiday season. For me, it was fudge and my great-grandmother’s oatmeal cookies. When I finally mustered the courage to step on the scale, it unsympathetically revealed a four-pound weight gain. I’m hoping two of those pounds are just water. . . maybe?

Not to fear, there are many who claim to have the secret to losing weight. Many of these seem to have logical, intelligent, scientific explanations as to how they have finally unveiled the truth that has eluded humankind for centuries! Their arguments are convincing enough to make them best-selling authors.

I will tell you the secret to losing weight: eat less and exercise more. It really is that simple. Then why is it so difficult to lose weight and keep it off? Eating healthy takes planning, which takes time when many of us are over-scheduled and exhausted. Exercise takes time, energy, and commitment.

In some cases, overeating may be a compulsion. A food compulsion may be an irresistible urge to eat a certain food and continue eating beyond the point of being full. Those with compulsive eating may eat normal amounts of food in front of others, then wait until everyone has gone to bed, and eat a quart of ice cream. Compulsive eaters often find comfort in food. They may eat out of boredom or sadness.

The compulsion to overeat is often overlooked, even in the medical community but remains a major contributor to the obesity problem in America today. Compulsive overeating may include binge eating, where large amounts of calories, sometimes thousands, are consumed in one sitting. It may include using laxatives, vomiting, and/or severely restricting calories in an effort to control one’s weight.

There are programs to help those with compulsive food behaviors. Overeaters Anonymous is a 12-step program, similar to Alcoholics Anonymous, that deals with eating problems. Some of the questions on their website that pertain to compulsive eating include:

---"Have I lost weight with a diet or “period of control” only to be followed by bouts of uncontrolled eating and/or weight gain?

---Is my eating affecting my health or the way I live my life?

---Are there certain foods I can’t stop eating after having the first bite?"

If you think you have an eating compulsion, go to the Overeaters Anonymous website at It may help you.

Be well,

Dear Dietitian

Leanne McCrate, RD, LD, CNSC is a Registered Dietitian, Licensed Dietitian, and Certified Nutrition Support Clinician from St. Louis, Mo.