I’m biased because of my relationship with food, but I’ve always thought that being addicted to food was one of the most challenging addictions a person could have.
Please don’t get me wrong – I’m not downplaying other forms of addiction. Being an addicted to anything at all can be all-consuming, maddening, and downright frightening.
There’s No “Quitting Food”
Food is the one thing that you cannot give up entirely. There’s only figuring out how to mend your relationship with it…how to find comfortable moderation without feeling deprived.
What Does It Mean To Be Addicted To Food?
We’ve talked about this in other blogs – the difference and relationship among food addiction, food obsession, and binge eating. But as a refresher, it’s widely thought that feelings of food addiction pull you in one of two ways: physically or mentally.
1 Physical Addiction
Studies have shown that regularly overeating certain types of foods — and not eating foods that support our bodies — might play a role in the cravings some people experience for those foods. We’re talking about highly-processed foods (those made up primarily of fat, salt, and sugar).
Too much on a regular basis may alter our brain chemistry, causing us to be less sensitive to the “pleasure” neurochemical dopamine, thereby driving us to eat more to feel satisfied.
2 Mental Addiction
When it comes to feeling addicted to food, our minds can play an enormous role. Even though we know that continuing to eat certain foods in excess quantities can make us feel uncomfortable, bloated, and even exhausted, we still find ourselves coming back for more.
Even the negative consequence of binging is sometimes not enough to stop the cycle. Feelings of guilt, sadness, and self-loathing are the mental processes that fuel the addiction as it takes the reigns and steers us on a path toward emotional, or even physical, self-destruction.
Food Is A Coping Mechanism
Here’s the Way I See It
Food is one of the most popular coping mechanisms that I’ve come across, even outside of my personal battle. Throughout my journey, I’ve met quite a few people who have also turned to food in times of stress, frustration, and sadness.
My Food Addiction Story
Personally, I used food to console myself during two of the hardest periods of my life. If you aren’t familiar with my story and are just beginning to read this blog, these two events were the sudden death of my college roommate and equally sudden demise of a relationship. Within a month, I felt like I had lost everything.
[div class=”callout-left”]”Food gave me something to live for – it couldn’t let me down (so I thought) and it was always available. Eventually I began binging to literally feed my addiction.”[end-div]Using food to help me feel better was effortless for me.
I got a rush from eating certain foods that no other area of my life was able to help me achieve – not perfect grades, not activities with friends, not even alcohol. Food gave me something to live for – it couldn’t let me down (so I thought) and it was always available. Plus, the cheap, processed foods that my body and my mind craved were usually pretty affordable.
Eventually I began binging to literally feed my addiction. I would sneak food, eat alone, and consume amounts of food so grand that my body could barely handle the strain that I was putting on it. I wanted the numbing, weightless, excited feeling that I could borrow during the midst of a binge. At that time, binging multiple times a day allowed me to get caught up in a whirlwind of emotions that no other human and no other activity could.
When Food Becomes The Enemy
Eventually, the highs become harder to achieve (probably the dopamine resistance coming into play) and the guilt and self-hatred elevated to levels beyond my comprehension. Food was no longer my friend; it became my enemy, and yet it felt as if there wasn’t a way to truly escape its grasp.
Although my physical weight was the least of my worries, stepping on the scale one morning finally triggered my desire to get help.
Overcoming Food Addiction
Green Mountain held my hand while simultaneously helping me get my butt and my mind back into gear. The combination of one-on-one therapy, group fitness, nutrition classes, and social activities flipped a switch for me.
“Coming to terms with the fact that I had shunned every last shred of my social life in exchange for my alone time with food was truly heartbreaking.”
The first step was getting through the door – the next steps depended on my desire and commitment to make a better life for myself – both body and mind.
Admitting that I felt addicted to food was the hardest part. Hands down. Coming to terms with the fact that I had shunned every last shred of my social life in exchange for my alone time with food was truly heartbreaking.
This is just a part of my story. Everyone’s relationship with food is different and so is everyone’s cycle of addiction. But the first question may be the hardest to answer, or the most difficult to admit – are you addicted to food?
If you’ve been locked in a diet-binge cycle of highly-processed foods, this may be causing the physical changes in your brain chemistry, which feel like addiction, that we talked about earlier in this blog. If you aren’t comfortable with your relationship with food, or if you feel like you’re stuck in that never-ending loop of restricting and binging, it may be time to start thinking about taking the next step.
Reach Out to the Right People for Help with Food Addiction
From experience, I know that this isn’t as easy as it sounds. Seeking out help made me feel like I was admitting that I was weak- when in reality, it was the bravest thing I could have done. In hindsight, I know this now. And I cannot stress enough how happy I am that I put myself first. I deserved it – and I did it. For me.
I firmly believe that the right people, places, and resources can help change your life- like Green Mountain helped change mine.
If you feel like you may be addicted to food, finding someone to talk to probably seems like an obvious first step, but again, that doesn’t mean it’s an easy one. Discussing out loud what’s going on in your head can bring subconscious feelings right to the surface, giving you the opportunity to piece together your thoughts about food, yourself, and your relationship with both.
Try Not To Restrict Yourself: It May Do More Harm Than Good
When it comes to feelings of addiction toward food, I believe that one of the worst things you can do is restrict yourself. Neither your body nor your mind can comfortably process going from 60 to 0 so quickly.
Both types of abstinence, abstaining from your feel-good foods or abstaining from getting help, can do more harm than good. Telling your body “no” can encourage your mind to scream “yes”. And pushing aside the thought of getting help may prolong the painful, uncomfortable, or frustrated state in which you’re currently living. You don’t deserve to feel deprived and you do deserve to find a way to taste food and to taste happiness.
You’ve Already Taken The First Step…
By reading this entry, you’ve already come such a long a way. And although you don’t know me personally, please know that at least one person is proud of you. Taking the time to seek out information is an empowering and crucial step. And regardless of the weight of these words – I admire your strength.
“Food is no answer…WE are the answer”
I wrote this particular blog so that you could know that you’re not alone. Feeling like you are addicted to food is nothing to be ashamed of. Often, it stems from somewhere – a hidden pain that begs to be comforted. It just so happens (as I’ve found out over the years) that food is not the answer most of us are looking for. We are the answer: we just have to let ourselves be heard.
If you are here, reading this right now…you are already on your way. You are already braver than you know.
Until next time,
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