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Is Obesity an Eating Disorder?

By Mia S. Elwood, LCSW

Healthy Futures is an eating disorder AND obesity treatment center.  Does that mean obesity is an eating disorder?  This is a question that is often posed by the client and professional community.  And here’s my answer: No; however, someone who is obese may have an eating disorder.  To me, an eating disorder can be diagnosed if one’s relationship with food, body, and/or weight has become disruptive to normal life functioning of that individual.  This includes disruption to their relationships, their work, their health, their finances or any other important life function.

Emotional Overeating often is a contributor to obesity.  Emotional Overeating often is something that prohibits individuals from feeling normal – it’s not a recognized eating disorder diagnosis per se, it isn’t always accompanied by serious medical consequences, and it is somewhat normalized in our society; however, not something we talk about openly in seriousness.

Therefore, individuals tend to seek diets or weight loss treatment for their overweight status versus treating the very real emotional and behavioral contributor to their weight.  And the medical community is well versed in quick health tips and information on decreasing intake and increasing exercise and medicating any medical symptoms arising from the extra pounds.  These traditional techniques to treat obesity often miss the boat for emotional overeaters.  It is simply not the right complete treatment most of the time for long-term success.

So what is an emotional overeater to do?  Seek eating disorder treatment? That probably won’t hurt, but I’m a bit biased.  Seek the newest diet for the umpteenth time?  Maybe you’ll have “willpower” that lasts this time?

Or instead, should the emotional overeater seek a program or a specialist that specializes in emotional overeating, which is a place that has expertise in the eating disorder parts of being overweight, the medical and appetite parts of weight issues/dysregulation, and the specific techniques that are effective with overcoming emotional overeating? YES. Do this!

Healthy Futures offers an emotional overeating intensive outpatient program (IOP) and we have a resource list that shares other specialized resources for the emotional overeater.  We would be delighted to help you succeed in your emotional AND health goals.

For more details, please click here. Clicking the link will open a PDF in a new window. After viewing and/or printing the page, simply close the window to return to this page.

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