Weight Loss NHS

How can you help someone combat compulsive/overeating eating?

My mother is very obese and has Type 2 diabetes, and some of the problems that accompany it. She is the most frustrating person I know (said with love and concern ^_^) as she refuses to put herself first in this area when it is having a serious detrimental effect on her health.

She wants to loose weight, she knows it is damaging her but there is a mental block that affects it all. These issues do affect every area of her life I think and are multifaceted but it is the physical health problems that are the most immediate at the moment.

Since she was a child she has struggled with her weight and relationship with food. She has always been told she was fat and even when she wasn't, believed it to be true. Similarly she was praised and rewarded for eating up her dinner and food was a reward.

Now eating and food has become a mix of reward, pick me ups and punishment. I have noticed that for a long time she will eat "snacks" without thinking about it or actually realising.

Our actual diet is quite good so often conventional advice (more veg, less fried food etc) is not very helpful as it does not address the issues behind the overeating.

I know people normally need to identify the problems in themselves and want to change for it to make a difference when there are more psychological problems. However, I was hoping that someone may be able to advise how to help people with these behaviours? If anyone has personal experiences of this I would be very grateful to hear as I am at a loss of how to help her when I know that she needs support.

From past experience I know she is very difficult about anything mental health related. Her attitude to my own diagnosis of depression and social anxiety as well as her reaction when it was suggested she may have post-natal depression were quite dismissive and negative.

Sorry for such a long, rambling post but I hope this background information will help. Thanks in advance for anything you can share!

6 Replies

She might find the book Beyond Temptation by the Boss sisters has something useful for her. There are some quite interesting strategies. But it might be a case of you reading it and leaving it lying around rather than getting anything positive out of putting it in her hands.


Check out to see if there is an overeaters anonymous near you


Hi QueenoftheBlue,

Eating is very caught up with emotions, psychology and habit.

It's can actually be very hard to change the behaviours of a lifetime, which is usually what most people have to do - to some extent - to change their body weight. Eating habits can be deeply entrenched in us and caught up with all sorts of emotional stuff about our childhoods and other aspects of our lives.

And yes, some people do comfort eat, or boredom eat, or just have one biscuit and then suddently the whole packet has gone, or whatever.

And for some people a sort of 'cold turkey' approach works - the big, dramatic, banish every "naughty" thing from the house sort of strategy. For others it's more of a wean them off, one step at a time, approach.

The end result though will be a change in eating habits. Because it's her current eating habits (usually and very probably) that have caused her to become overweight.

That said, if there are other underlying medical issues then she would be well advised to talk with her GP about how such things might impact upon her attempts to lose weight (and vice versa).


This is a difficult one, but your mum is so lucky to have you to help. I think there is a generation of people who were always made to finish what was on our plates and leaving something is shameful and wasteful.

I know this seems simple but have you suggested keeping a food diary? I am always battling the weight and have tried lots of things. But this does make you conscious of what you are putting in your mouth.

If she smoked you could not give up smoking, but you can't just give up food therefore it's very tricky.

My mum also has diabetes and has been on a strict diet and cut out pretty much anything nice! She has done so well and been able to reduce her medication twice. I don't think I could have done what she has, but her family like you have been supportive. I continue to try and diet as I don't want to suffer the problems she has.

Good luck x



I understand what you're saying, and you're right to think that identifying the problem for yourself is the right place to start. Your Mum isn't doing that, though. You're doing it for her. This won't work. It has to be from herself, start in her own head. You're right that it's a 'mental block'. I've thought for a long time that weight problems are in the head, not in the belly.

You're correct when you write about what happened in her childhood. There are many, many people who grew up like this and heaven only knows what 'complexes' they've all suffered, and continue to suffer, as a result. 'Eat whatever is put in front of you even if you don't like it, there will be some poor little child somewhere who would eat it with gratitude'. 'The starving in Africa'. 'If you don't eat it now you'll sit there until you do, or you'll get it for the next meal and the next'. Then there's 'comfort food'. 'Oh you've fallen over, have a piece of cake'. Even when sweets were rationed we'd get a slice of cake or bread-and-jam.

I think the 'snacking without realising it' is a big part of the overall problem, which must be addressed. I used to go to a church which had refreshments after the service, and you could see people who really shouldn't, eating a biscuit or three with their cuppa. They weren't hungry and were just going home to a cooked lunch! Reminds me of my late first husband, only his problem was smoking. He'd do that almost without realising it, his hands would go through the motions and he wouldn't even think.


Thanks gang! The book looks like a start in helping her to recognise it in herself which is always the hardest part! There is such a focus on the physical losing of weight but in most people it is too simple to say, eat less move mor


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