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Ten Types of Overeating

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Updated March 04, 2011

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Overeating is a common problem, but there are many different types of overeating. Here are ten of the most frequently cited ways that overeating can become a problem.

1. Binge Eating

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Binge eating involves consuming a large amount of food in a short space of time. Although binge eating in itself does not necessarily constitute a food addiction or eating disorder, binge eating is a symptom of Binge Eating Disorder, and the eating disorder Bulimia Nervosa.

2. Overeating From Supersize Meal Portions

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Supersize meal portions are heavily marketed, particularly in North American culture. This can easily lead to consuming much larger amounts of food than necessary, and, if eaten on a regular basis, can lead to obesity and poor nutrition.

3. Emotional Eating

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Commonly cited on shows such as Oprah, emotional eating is frequently referred to as a way that women in particular eat when they feel upset or unhappy. The clichés of the girl eating a quart of ice cream after a bad breakup, or the middle aged women bingeing on carbs when she has PMS, are examples of "emotional eating" stereotypes. Unfortunately, these stereotypes can lead to the very behavior they portray in people who relate to them. What's more, men experience emotional eating as well.

4. Stress Eating

Stress eating, although closely related to emotional eating, is more heavily driven by anxiety rather than depression, and may be a way of fuelling overwork when time is not taken for adequate breaks or meals.

5. Sugar Addiction

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Sweet, sugary food is particularly addictive to many people. Some overeaters binge on confectionary or other sweet foods, with chocolate having a particular allure. Parents should be vigilant that their children do not develop sugar addiction, as daily sweets consumption in childhood is related to emotional difficulties in adulthood, as well as obesity and tooth decay.

6. Compulsive Snacking

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Although eating two to three snacks a day between meals is often considered healthy, constant snacking, particularly on unhealthy snacks, can lead to overeating, whether the snacking is in place of or in addition to regular meals. Many overeaters fall into the trap of carefully plannning three healthy meals a day but not including snacks in their calorie count, thereby inadvertently overeating.

7. Fast Food

People who rely on fast food often overeat. Fast food is designed to stimulate overeating, typically by using a combination of sugar, salt and fat, all shown by research to be addictive. Although the ingredients of fast food may be poor quality and unappetizing, the addictive ingredients ensure a huge turnover of high calorie food, which can lead to obesity and poor nutrition.

8. Comfort Eating

While comfort eating can be healthy in moderation, people who eat in order to deal with distressing emotions may overeat, and, in a similar way to stress eaters and emotional eaters, comfort eaters may fall into the trap of food addiction as their primary coping strategy.

9. Social Eating

Social eating is a widely accepted practice, and in moderation, can be a healthy activity. But people who are constantly under pressure to eat socially, such as those who routinely wine and dine others, or meet over business meals, may be prone to overeating, particuarly when the expectation is for large portions and high calorie foods.

10. Boredom Eating

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Boredom eating is a mindless approach to food, in which lack of stimulation in other areas of life leads to eating, just to feel something. Boredom eaters can be prone to binge eating, supersize portions, compulsive snacking, sugar addiction and fast food.
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