Keep Your Goals In Mind
Setting short- and long-term goals and referring to them often may help you stay on track and reduce the urge to overeat.
Knowing the reason for overcoming overeating and how overeating is preventing you from reaching your health and wellness goals can motivate you to work toward establishing new eating patterns.
Jotting down motivational quotes and hanging them in prominent places around your living space can help inspire you to stick to a plan throughout the day.
Summary Identify specific short- and long-term eating goals and refer to them often. It can even be helpful to place motivational quotes around your home.
Ways To Help If You Think You Have A Food Addiction
When thinking about addictive substances, most people will put illicit drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes at the top of the list, without even giving a second thought to the food they consume on a daily basis. That makes sense, given that food addiction is not currently included in The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders , the standard classification used by mental health professionals in the United States to diagnose addiction. However, perhaps it should be, as there are more than 100 million adults considered obese in the U.S. compared with the countrys 17.6 million alcoholics and one million chronic heroin users. Is using food Americas drug of choice?
The jury is still out, so to speak, when it comes to classifying food as an addiction. On the pro side, scientific research shows us that certain palatable foods can create a reaction similar to the impact drugs have on our brain. For example, when a person repeatedly eats sugar, which is hidden in so many of the foods that we consume, it causes dopamine to be released in reward-related areas of the brain. These same areas of the brain are activated when you drink alcohol or smoke cigarettes. The reward from eating sugar can lead to further eating, ultimately making it hard to cut back on intake.
If you or someone you know is struggling with food addiction, here are five topics to consider as an intervention:
Ways To Beat Your Food Addiction
And nix your stress-eating for good
Its an all-too-common scenario: You wake up in the morning swearing todays the day when youll eat clean, nourish yourself with a healthy breakfast at home, and pass up the glistening bakery goodies that tempt you every day. You make it to work without incident and then stress hitsany kind of stress, from a new project deadline to a caustic remark from your boss. A little while later, you find yourself with pastries in hand, wolfing down sugary anesthetics and wanting more. When you finally pop out of your food trance, and the reality of what youve done begins to settle in, the ensuing feelings of shame and guilt stoke your stress levels more and youre already plotting your next food fix. You wonder: Why do I keep caving to these cravings? Wheres my discipline and willpower?
This is your brain addicted to food.
Thats right. Addicted. You might tell yourself, “Im not addicted to food I just love a good sweet now and then.” Well, Im here to tell you that food addiction is real it affects more people than you know, and manufacturers actually design food products so that they are as addicting as possible. Yes, that perfect combination of salty, sweet, and savory was created to make sure you keep reaching for more. Thats why I wrote The Hunger Fix, because I want to change the game that is rigged against you.
Here are six ways to beat food addiction:
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Give Volumetrics A Try
Volumetrics is a way to eat that focuses on filling up on low calorie, high fiber foods like non-starchy vegetables.
Consuming foods that are low in calories and high in fiber and water before meals can help you feel full, which might decrease overeating.
Examples of volumetrics-friendly foods include grapefruit, salad greens, broccoli, beans, tomatoes, and low-sodium broth.
Eating a large salad or bowl of low-sodium, broth-based soup before lunch and dinner may be an effective way to prevent overeating.
Summary Use the volumetrics method of eating fill up on healthy, low-calorie, high-fiber foods to help promote feeling full.
Underlying Problems May Cause Food Addiction
Similarities between food addiction and other addictions suggest a universal process underlying food and other addictions. Some experts go further, citing overlaps, similarities, and co-occurrences of mental health problems, including addictions, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and eating disorders. There is also the phenomenon of a new addiction or mental health problem developing when an old addiction is treated, which indicates underlying pathologies. It has been argued that viewing these conditions separately hinders the development of a comprehensive view of addictions.
More evidence is needed to support these proposed ideas, and at present, professionals differ in the extent to which they see these problems as related.
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What It Means To Have A Food Addiction
A food addict is technically anyone who is overly preoccupied with food, eating, and body image. That doesnt mean someone who appreciates a good meal or loves to go out to dinner. With a food addiction, the person also relies on food for comfort. A food addict may use food to fill in for something that is missing in their lives, such as love or strong friendships. There may be biological, psychological, or social reasons why someone develops a food addiction. Food addicts use foodespecially sugary foodslike any other addict uses an addictive substance. In fact, in laboratory studies, sugar addicts show changes in brain patterns and activity similar to other addicts.
Everyone has both a biological and psychological relationship with food. The biological is obvious: you must eat to thrive and survive. If you have a healthy relationship with food, that means routinely eating nutritious and well-balanced meals and snacks that consist of just enough foodnot too little and not too muchto sustain your energy levels and maintain your weight within a healthy range.
