“Fight the cravings,” says your brain. “That looks delicious…” screams your tummy. Food addiction is real and it’s one of the most debilitating illnesses affecting our modern society.
You might think that there’s no way someone can get addicted to food but study after study reveals that it’s possible. There are people who are addicted to food (junk foods), in the same way, drug addicts are addicted to drugs. In this article, we’ll find out what food addiction really is, along with tips on how to overcome it.
Food Addiction: What It is and What it Isn’t
Food addiction is like any other addiction. It is a disease that changes the brain, causing people to act out of control, and compulsively engage with the substance or activity which causes their addiction.
Highly controversial and still in its beginning stages, food addiction research are often split into two kinds of argument. While some food scientists believe that food addiction is a biochemical problem caused by highly palatable and extremely addictive food, other food experts and doctors believe that food addiction is just like other psychologically-based addiction and are caused by emotional stress.
But how do you know you’re suffering from food addiction? Or just someone who likes food a LOT. The following are signs you may be suffering from food addiction:
- you think about food most of the time
- you have frequent mood swings (which is only relieved by eating)
- you feel out of control every meal time
- you feel unsatisfied after having a meal
- you have difficulty managing weight (plus you feel insecure about your body)
- you sneak to eat because you feel guilty (but you do it anyway)
Overcoming Food Addiction: How To Develop a Healthy Relationship with Food
Whether you think food is the enemy or not, it’s not too late to change. Listed below are healthy ways to beat the cravings and end your unhealthy addiction to food.
- Start by Mindful Eating
Mindfulness. The word itself radiates calm and peace like you’re in one of those zen gardens surrounded by flowers and lily pots. A term used in Buddhist meditation, mindfulness is all about maintaining a present-moment awareness of your feelings, thoughts, and senses as you interact with your environment.
To eat mindfully is simply to pay more attention to the food you eat. It is all about “eating with intention and attention”. Dr. Susan Albert, a best-selling author, and clinical psychologist says mindful eating is unlike fad diets that are too cumbersome and riddled with strict rules. Eating mindfully is just all about “creating balance and appropriately responding to your body’s need”. The thing is: we’re always stressed about what and what not to eat, it’s time we pay more attention to how we eat our food.
Here are simple ways you can practice mindful eating:
- Eat only when you’re hungry. And stop when you’re full.
- Appreciate food and eat without distraction.
- Use all your senses when you eat your food. Don’t just gulp down food, taste it, smell it, and relish the texture and sound as you chew.
- Cook your own meal and follow a meal plan so you don’t always eat out or order highly palatable processed food.
- Avoid Trigger Foods
When you’re addicted to cigarettes, you cure yourself by abstinence. But how about when you’re addicted to food? Unlike alcohol or drugs we can’t live without food, so how do we solve the problem?
[thrive_text_block color=”blue” headline=””]According to Gary Wenk, author of Your Brain on Food, food addicts should avoid certain kinds of food that make them feel out of control. These are called trigger foods and may vary depending on each person. Once you’ve had a bite of this trigger food, you’ll find yourself wanting to eat more (even when you’re full). [/thrive_text_block]
Trigger foods often contain high amounts of sugar, salt or fat. It can be ice cream, fries, or your favorite cheesy burger. Just one bite, one taste, is enough to set you off course. By identifying your trigger food, you’ll learn to control yourself and eliminate the temptation when needed.
- Stop Emotional Eating
It’s not enough to train your brain to mindfully eat or to avoid trigger foods, you have to manage your emotions too. Many food addicts use food to cope with their feelings. Whether they’re sad, stressed, angry, or bored they turn to food for comfort. On the surface, it looks simply like a bad habit but psychologists believe that stress eating is usually a result of tension or frustration at work or home. When you’re stressed, you lose control making it easy to cave into temptations and allow yourself to treat your body like shit.
It can also be caused by emotional hunger, a sinking feeling that can’t be filled with food. When you’re suffering from emotional hunger, you’re vulnerable and may feel powerless over lots of things including food. To stop emotional eating you must stop using food to soothe your feelings. Here are a few simple ways to do this:
- Differentiate physical hunger and emotional hunger. When having a food craving, pause, and ask yourself if you’re really hungry.
- Avoid food when you’re feeling stressed, sad, or bored and try to move farthest away from the fridge or any other food source. Take a few deep breaths and engage in a productive activity instead of eating.
- Solve the issue. The only way you can stop stress eating is to find the primary cause of your stress.
- Find ways to cope with your anxiety, boredom, or loneliness without having to open the fridge. You can start a new hobby, hang out with new people, or just do something that will take your mind off eating.
- Seek Social Support
Food addiction is a serious problem. Sometimes, it can’t be solved on your own. You can try all kinds of diets or go into different kinds of fat reduction procedures to get back in shape but if you don’t cure your addiction, the problem won’t go away. Fortunately, there are lots of people whom you can seek for help and advice. Aside from your family and therapist, there are many support groups all over the globe that help food addicts recover.
An organization that believes food addiction is a biochemical disorder “and therefore cannot be cured by willpower or therapy alone”. They offer a Twelve-Step program and food plans that can help manage food addiction by abstaining from addictive foods.
An organization for food addicts and anyone with food problems including those who have anorexia, binge eating, and bulimia.
A fellowship of people who share experiences while recovering from compulsive eating. They have global conventions where members are encouraged to attend and participate in workshops.
Knowing the solution doesn’t really solve the problem. To overcome food addiction, you must create additional effort by applying what you have learned and using this knowledge to solve underlying issues that cause your addiction.
What other tips can you share to overcome food addiction?