Recently, I've written about how Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) can help with sex problems, drug problems and money problems arising from addictive behaviors. And, as you've probably guessed, CBT can be applied to other addictive behaviors, such as compulsive overeating and exercise addiction.
Researchers are only just beginning to understand the addictive nature of food, and the similairities between food and exercise addictions and other addictions. The controversy over whether eating disorders, which can include over-exercise as a form of purging in bulimia, are a type of addiction has been debated for the past two decades, but as obesity levels soar, and the stages of change model is increasingly applied to these problems, food and exercise addiction are becoming increasingly accepted as real.
So how can CBT help?
The story How CBT helped Jenna stop overeating illustrates how binge eating can arise from letting your emotional reactions direct your decision making, although they might actually be distorting your view of reality.
Jenna's story also touches on self esteem issues which are common among people who overeat, and those who overexercise. Recent research shows that early sexual abuse is related both to problems with self esteem and to food addiction in women, and that in some cases, food addiction may be related to a lack of sexual contact, although, as I have argued, we need to be careful not to misinterpret these research findings.
There are many types of compulsive eating and eating disorder, and many different reasons that people can become overweight or obese, which may not be related to addiction. In addition, most people do not over-exercise -- on the contrary, most of us do not exercise enough! If you think you may be overeating, overweight or obese, or overexercising, you should first talk to your doctor to get an accurate idea of whether there is really anything wrong, keeping in mind my tips for an accurate diagnosis.
CBT is just one approach to treatment, and there are many different treatments for weight problems and eating disorders available. Your doctor will be able to advise you on the best course of action, based on an accurate assessment of your physical and psychological condition, and your medical history.
If you have problems with overeating or overexercise, you may also find these self esteem boosters help:
If you have tried CBT for overeating, exercise addiction, or any other compulsive behavior, we'd love to hear from you.