Tip #: Harm Reduction
Harm reduction is a term Ive borrowed from the field of drug addiction treatment.
A classic example of harm reduction is substituting heroin for methadone.
But how does this apply to food addiction?
The answer is simple: food addicts are advised to substitute unhealthy foods for healthier alternatives.
So instead of eating chocolate throughout the day, eat cashew nuts or gluten-free chocolate.
Or instead of eating ice cream, eat frozen yogurt.
Instead of pouring white sugar on your porridge, use honey.
The examples could go on and on!
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The Science Of Sugar Addiction
Since sugar is by far the most addictive food type, it makes sense to cover the science behind sugar addiction.
The biochemical underpinning for sugar addiction can be explained in four simple steps:
- Step 1 An increase in blood sugar forces the pancreas to secrete insulin. The insulin breaks down sugar so blood sugar levels drop
- Step 2 When blood sugar levels drop, a signal is sent to the brain telling it blood sugar levels need to rise
- Step 3 The brain releases hormones that cause cravings for sugar. The person also feels weak and slightly agitated
- Step 4 The sugar addict then binges on sugary items in order to satisfy these cravings
Real Talk On Food Addiction & Recovery
It was an adjustment at first but I soon found myself really benefiting from their program of healthy, prepared meals, classes, meetings and counselling sessions. I learned for the first time in my life that Im not a bad person, but that I have a disease. I learned that Im not like other people. I learned that when I eat my trigger foods, my mind and body undergo actual physical changes that are chemically induced abnormalities or illnesses. I learned that it is a progressive disease and that it only becomes worse without treatment.
I learned that unless I abstain from these trigger foods, I cannot recover.
Food addiction is real and recovery is possible. Just like with drugs and alcohol, people can experience an addictive effect from eating certain foods, which in turn can lead to food compulsions, serious addictions, and related health conditions. At Renascent, we know food compulsion and addiction are often misunderstood, minimized, and misdiagnosed.
As an accredited national leader in treating addiction for nearly 50 years, we offer Canadas only intensive inpatient and outpatient programs specifically for food addiction. Weve helped over 50,000 people recover from addiction. We can help you too.
In this article, well help you understand food addiction, the signs and symptoms you should watch out for, how a food addiction can be treated, and the best steps for lifelong healing and recovery.
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How To Prevent Or Overcome Food Addiction
Food addiction is difficult to prevent because its impossible to avoid food. However, one of the best strategies is to avoid overexposure to palatable foods by eating a healthy, balanced diet thats rich in natural, unprocessed foods. Eating a balanced diet and understanding the warning signs of food addiction will help you to act quickly if you suspect a problem.
Overcoming food addiction typically involves following the same model thats used to treat other types of addictionsand youll need a solid plan and plenty of support.
- First, youll need to detoxify your body by avoiding trigger foods, such as fast food or foods with processed sugar. During this time, you may experience withdrawal symptoms that can range from mild to severe.
- After you detoxify your body, youll need to work on changing your eating behaviors. You may need to avoid certain people, places , situations and foods that intensify cravings or make you more likely to consume the problem food. You also may need to break associations between food and routines or events, such as eating ice cream before bed or having buttery popcorn at the movie theater.
- Other strategies that can help include tracking your food consumption, preplanning your meals and eating mindfully.
If you need professional support to help you lose weight, talk to your primary care physician to see what options may be right for you.
How Is Food Addiction Different From Other Forms Of Overeating
If you overeat at most of your meals, or have the occasional out-of-control binge eating episode, are you addicted to food?
Pretty much everyone experiences periods of overeating, and/or instances of binge eating.
As the following continuum shows, its only when urges and compulsive behavior around food become severe, frequent, and chronic that a person can be diagnosed with an eating disorder or food addiction.3,4,5
As you may notice, binge eating disorder and food addiction share several major similarities.
But food addictionwhich more closely resembles a substance use disorderis more severe than BED because it causes even more life disruption.
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Case Study: Mary 35 Years Old
Mary is overweight and considered clinically obese.
At an early age, Mary turned to food tobury her sorrows and to blank these insults out of her mind.
As a result, she put on more weight. This made Mary feel even worse.
Shes now dangerously overweight, and still binge eating to make her feel better.
She eats all the wrong foods to make her feel better.
Foods such as pizza, fries, ice-cream, fried chicken and milkshakes.
When Mary finishes work, she stops off at a fast food drive-through.
And when Mary returns home, she eats all the food in his fridge until she vomits.
Following episodes of binge eating, Mary feels very depressed and a strong sense of self-disgust.
What is going on?
