â€śFood is my best friendâ€ť - This is the refrain of a compulsive over-eater. This person is a food addict. The consequence of this addiction is usually obesity. A person who overeats compulsively sees food as the panacea for loneliness, isolation, boredom, depression, feelings of inadequacy.
Food is a source of comfort when a compulsive over-eater is feeling depressed, guilty or unattractive. Like most addictions, this is a vicious cycle. The more you eat the more unattractive, helpless and out of control you feel. This makes you eat even more. And so it goes on.
Compulsive Over-Eating in Children
Children get hungry and they eat, that is a normal course. However recently it's actually become an issue, because some kids are stuffing themselves with food at all hours of the day. Overeating and resultant obesity has become a worldwide concern of parents and paediatricians.
While children have better digestive system than adults, they can get away with eating many things, but the body has a limit. Eating too much is increasingly leading to kids being obese from a very young age. And being obese is not cute or healthy, it is a health condition that can have very serious implications as the child grows older.
What is Compulsive Overeating?
Overeating basically means that someone is consuming more food than their body requires. The calories they intake exceed the amount their body uses up as energy. So obviously the excess calories get stored in the form of fat.
Obsessive overeating is when children cannot stop eating. They keep eating all the time, night and day. No matter what happens food seems to be the solution to it. They just eat, make food their best friend. And the more they eat, the fatter they become and lazier, leading to less usage of calories eaten. It becomes serious as the child grows, because being an obese is not healthy.
Why does this happen?
There may be many reasons why children overeat. Let us look at some, because it is important to understand what causes it. It is not a stray phenomenon.
1. For Coping:
The most common reason children eat a lot of food is to cope with some difficulty. Now you might wonder what do children need to cope with. It is actually a lot. There may be a lot of stress in school and at home that the child may face. Pressure at school, problems with friends, parental behaviour at home might lead the child to find a release in food. So whenever a child is depressed or worried, they eat food to cope up.
2. Childhood Habit
Some parents are responsible for their child's present obsession with food. Many parents tend to overfeed their child as a kid, which naturally leads to a love for food and the desire to eat more and more food. They are habituated to eating more food and that is what they keep doing even when they grow up.
What Can You Do About It?
The first thing to do would be to consult a paediatrician to help understand how much food your child actually needs.
Talk to your child and try to find out what is bothering her. Give her company and not buy them more food.
Search their room to find if they are hoarding food, which can help you get a perspective on how bad the condition is.
Take your child to a psychologist so that she can talk about why she eats so much and what problem is she dealing with.
Give her healthy food instead of junk. Make her drink water when she says she is hungry. Let her snack on nuts or fruit.
How to Make Them Healthy?
Apart from obviously giving her healthy food, you can take your child out for a walk in the morning. Avoid leaving her alone as she might buy food. Go for a picnic somewhere or go hiking. Encourage your child to join a sport, it will help her stay engaged and also lose some calories. If she is unwilling, play with her in the house, anything to get her to exercise.
Your child needs your support when she is unable to understand what she is feeling. Try to give her company. Slowly you can wean her away from over-eating.
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- The Indiaparenting Team