Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Compulsive Overeating & Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD)

  • Do you often overeat?
  • Do you have floppy muscle tone & hate to exercise? 
  • Do you often feel, lazy & lethargic, even depressed?
    If you answered yes to these questions your over-eating may be a result of sensory processing disorder (SPD), a common condition in which you misperceive and misconstrue sensori-motor information and behave out of proportion to the messages coming from the environment. 
     One sign of SPD is low muscle tone which makes it hard to move your body against gravity and moving takes effort. Consequently, you don’t exercise much. Instead,you passively seek sensation by over-eating food with intense taste, especially rich food, and you gain weight easily. 
     If you have low muscle tone and are relatively inactive, you will also overeat because chewing offers needed proprioceptive input (sense of body awareness) into the jaws to balance you -- think of how sucking quickly calms and organizes the infant.  And so you crunch, chomp and chew away as a quick way to self-regulate the nervous system.
     If you are out of touch with your body, you also may not feel hungry or satiated from poor interoception, the sense that governs internal regulation and tells us when we are hungry, thirsty or when we feel sick. As such, it’s difficult to gauge when to stop eating. And feeling full puts you in touch with your body as proprioception is strong along the GI tract.
   What’s more, having extra weight is oddly comforting. The heavier you are, the more gravity has to work on and the more firm is your grip to the earth, giving you better body awareness (proprioception) and ability to feel your edges. Unknowingly you overeat to feel more grounded and secure. 
   This may be one of the reasons why most heavy people regain the weight back. Some women will become frequently pregnant as pregnancy adds weight, enhancing bodily sensation and body awareness, as does holding and carrying a baby.
    Inability to lose weight may also relate to gravitational insecurity, suggests Kathryn Smith, an occupational therapist in England. If we feel grounded, we feel secure moving through space and having our body leave the ground, as when jumping, diving, trampolining, riding elevators. “But without gravitational security about our body's relationship to gravity, we are unable to free ourselves from being stuck down to earth,” says Smith, and to feel grounded, you need to keep your feet firmly planted to the earth. If you do lose weight, you may feel an unbearable lightness of being as if you will float off into the air. Hypothesizes Smith, “those who fit the profile may have fearful dreams of flying off in space. 


  1. Sorry. Had a comment. Not sure if it posted as Firefox crashed (happens a lot lately). I had what I felt was some pretty important input which was relevant to my experience and that of some of the students I've been working with over the past 15 years, but with the crash, I don't think it was sent. I mostly agree with your blog, but my experience leads me to disagree slightly. I don't think that the gravitational insecurity description for overweight people with SPD is as predominant as your first description - the receptors in the jaw, and the pleasant taste may be the culprit. Especially for those of us who have in the past been rewarded with edibles for good behavior. Sorry for the redundancy if my post actually was successful, but not sure how to check it. Thanks!

  2. Thanks for your feedback Carol. So few people are aware of how sensory processing impacts over-eating.