Food Addiction: Where’s The Beef
Not long ago, when ads for a potato-chip manufacturer were teasing consumers with the challenge, “Betcha can’t eat just one!”, they may have really meant it!
Food manufacturers have done an exquisite job of recognizing and tapping into our cravings, using persuasive ads and alluring packaging to keep their products tumbling into our shopping carts. “There are so many processed foods that are not only calorically dense, but they also stimulate dopamine production that makes us feel good,” says Goldhamer.
On the other hand, many nutritional experts believe that there are more important risks associated with processed foods that have nothing to do with addictions. “The problem with processed food is that you digest it so quickly that it’s out of your stomach in no time and you still feel hungry,” says Michael Roizen, MD, author of Cooking the Real Age Way. “If you take the fiber out of food, you get a lot of empty calories.”
While lobbyists for food manufacturers may minimize the risks of plates brimming with meat, cheese, and other high-fat items, Roizen says he believes that eating more than 20 grams a day of bad fats such as saturated fats and trans fats can contribute to breast and prostate cancers, as well as what he calls “arterial aging,” which may lead to heart disease, stroke, impotence, memory loss, and even skin wrinkling.
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Binge Eating Recovery Tip : Develop A Healthier Relationship With Food
Recovery from any addiction is challenging, but it can be especially difficult to overcome binge eating and food addiction. Unlike other addictions, your drug is necessary for survival, so you dont have the option of avoiding or replacing it. Instead, you need to develop a healthier relationship with fooda relationship thats based on meeting your nutritional needs, not your emotional ones. To do this, you have to break the binge eating cycle by:
Avoiding temptation. Youre much more likely to overeat if you have junk food, desserts, and unhealthy snacks in the house. Remove the temptation by clearing your fridge and cupboards of your favorite binge foods.
Listening to your body. Learn to distinguish between physical and emotional hunger. If you ate recently and dont have a rumbling stomach, youre probably not really hungry. Give the craving time to pass.
Eating regularly. Dont wait until youre starving. This only leads to overeating! Stick to scheduled mealtimes, as skipping meals often leads to binge eating later in the day.
Not avoiding fat. Contrary to what you might think, dietary fat can actually help keep you from overeating and gaining weight. Try to incorporate healthy fat at each meal to keep you feeling satisfied and full.
Fighting boredom. Instead of snacking when youre bored, distract yourself. Take a walk, call a friend, read, or take up a hobby such as painting or gardening.
How To Overcome Food Addiction: Learning To Eat For Strength
Food addiction can be a unique condition in that it often is best treated through multiple therapy modalities-including modalities not directly related to psychology and psychotherapy. Eating therapy, nutritional therapy, and medical evaluation can all play a role in the journey to overcoming food addiction, as there may be far more than one factor at play. There are distinct physiological responses that occur when an individual overeats, restricts food, or eats food in response to stress or overwhelm, and working through these patterns can help improve the likelihood of overcoming food addiction.
Perhaps one of the greatest aids in shifting attitudes about food, food addiction, and behaviors toward food is the understanding that food is not a reward or punishment. Food is not to be withheld from the naughty and heaped upon the worthy. Food is quite literally the fuel the body relies upon to function day in and day out and plays a role as critical to existence as air. Unlike many other addictive substances, food is not illicit, or inherently damaging it is life-giving and life-sustaining. Overcoming food addiction and learning to eat for strength, involves multiple angles. These include:
Healing from Food Addiction
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Social Factors: Whats Around You
In animal research, addictive eating behaviors only happen when theyre given highly-processed foods.5
This isnt to say that processed foods cause addictive eating. Its just that their presence, combined with other biological and psychological vulnerabilities, makes food addiction more likely.
And due to social factors, some people are exposed to highly-processed foods more often than others.
Imagine you live in a food desertan area that has poor access to affordable, fresh, and minimally-processed food. If all you can get at your local grocery store is packaged snack foods, white bread, and maybe some canned fruit, your nutrition and appetite will be harder to manage.
Similarly, not having enough money to buy healthy foods on a regular basis can make an impact. Naturally, you might do like our ancestors and stock up when calories are available. Some research supports this: Higher rates of food insecurity are associated with disordered eating behaviors like binge eating.31
You can also pick up on social cues around food.
If youve grown up with friends and family that regularly overeat, or use food to soothe, comfort, or entertain, they might encourage you to do the same.
Even when you want to change, swimming against the current can be hard.
How Food Addiction Happens
Food addiction isnt caused by one single thing.
For example, you cant just blame it on genetics.
Factors like the amount of stress in someones life, how they respond to that stress, how lonely they feel, where they live, and who they spend time with also make an impact.
In other words, like most health issues, food addiction arises out of a jumble of biological, psychological, and social factors.
Lets go into those categories now.
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