What Is Food Obsession?
Binge eating, food addiction, and food obsession (in my opinion) are tightly intertwined. They overlap, but they are separate things.
Binge eating is mental, the act of eating beyond physical comfort, feeling out of control, trying to satisfy a hunger that can’t be satiated with food.
Food addiction might be a physical need for some, and it may be related to binge eating in that we often binge eat highly-processed foods that can change our brains and lead us to cravings. (The good news is that our brains can be changed back.) But food addiction can also be mental — a “process” addiction stemming from the way we have learned to cope with certain situations/feelings.
Food Obsession On the Other Hand…
… Can be mental or physical. It’s a fixation on food that could be related to both of the above. Or it can grow out of dieting – thinking we shouldn’t eat certain foods that we desperately want. Btw, it can also be physical – when we’re hungry, we can’t think of anything else but food!
My personal equation was (and sometimes, admittedly still is) food addiction (the process kind) + food obsession = binge eating.
Obsessing About Food and Weight Loss Results
I have sat, frozen in fear. My butt glued to my chair, but my mind already pillaging the cabinets, torn between obedience, my obsession with food, and the physical act of eating.
To this day I still struggle with food obsession. Some weeks, food is merely a part of my life as nourishment. Other weeks, it feels as if my brain is one big carbohydrate magnet.
The bitch of it all is that when we try not to think about food, the more we obsess about it. When I’m focusing on other aspects of my life (work, play, writing, fitness, an upcoming vacation, etc.), I manage to find a happy medium between eating for sustenance and eating for joy.
But as soon I think I haven’t accomplished “perfection”, I let food overtake my every thought.
I realized my obsession with weight loss and the positive reinforcements that came with it (namely comments from others about how “good” I looked) was tightly intertwined with my obsession with food. Throughout my journey, the more I told myself “no” when it came to certain foods, the more obsessed I became.
Sure, weight loss can help boost our confidence and add to our feelings of self-worth, but if the only goal we have for ourselves revolves around our weight, then we are missing out on the rest of our lives. Especially, if we are constantly obsessing about food.
4 Strategies For Overcoming Feelings of Food Obsession
1. Break The Trance: Shake It Out
When food obsession begins to overtake your thoughts, try changing your physical location. I know this can be a hard step. Sometimes I am so concerned with my next snack or meal that the idea of getting up and motivated renders me unable to move.
I feel as if I’m wearing lead pants, being swaddled in a weighted blanket of bricks. I relate this to the anxiety I feel when I have a “to-do list” a mile long…and no ambition to get the ball rolling. Once I start, my nervousness subsides and my calmness rolls in like a wave.
As soon as I find the strength to break my obsession trance, I immediately feel free (as long as the kitchen isn’t my destination of choice and I’m not “food walking” into bingeing territory).
Body movement of any kind helps me re-center. If you’re at work and can’t just leave the office to go for a walk, just take a trip to the bathroom, or even get up out of your seat and shake it out! Moving your body can jiggle around the pieces in your mind so that they fit differently, even for a few moments.
2. Determine If You Are Hungry Or Obsessing
The next step is gauging if you are physically hungry. Unfortunately, I usually start obsessing over food right after I’ve finished eating a meal or snack. I’m sad that my “food event” is over and I don’t want it to end. Even though I’ve just eaten a healthy portion of something, my anxiety about the act of eating coming to a close, is reminiscent of a binge.
So, most of the time I’m not actually hungry when food obsession starts having its way with me. But, that doesn’t mean that it never happens, or that you should rule out the possibility that your tummy actually is grumbling.
If you are hungry, do a little self-assessment about what your body is asking for — and feed it.
If you’re not hungry, do a little self-assessment about what your taste buds and your brain are really asking for. If it doesn’t seem like it will spiral into a binge, try testing the waters by offering yourself a taste treat. If you feel too out of control, try to keep moving your body and try to re-center your thoughts before you re-introduce food.
3. Try Talking or Writing It Out
Shaking it out not working? If you are dealing with food obsession, it can also be helpful to talk it out.
Sometimes when I can’t break through obsessing on my own, I’ll call someone who is familiar with my food-center situation and blab about what’s going on in my head. Sometimes, getting the thoughts out keeps them from recycling around in your head, which can help break the pattern of obsession.
If you aren’t comfortable verbally spewing about your all-consuming food thoughts, try writing them down. Again, break the pattern and let it out!
4. Find Other Sources of Happiness
People are obsessed about all kinds of things. Most of those things can be steered clear of, but oh no — not food. We have to eat. It’s just one of those things that we humans must do.
But food doesn’t have to be our singular source of happiness. I don’t really believe in exchanging one obsession for another – being obsessed about anything is just plain unhealthy. But, adding activities to your life (that you ENJOY!) can help you focus on more than just food, by re-directing some of your energy and thoughts to something else.
Dividing one giant obsession into a few passions will give your mind other things to focus on. There is more to life than food, but it’s our job to figure out what those things are.
What makes YOU happy? If you’re reading this blog, the first answer that probably comes to mind is “food.” So, this may sound like a loaded question. But it’s time to pull the trigger and answer the question differently. What ELSE makes you happy?