Any of us can be affected by unhealthy eating habits. Making things worse, we must eat to live. While food addiction makes us feel that we live to eat, there are ways to break free from food addiction. The first step is to acknowledge that a problem exists. We also need to understand that food addiction is just like any other addiction: cigarettes, drugs and alcohol, etc. While moderation is the key here, it is also the problem faced in most addictions. For those who suffer from food addiction, an all or nothing approach tips the balance into deeper addictive patterns. All or nothing thinking is a hallmark of addictive behavior regardless of the addiction.
Trigger foods can be those foods which are highly processed or refined: potato chips, candy, cookies, ice cream, chips, and the like. If you find it hard to stop eating these foods and feel a loss of control on a regular basis, you may be beginning to struggle with food addiction. These types of processed foods are so addictive because they are loaded with refined starches, sugars, fats and chemicals that our bodies cannot process well. These products deliver chemicals that affect the brain in much the same way as cigarettes, drugs or alcohol. The resulting toxification that comes from over ingesting these types of chemicals can leave a food addict feeling sick, yet coming back for more.
Food addicts often have low self-esteem and use food to stuff emotions. Therefore, an important part of dealing with food addiction is to also work with self-esteem and connect with the underlying emotions. In addition, many food addicts have a general feeling of unworthiness. It is very important to recognize, acknowledge and address the emotions behind these feelings. This awareness can be a powerful tool that can help aid recovery from food addiction. Connecting with and identifying the feelings present just prior to or during a moment when one may reach for trigger foods may help prevent self-sabotage.
It can seem perfectly natural to take comfort in food. Many cultures celebrate around food and often times our eating habits can be strongly influenced by the families we grow up in. Food can also become the one thing someone can control, particularly if raised in a traumatic, chaotic or dysfunctional environment. Taking refuge in or rewarding oneself with an overindulgence of ice cream, fast food, chips and the like, becomes a way to both disassociate and self-soothe when faced with even nuanced feelings of unworthiness. While the resulting effect may be immediate to blunt emotional disturbances, the end result often leaves the food addict feeling sick, shameful and empty. This may be a cycle, but it’s not a prison, you can free yourself.
Like all addictions, healing from food addiction is an ongoing process, recovery is a work in progress, and perfection is rarely the aim. There are free support groups such as Overeaters Anonymous (OA), Food Addicts Anonymous (FA), treatment centers, individual therapy with specialists in eating disorders, nutritionists, group therapy, many books and literature on the internet which can help guide a person who is struggling alone with food addiction on their path from isolation to recovery.