Jamie went through a tough transition after leaving the Marine Corps. She lost interest in eating and had trouble sleeping. Her mom noticed her weight loss and urged her to find support. Jamie began seeing a social worker and a psychologist and found ways to overcome stress and anxiety, which improved her sleep and appetite.
What are eating problems?
Do you have days when you just don’t feel like eating? Or, maybe you are binging on food some days and not eating much on others. Have you noticed a loss of appetite because you’re feeling blue? Or, when you feel stressed out, do you turn to food to make yourself feel better? These things can be signs of eating problems, or even an eating disorder.
Although everyone experiences stress or sadness at some point in their lives, people respond to it differently. Some Veterans may find that because they feel down, they are having trouble eating. Others may find the only thing that makes them feel better is eating, but then they feel more upset later for overeating.
“After talking to my counselor, I realized I was eating food as a way to get comfort. It wasn’t until my counselor pointed it out to me that I saw my eating issues were really related to how I was handling stress.”
These kinds of eating habits may be responses to stress from events experienced in combat, other military situations, or civilian life. Sometimes, personal or work-related situations are connected to eating problems. If left unchecked, eating problems can affect your health and the way you feel about yourself, and could even result in unhealthy weight loss or gain. Other times, eating problems are related to other issues that should be addressed, such as chronic pain, guilt, depression, and problems with drugs.
If I’m experiencing eating problems, what can I do about it right away?
“Eating fast was a survival skill when I was deployed. I would eat massive amounts of food without thinking about what I was actually putting in my body. It took me a while to adjust to eating normally when I got back. I really had to concentrate on my diet – something I’d never had to do before.”
Try to find healthy ways of managing stress, such as taking a walk, going for a run, talking to a friend, practicing relaxation exercises like deep breathing or meditation, or doing something nice for yourself like watching a movie or reading a magazine
Develop a plan for good nutrition with regular healthy meals and portion sizes
Exercise regularly to help maintain a healthy appetite
Get the right amount of sleep—seven to nine hours each night is ideal for most adults
Talking to your family and friends can be a good first step. You may want to talk to them about your symptoms. They may be able to provide support and help you to find solutions for your eating problems that are right for you. If you need to lose weight, having someone to support you in making healthy choices can be very helpful.
Take the next step – Make the connection.
Every day, Veterans who served in the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard connect with proven resources and effective treatments for eating disorders. If eating problems are affecting your health and well-being or getting in the way of your relationships, work, or daily activities, you may want to reach out for support. Consider connecting with:
Your family doctor: Ask if your doctor has experience treating Veterans or can refer you to someone who does
A mental health professional, such as a therapist
Your local VA Medical Center or Vet Center: VA specializes in the care and treatment of Veterans
A spiritual or religious advisor
Explore these resources for more information about eating problems in Veterans.
Learn more about the possible associations between eating problems and other issues such as stress and anxiety, depression, problems with drugs, posttraumatic stress, and bipolar disorder.
VA Medical Center Facility Locator
Eating problems could be a sign of other health conditions that need attention. This website will allow you to search for VA programs located near you. If you are eligible to receive care through the Veterans Health Administration, you can enroll in one of VA’s treatment programs.
If you are a combat Veteran or experienced any sexual trauma during your military service, bring your DD214 to your local Vet Center and speak with a counselor or therapist—many of whom are Veterans themselves—for free, without an appointment, and regardless of your enrollment status with VA.