During times of stress or sadness many people turn to eating as a soothing activity that distracts them from their troubles. People have long associated certain food with comfort, care and as a reward, but when they turn to that food for an emotional fix instead of nourishing the body, it can become problematic.
In seniors, emotional overeating can lead to some very bad habits, both physically and mentally. Family caregivers have the opportunity to educate themselves about this condition and help seniors gain control over it.
What is Emotional Overeating?
Emotional overeating is the compulsion to use food to control feelings. When someone is stressed, bored, lonely, depressed or worried, they turn to food to cope with their emotions. The overeating is a way to ignore any negative feelings and bury their emotions with lots of unhealthy food consumption. In seniors, emotional overeating is a common issue.
How Does Emotional Overeating Happen in Seniors?
All too often, seniors are faced with rising levels of boredom as age and illness keep them less mobile. They may be losing friends and family members more rapidly as they pass away. Retirement, reduced activities and hobbies and more can lead to boredom and loneliness. Their own health issues may even be triggering stress and they seek comfort in food. In many ways, emotional overeating is a way of self-medicating for negative emotions.
What Harmful Effects Come From Emotional Overeating?
The effects of emotional overeating in seniors are significant. It can lead to weight gain, poor nutrition and harmful health effects from a less than adequate diet. Overconsumption of highly processed food, sugar, and more isn’t good for anyone’s health, and seniors especially need a healthy diet because they are the most at risk for malnutrition.
The effects of emotional overeating are not just physical. Emotional overeating is a cry for help in someone that doesn’t have a healthy way to deal with their emotional problems. Depression is very common in seniors, and they are also less likely to seek out help from others in dealing with negative emotions. Bottling up all their emotions and feelings isn’t good for their mental health and emotional overeating is a sign that they need serious help.
How Can Caregivers Help With Emotional Eating?
Family caregivers that notice their elderly loved one is indulging in emotional eating should take steps to help them. Family members can make sure that there are plenty of healthy snacks in the senior’s house and reduce the number of unhealthy items. Seniors should have adequate social activities and be given many opportunities to get out of the house and interact with the community, whether it’s through church, clubs or other groups. Caregivers can also line up therapy appointments for seniors that struggle with emotional overeating as a way to deal with their mental health.
One of the best ways to combat many of the care and transportation issues that trigger negative feelings in seniors is to arrange for an elder care aide service to assist elderly loved ones. Home care aides can help with grocery shopping, meal prep and transportation to and from events for seniors. Also, elder care aides will spend more time with the senior and can be on the lookout for poor eating habits, emotional distress and more. Emotional overeating can cause a lot of problems with the elderly, and it’s up to family caregivers and elder care aides to provide the support they need to boost their health and well-being.
If you or an aging loved one are considering elder care in Plainsboro, NJ, please call the caring staff at Care Street Home Care. You can reach our Mercer/Burlington Division at (609) 496-5666.
Dr. Shelly, as he is fondly known, has served as an Alzheimer’s Support Group Facilitator in Mercer County and is a Certified Dementia Instructor. Knowledgeable, compassionate, and unusually devoted, his guidance is crucial in helping families understand their options and render decisions for their loved ones’ care plan. Dr. Shelly’s extensive experience, sincere and pleasant demeanor, and professional affiliations have made him a vital asset to Care Street.
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