You’re probably familiar with the age-old urge to reach for a candy bar when you’re feeling sad. A candy bar here and there every now and then is fine, but when it becomes two candy bars, or three, or six, plus a double-decker hamburger and a bag of chips, we’re talking about something a little more serious than just comfort food.
As people age, their eating habits change, leading to a prevalence of eating disorders among elders. Some lose their appetite and want to eat very little, or not at all, but others overeat, and consume a lot more food than is healthy.
The reasons behind this are varied, but in many cases, overeating can be caused by an emotional problem. If you or your elder care aide have noticed your elder loved one eating more than is healthy for their body type and weight, it could be a sign that something is bothering them on an emotional level. This is especially true if they are sneaking food, or hiding it so that they can eat more of it when you aren’t looking. Food is a comfort to them, and they believe that it will fill some sort of hole inside them. Unfortunately, though, unhealthy eating habits only serve to make their problems worse.
Greasy, fatty, and sugary foods can take a toll on anyone’s health, and have actually been proven to cause depression more than they treat it. Overeating is not a way to feel better – in fact, it will make them feel worse. The best thing to do is to work with your elder care aide to try to find healthier foods for them to snack on, and to identify the reasons why they feel they need food to heal themselves emotionally in the first place.
Here are some questions to ask yourself or your elder if you suspect that they are an emotional overeater. The answers could go a long way toward eliminating the problem, and getting them healthy again.
Did your aging parent recently lose a spouse?
Did they recently change from living independently to living with you in your home?
Are they concerned about a health condition?
Do they feel as if they are a burden on the family?
Are they depressed, anxious, or worried?
Are they simply bored?
Any of these reasons could be the culprit behind emotional overeating. If your loved one lost a spouse or someone they cared deeply about, they will be sad and depressed, which will lead them to look for comfort in food. A loss of their independence could be a painful adjustment to them as well, and will lead them to look for the same kind of comfort.
Guilt, worry, and depression can all be causes too, but boredom could be one of the most serious of all. Just as you are familiar with the urge to reach for chocolate when you’re sad, you are probably just as familiar with the inclination to eat when you are bored. You have nothing else to do, so why not eat? It seems like a nice way to pass the time.
This isn’t healthy for elders, though (or for the rest of us), so if you suspect that your senior is overeating out of boredom, help them to find something fun and engaging to do to stimulate their brains. This can even be helpful in treating the other emotional causes as well, because if the senior is happy, there is no reason to look for comfort anywhere besides inside themselves.
If an emotional overeating problem gets severe, though, be sure to make a trip to the doctor to rule out other medical causes, and to find a way to help your aging parent get healthy again.
If you or an aging loved one are considering Elder Care Services Wilmette IL, contact the caring staff at Gentle Home Services. Call today (800) 860-9823.