How To Overcome An Addiction
This article was co-authored by Tiffany Douglass, MA. Tiffany Douglass is the Founder of Wellness Retreat Recovery Center, a JCAHO accredited drug and alcohol treatment program based in San Jose, California. She is also the Executive Director for Midland Tennessee at JourneyPure. She has over ten years of experience in substance abuse treatment and was appointed a Global Goodwill Ambassador in 2019 for her efforts in residential addiction treatment. Tiffany earned a BA in Psychology from Emory University in 2004 and an MA in Psychology with an emphasis on Organization Behavior and Program Evaluation from Claremont Graduate University in 2006.wikiHow marks an article as reader-approved once it receives enough positive feedback. This article received 25 testimonials and 100% of readers who voted found it helpful, earning it our reader-approved status. This article has been viewed 1,122,411 times.
Theres a myth out there that addiction is inescapable or something thats locked in for life, but thats definitely not the case. In fact, more people succeed at overcoming their addiction than fail.XResearch source Acknowledging that youre addicted to something and wanting to change are the first steps, so youre on the right track! This article will show you how to come up with a plan for overcoming your addiction and stick with it, even when things get tough.
How To Overcome Your Processed Food Addiction And Stop Feeling Powerless To Food
Intellectually, you probably know that processed foods are not an ideal choice since they make you feel like crap, throw off your microbiome, and increase risk of;cancer;and;obesity. But that likely does not stop you from finishing off your kids candy or searching the pantry late at night for cookies. Maybe you are trying to take the healthier route so you resort to eating three kind bars instead. If you are like most of my clients then youll experience an elevated mood from the sugar, followed by anxiety-provoking guilt a few minutes after. If this emotional rollercoaster sounds familiar, you are not alone. Ive worked with thousands of patients who have all expressed extreme frustration with their intense cravings and feelings of helplessness to the power of food. When it comes to highly addictive substances, knowledge does not always equal follow through.
Identifying If You Suffer From A Food Addiction
Food addiction carries a number of tell-tale signs. These signs are commonly known as symptoms.
Below I list these symptoms:
- You eat food in order to cope with negative emotions such as stress
- Your mind is constantly preoccupied with food to the point of obsession
- You eat food even though you are aware of the negative health consequences of doing so
- You eat so much food that you suffer from nausea or to the point where you vomit
- You do not possess any self-control when it comes to your appetite
- You lie about how much food you eat
- You feel a sense of self-disgust about your appearance and you eat to drown your sorrows
- You wake up in the middle of the night to eat food
- Eating is more about pleasure than satisfying your appetite
- You hide food around the house/office
- You hide food away from your loved-one
- You feel depressed/regret/guilt after binge eating
- You eat long after you are full
- Binge eating episodes last for around two hours, but sometimes lasts an entire day
- You get very angry when food is not available/denied to you
Although an addiction to food may begin at any age, most sufferers will develop the addiction in their adolescence or early adulthood.
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Best Practices: How To Train Your Brain To Crave Healthily
Why Is Junk Food so Dangerous for Human Being?
Excessive passion for processed food and snacks belongs to the top reasons for obesity and high disease rates in different countries all over the world, but Americans are the undisputed leaders. They spend more $60 billion a year on snack foods, and this figure is very frightening. Unprocessed foods are created by nature, thats why human body easily digests them; taste and consistency of such food easily satiate hunger. In contrast to that, junk food and other processed foods contain a big amount of salt, sugar, and flavour enhancers that are very addictive.
Effective Tips How to Train the Brain to Be Healthy Food Addicted
1. Take a clear look at your cravings. Our brain consumes a lot of energy, for that reason it constantly needs nutrients. On the one hand, foods rich in fats and carbs give a powerful boost of energy and activate the production of dopamine that makes us feel happy. On the other hand, they cause addiction circuits in the way described above in order to anticipate their eating by people. To prevent cravings before they begin is the best solution to break the addiction cycle. You should consume more healthy good-tasting foods rich in carbs, as their digestion takes more time and abates the link between the taste of foods and the hyperactivation of the addiction centers.
The Relationship Between Alcohol & Processed Foods
A;2015 paper;from the American College of Nutrition explains this relationship between addictions to alcohol and processed foods:
When processed food addiction is compared to substance-based addictions such as alcoholism and smoking, a clear, consistent disease concept emerges. The similarities between alcohol addiction and processed food addiction include neuro-dysfunction of cravings and suppression of cognitive function, genetics, impulsive and irritable behavior, mood disorders, conformance to addiction diagnostic criteria, family patterns, young age of onset, a fetal syndrome, serious consequences, disrupted careers and relationships, and food industry business practices of advertising, pricing, marketing to children and easy availability. Abstinence has also shown to be effective in treatment.
