Is food addiction a real disease? Am I a food addict?
When it comes to addiction, there are a variety of use disorders described in the medical literature. People are known to binge on all kinds of substances and activities. Yet, is food addiction truly a medical condition? If you have a frequent craving for certain foods and a tendency towards binge eating, you may be a food addict. But, does having a food addiction mean that you have an illness?
Is addiction a disease?
There have been experts who disagree with the disease model of addiction. Some say that people who are addicted are using their addiction to cope with a maladjustment to their environment. Maybe, if the addicted person where to be in more positive surroundings with friends who supported their success, there would be no addictive behavior. There would be no need for it. Whether this is true or not, having strong supporters and a healthy environment can’t hurt.
Eating disorders and food addiction.
There are serious food disorders that are life-threatening. A tendency to overeat out of control can be a part of such a disorder, such as bulimia nervosa. Yet, we should not assume that all people who are prone to compulsive eating fall into the category of serious mental illness that requires medical treatment. Should every person who hides a bag of chips in their car go to a psychiatrist? Is a persistent 30-60 extra pounds a good reason for urgent mental health intervention?
Not all levels of food addiction are the same.
As they say, some are sicker than others. There are people who have serious signs and symptoms relating to obesity. If a person with compulsive overeating develops morbid obesity and problems such as heart disease, diabetes and other physical obesity-related conditions, medical intervention is appropriate. Yet, it is possible to hav a binge eating condition and continue just below the radar of having a serious problem. Eating addiction does not always lead straight to being bed-ridden and 500 pounds.
Low self-esteem leads straight to binge eating.
If you have dealt with food addiction in your life, you know how it feels to try to start a new food plan. You want to be healthy and do the right thing. Then, when a “loved-one” gets in your face and tells you how disgustingly fat you are, does it motivate you to try harder? Do you bow your head in respect and say, “yes, I will no longer be eating unhealthy foods to excess. I will no longer give into those cravings for food. Thank you for your concern.” Unfortunately, being surrounded by malicious people who attack your self-esteem on a regular basis does not typically help to guide you to success.
Avoid attacks on your self-esteem.
Being attacked over binge eating does not help. If anything, it often makes the problem worse. If you are a food addict, you can clearly see that low self-esteem is a problem and maybe it would be improved by being surrounded by positive, loving and helpful people. Less of those angry, “tough love” people and their malicious attacks would be a great thing.
Certain foods can be trigger foods.
If you are dealing with food addiction, then you know what I mean. It could be nuts. Or, it could be popcorn, pizza, pretzels, chips, fries or many other foods. For whatever reason, when you eat a certain food, you binge. Maybe it is biochemical and related to the release of dopamine. Maybe, you just really love the feeling of eating those foods. While there are many tasty foods that are not trigger foods, you get a different feeling when you eat one of those special foods. Getting past the addictive behavior of food addiction requires being aware of your triggers. And, doing your best to avoid them.
Recovery Anonymous and 12-step programs.
There are 12-step meetings for food addiction. You can sit in a meeting for an hour with like-minded people and get to the root of your food addiction problem. However, you should be careful with committing to this lifestyle. Is it a good thing to persistently identify with your “disease”? And, is food addiction even a disease at all? Is it possible that you could make serious changes to your life to put food addiction behind you without 12-steps? We are all different. Different things work better for different people. If you find that you love the support and self-discovery of these programs, then 12-steps may be perfect for you. Yet, if you find that sitting in a Food Addicts Anonymous meeting day after day makes you miserable, it may not be the way for you, even if members of the group say it is the only way.
Willpower doesn’t work.
There have been studies and books written about willpower. It is generally accepted now that it is a limited power, like a muscle that you can use for a while and then it becomes fatigued. In fact, it is best to save your willpower for when it is needed and not count on it to keep your diet on track. It is better to stay away from the pizza and keep it out of your home than count on your ability to abstain. Avoiding those people who suck the life and energy from you with their negativity might help as well.
Get to know the foods that make you binge.
And, don’t forget to make a list of trigger foods. Do not touch even a little of these foods. Just stay away from them. You will find that you can design your life in such a way that the force of will is not needed to enforce healthy eating habits.
Is food a drug?
Unfortunately, we all have to eat. Yet, we do not all have to eat ice cream. Food and eating is a part of life. It is an important part of how we survive and keep living. It is also an enjoyable activity. There are many palatable foods that are healthy. If you are a food addict and trying to overcome difficult food cravings, do not think that you must stop enjoying eating.
One calorie is not equal to another.
Eating a healthy and delicious fruit is better than a chocolate chip cookie with the same calories. There are foods that are like drugs to the food addict. Those are the foods that trigger you to binge.. Many of them will tend to be high carb foods. Make your list and treat those foods like drugs. You must not eat even a little bit of those foods or you may end up back where you started.
Addiction and eating.
Food addiction is not like drug addiction. Heroin is a killer. Cocaine and speed destroy lives. Alcohol tears families apart. No one needs those drugs. They serve no useful purpose. Yet, when it comes to food addiction, you must find a way to co-exist happily with food. Addiction to food means learning to navigate the world of food and eating to see what works and what does not work for you. Having support in a food plan program can help. Weight Watchers is one of my favorites. It involves live support meetings and daily food tracking. Tracking is an important tool for success. If you track every food that you eat, you will take control of your food addiction. Also, consider a food coach. Coaching has become a big industry. You might be surprised how effective it can be to have someone guiding you and cheering you on.
As you begin your journey of healthy eating and overcoming food addiction, you will find powerful tools and allies along the way. And, you will learn about your particular weaknesses. Whatever you do, never give up. If you fail, get back up and try again. Learn from your failures and use what you learn to move onward towards success. If you would like to discuss food addiction and what you can do about it, please contact us here.