Compulsive overeating is a serious disorder that can lead to health problems, both mental and physical. For women and men who are compulsive overeaters, obesity is a real possibility.
Researchers are trying to utilize advances in technology to help prevent the disorder and resulting weight gain. By starting with children, they hope to curb the problem well in advance of the major health problems that can result from overeating. While overeating and obesity are treatable, prevention is always the best medicine.
Overeating disorder and obesity
Overeating disorder, also referred to as binge eating disorder or food addiction, is a true eating disorder like bulimia and anorexia. As with any eating disorder, the roots of the problem are psychological. If you overeat frequently, you don’t do so because you are hungry. Compulsively overeating is much more complex. Whatever your reasons for binge eating, you get into a vicious cycle of shame and guilt that leads to another round of overeating. During a binge, you feel out of control.
There are many consequences of having this disorder, but one of the most serious is obesity. Being obese can lead to type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, gallbladder disease, sleep apnea, heart disease, arthritis and numerous other health problems.
Preventing overeating with technology
All of the health problems associated with overeating lead to a poor quality of life, not to mention expensive treatments. If overeating can be prevented in at-risk young people, they will have the chance to live better and more fulfilling lives in the future. One of the characteristics of people who binge is that they eat quickly without slowing down when they feel full. Most people start eating at a fast pace, due to hunger, and then slow down and stop as they become full. If binge eaters can learn to slow down, they may be able to regulate and eliminate their binging habits.
A technology company, in conjunction with researchers from universities, has developed a meter that measures a person’s eating rate. Called the mandometer, this device rests underneath a plate and measures how quickly the plate gets lighter as a person eats from it. It directs the eater to slow down if the pace is too fast. Researchers believe that this type of training can help overeaters learn to slow down and regulate not just how fast they eat, but how much they eat.
Researchers are hopeful that this type of technology could really help people, but they want it to be less obtrusive and they want to use it to help kids who are not yet obese, but at risk. A European group of researchers is already at work on developing a device that would be wearable and would monitor the rate of chewing. This would allow children to wear the device without drawing attention. The potential to prevent eating disorders in young people is great if such a device could be developed and put into use.
Thanks to the rapid development of all types of technologies, it is becoming a real possibility to develop a small, wearable and unobtrusive device that could have a real impact on eating disorders and obesity. As technological devices get more sophisticated and smaller in size, there are many ways in which they can improve public health. For young people on the path to a life of disordered eating and obesity-related health problems, these devices could be genuine lifesavers.