I find that to be so profound. According to this research paper, alcohol addiction in the 18th;century and processed food addiction today are based on the same 5-A Equation. This includes five words that begin with the letter A that are necessary for creating highly addictive substances. Here are the 5 As:
Availability:;Make the substance available everywhere 24/7
Affordability:;Produce the product for as cheap as possible & make it seem like an irresistible value
Addictive properties in the product:;Add components that keep people hooked and coming back for more
Advertising:;Spend millions of dollars on marketing to create a new norm in society
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How To Overcome Fast Food Addiction
Nowadays, fast food is an indispensable part of the life of many people. The tendency to eat such food has led to the fact that people began to search for efficient ways to deal with this harmful habit, particularly this fast foods harmful consequences. Although there are lots of reasons why you eat unhealthy food, it is important to understand that you can get rid of this habit if you really want to. And Im here to help you today.
Why Do People Develop A Food Addiction
Eating is an enjoyable activity for most people. A good meal surrounded by friends and family is a great way to destress and connect with the people you care about. Unfortunately, food addicts use eating as a way to escape from their feelings, or cope with the symptoms of a more serious issue.
Mental health professionals believe that most food addicts develop a problem in response to certain mental disorders, like depression, anxiety, trauma or PTSD. When someone eats junk food, it creates a chemical reaction in the brain that produces feelings of satisfaction and pleasure. As a result, stress levels drop and negative feelings disappeartemporarily. Once the symptoms start to come back, the person has to binge again , and the cycle continues.
However, food addiction can also be a problem for people who have poor self-esteem or deal with other social issues. Its not uncommon for people to turn to food as a coping mechanism if theyre dealing with a difficult home life, peer pressure, social isolation, abuse or even a lack of social support.
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Why Is Junk Food Addictive
Sugar, fat and other ingredients commonly found in junk food can cause us to become addicted to these foods.; Eating a lot of sugar and fat causes the release of dopamine in the body, which is a chemical that makes us feels good.; Consequently, we want to have this feeling more often and turn to sweet foods to get it.
Sugary foods also generally cause a large spike in blood glucose levels, which drops rapidly, leaving us hungry and craving more sugar.; Lack of sugar in the diet of a person who normally consumes a lot has also been associated with opiate like withdrawal effects in the body.
Apart from this physiological effect of junk food, there is also the fact that it tastes good.; Fast food companies spend a lot of money developing the tastiest products they can and the result is we like to eat them.; Flavours, salt and MSG all contribute to the palatability of these foods and as we become accustomed to these ingredients, we may need more and more.
The Most Addictive Foods
The foods that people are most likely to compulsively overeat tend to have something in common: A powerful combination of carbohydrates and fat.
You wont find many examples of this irresistible combo in nature. For example, rice is high in carbohydrates but low in fat, while nuts are high in fat but have minimal carbs. But processed food companies can mix ingredients and chemically exaggerate flavors to create taste sensations so appealing that you keep wanting more.
In a study where researchers asked people what foods they were most likely to overeat, some of the most common responses were:
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What Is Food Addiction
Simply, food addiction is being addicted to junk foods in the same way that people are addicted to alcohol and drugs.
Think about it: Why can some people buy a pint of ice cream and have it last the month, while others set out to have one bowl, but end up eating the whole container? This mirrors the classic struggle of an alcoholic: having just one is practically impossible.
Mark Hyman, MD, offers another good example in his writing about food addiction: Imagine a massive bowl of broccoli or apple slices. Can you think of anyone who binges on broccoli? That is to say they start eating it and cant stop until it is all gone?
Now picture that same massive bowl full of potato chips, or a huge plate of cookies, or litre of coke. It is easy to imagine those foods disappearing in one sitting while the consumer feels helplessly satisfied and ill at the same time.
This is true because broccoli and apples are not addictive, but processed foods such as ice cream, cookies, and soda can become addictive substances.
Admitting Your Powerlessness Over Porn Addiction
In the first step, you have to admit that you are powerless over your addiction, that your life has been so affected that you have lost complete control. Your addiction has started to harm your relationships, career, and overall health.
The good thing is that the minute you start thinking, I need help for porn addiction, you have already taken a major step.
