There are several theories or models in regards to how we look at emotional eating. Emotional eating results in physical deterioration of unwanted weight gain, psychological deterioration of low self image, depression, anxiety, anger, shame, fears, and overwhelm, social/behavioural deterioration such as isolation, loss of friendships, work problems. As well as spiritual deterioration such as hopelessness, loss of connection to self, others and relationship with a higher power or something bigger than you, as well as by acting in conflict with your own values.
The susceptibility model considers that there are inherit neurological mechanisms that predispose a person to becoming an emotional eater whereas the exposure model suggests that chronic emotional eating leads to significant alterations in the brain that are responsible for loss of control. The bodies metabolism changes to require increasing amounts to avoid withdrawal symptoms so that the body becomes chemically reliant on food for ordinary pain relief.
The moral model assumes that emotional eating is a matter of personal choice. Caused by either character, emotional, or spiritual deficiencies. Emotional eating is considered to be weak and can be overcome with will-power and some consider that emotional eaters are anti-social in nature and that body shaming works.
The psychodynamic model suggests that emotional eating is a symptom of an underlying psychological problem that emotional eating is about self medicating and that this is a maladaptive psychological coping strategy. Once internal conflicts are resolved, emotional eating might no longer be necessary.
The social model suggests that emotional eating is a learned behaviour because that behaviour had been modelled by others and that emotional eaters have been influenced by peer pressure as well as environmental cues such as advertising. Emotional eating is seen as a maladaptive relationship negotiation strategy.
The bio-psychosocial model integrates all of the elements from the other models; “Bio meaning biological has to do with having a genetic predisposition, prenatal exposure, and personality traits that increase susceptibility. ‘Psycho’ meaning psychological suggests that positive outcomes influence the likely hood that the behaviour will be repeated, that it acts as a reward. There is an association linked between cued response and reward which becomes stronger with repetition and that the behaviour continues in order to avoid physical and psychological discomfort of withdrawal, emotional eating is used as a coping mechanism. “Social” outlines that it is a learned behaviour; for example, learning from parents patterns of behaviour and that it is influenced by cultural practices and beliefs.
Each model has it’s own treatment approach, the medical model relies on medical procedures and pharmaceutical drugs. The moral model relies on spiritual conversion or religious authority. The psychodynamic model is about the restructuring of personality and resolution of the underlying issues. The bio-psychosocial model uses a combination of psycho-education, developing new coping strategies, changes and responses to cues, as well as changing personal environment, in order to improve daily life functions and improve daily life choices, as well as addressing related medical and health concerns in order to support the new healthy lifestyle choices.
No matter what model it is that you believe in, everyone goes through stages of change. There are six stages of change, and it would be good for you to consider what stage you are currently at. “Pre-contemplation” is the non-recognition of a problem stage, “contemplation” is that you are wondering if maybe you do have a problem. “Preparation” is the acknowledgment that if you do have a problem and that something needs to be done, the “action” stage is about creating the plan. “Maintenance” is about sticking with the new changed behaviour and doing the work to maintain it. “New lifestyle” is when you are confident in your personal environment.
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