What are eating problems?
You may 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, people respond to these emotions differently. Some Veterans may find that, because they feel down, they're having trouble eating. Others may find that eating when they're sad or depressed makes them feel better, 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.”
If left unchecked, eating problems can affect your health and the way you feel about yourself, and they could lead to unhealthy weight loss or gain. Eating problems may also be related to other conditions that should be addressed, such as chronic pain, guilt, depression, and problems with drugs. These challenges can contribute to eating problems and also make it hard to follow your doctor's dietary recommendations for a healthy lifestyle. In some cases, what or how you eat can make other problems worse or reduce the effectiveness of medications.
If I’m experiencing eating problems, what can I do about it right away?
- 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.
- Eat regular, healthful meals and snacks to maintain your appetite and reduce the likelihood of overeating.
- Work to improve your health overall. Exercise regularly and 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 what you're experiencing. They may be able to provide support and help you to find solutions for your eating problems that are right for you. Having someone's support as you improve your eating habits can be very helpful.
Take the next step to connect with care.
Every day, Veterans from all military service branches and eras connect with proven resources and effective treatments for eating disorders. Here’s how to take the next step: the one that’s right for you.
Read VA's latest coronavirus information. If you have flu-like symptoms such as fever, cough, and shortness of breath, please call before you visit your local medical center or clinic. If you have an appointment, consider making it a telehealth appointment.
New to VA? Apply for health care benefits.
- Getting started is simple. Create a free account online to help ease your enrollment process. To prepare to apply for VA health care in person, by telephone, or by mail, explore VA’s “How to Apply” page.
- Not sure whether you are eligible for VA health care benefits? Read about eligibility for VA health care.
- Unsure of what kind of help you need? Call 1-877-222-VETS (1-877-222-8387) to find the right resources to meet your needs, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET. If you have hearing loss, call TTY: 1-800-877-8339.
- Veterans’ family members and caregivers can see whether they qualify for VA medical benefits as a spouse, surviving spouse, dependent child, or caregiver. Explore family and caregiver health benefits.
Already enrolled in VA and interested in mental health support? Schedule a mental health appointment.
- If you’re already enrolled and using VA health care, the fastest way to schedule VA appointments is to call the VA facility where you want to receive care.
- With VA Appointments tools, you can schedule some VA health care appointments online, view details about upcoming appointments, and organize your health care calendar.
- If you’re not using VA medical services, contact your nearest VA medical center or Vet Center to talk about your needs.
What about other options at VA? VA offers a variety of tools and resources.
- The Veteran Training online self-help portal for overcoming everyday challenges includes modules on managing anger, developing parenting and problem-solving skills, and more.
- Mental health apps for Veterans cover a variety of topics, ranging from PTSD to anger management to quitting smoking.
- VA TeleMental Health connects you with a VA mental health provider through a computer or mobile device in your home or at your nearest VA health facility. You can learn more about this option from your local VA medical center.
- Vet Centers provide support, counseling, and readjustment services for Veterans and active duty service members (including members of the National Guard and Reserve) who have served on active military duty in any combat theater or area of hostility or have experienced a military sexual trauma. Find a Vet Center near you or call 1-877-WAR-VETS (1-877-927-8387) to talk with a fellow combat Veteran about your experiences, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
What about support beyond VA?
There’s a whole community of support ready to help with whatever you’re going through. Use this tool to find resources near you.
Explore these resources for more information about Veterans with eating problems.
Learn more about what you can do if you are experiencing specific concerns related to eating problems, such as stress and anxiety, depression, problems with drugs, posttraumatic stress, and bipolar disorder.