To strengthen your commitment, it is recommended that you take a powerlessness inventory. Write down all the ways porn addiction has affected your life. Add examples of the harm it has caused you and how you have harmed others.
This can even be an ongoing process throughout your recovery as revisiting the fact that you are powerless over this addiction would work as a motivation for you to strive harder to get that control back over your life.
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How To Stop Junk Food Addiction
For many people, a diet based on junk food is a way of life.; Whilst they are aware of the repercussions for their health, they often feel that they are incapable of changing their way of eating.
These people usually know what types of food they should be putting into their bodies, however, they are powerless to make these changes, relying instead on a constant fix of fat and sugar to get them through the day.; As with alcohol, or stronger drugs, addiction to junk food can be an incredibly dangerous situation for our health.
What Is Food Obsession
Sometimes its hard to know whats normal when it comes to thinking about food. I mean, we NEED it, right? So we kinda need to think about it. True. But there is a line that can be crossed from general thinking about food because our bodies need fuel to becoming straight up obsessed with food. Here are a few signs you might be struggling, or are on your way to struggling with, food obsession:
- Not being able to fully concentrate on other tasks between meals because youre planning the next time youll eat
- Becoming stressed, anxious or angry if your planned meal/snack changes
- Constantly tallying calories, points, macros, amount of veggies/fruits eaten, etc.
- Avoiding social situations that may involve food in order to stay in control
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Tips For Overcoming Your Processed Food Addiction
Ok so that was probably a combination of enlightening and depressing! The point in telling you all of this is not to elicit fear but in fact to help you understand why you experience the cravings and addictions to certain foods. Now that you know, lets dive into my top tips for overcoming your processed food addiction.
1. Stop allowing yourself to believe that your value is tied to your eating habits.;Its a lie! Eating processed foods does not make you worse than others and abstaining does not make you better. The choice of how to fuel your body is yours to make.
2. If there are times that you eat processed foods, do not beat yourself up. The faster that you stand back up and rebound, the more you have created a sustainable lifestyle. Im going to give you my own example. I usually eat 1-2 squares of dark chocolate a few nights per week but one day this past week, I decided to eat the whole bar which contained 16 grams of sugar. I never felt guilty about doing that. I didnt feel like I went off plan. I ate it and enjoyed it and moved on. Heres what you have to remember: make the best choices that you can and move on. If you direct your energy on the past then you wont have the momentum that you need to move forward.
4. Eat regularly throughout the day.;This helps to keep blood sugar levels stable throughout the day. The less that you frontload your calories the more tempted you will be to engage in processed foods.
How Does It Work
Food addiction hijacks your brains reward system in the same way as other addictions.
Studies reveal that high-fat, high-sugar, processed foods affect the brain in the same way as drugs such as heroin and cocaine. These foods affect neurotransmitters such as dopamine in the brain eating these foods makes us feel good temporarily and crave more.
Foods that are high in refined sugar, wheat, or salt or a factory developed combination of all three ingredients to create a highly palatable food are the most problematic when it comes to addiction. Most of todays junk foods are designed to be as addictive as possible, which keeps people coming back for more .
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Tip #: Make Peace With Your Body
One of the big reasons food rules develop is because we want to manipulate the size/shape/weight of our bodies. In order to make peace with food you have got to learn to make peace with your body. This is SO important that we devote an entire stage to it in The SociEATy.
And if you’re like “Colleen… Okay so that’s all great but I want to be HEALTHY!” I gotchu. Weight and body size are NOT great indicators of health. I want you to be healthy, gorgeous. I mean, as a Registered Dietitian that’s kinda my job, right?
You truly can be healthy at any size . Kinda like we all have different shoe sizes or the way a Chihuahua looks different from a German Shepard, we all have unique body shapes and sizes.
I teach how to implement gentle nutrition to honor your health AND make peace with food. I have an entire blog post on what gentle nutrition is and also one of my fave tools for implementing it, the food and mood journal.
Stop Drinking Alcohol And Caffeine
Both these beverages reduce inhibitions and cause poor dieting choices. With coffee and other drinks that are high in caffeine, the body begins to crave sugary coffee cakes or doughnuts. Plus, too much caffeine can create anxiety and for too many people junk food and emotional eating have become the most effective tools to treat anxiety.
Alcohol definitely lowers inhibitions more than coffee or other drinks with other caffeine content. Theres also a high likelihood that the bar or restaurant will have addictive foods like chicken wings and french fries and drinking lots of alcohol will only make it more likely that a relapse will occur. If youre alcohol dependent, you might want to handle that first. One addiction at a time.
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