Although it is not as widely recognized as drug or alcohol addiction, food addiction, also known as compulsive overeating, is a serious problem that plagues many people. With obesity becoming a major issue, it's important that more people understand just what food addiction is and how it can be identified. Read this article for more information about the signs of food addiction as well as steps for treating this problem.
Step 1. Identify the Problem
Food addiction is a serious issue that can have many of the same destructive consequences of a drug or alcohol addiction. The key signs of food addiction include:
- An obsession or preoccupation with food
- Binging on food despite negative effects on your health
- Overeating to the point of feeling sick and even vomitting, then binging some more
- A complete lack of self-control when it comes to food
- Repeatedly using food to recreate the pleasure and comfort associated with it
- Hiding food or binging in secret
- Feeling extremely guilty and emotionally depressed after binge eating
- Eating to cope with stress or other emotions
- Extremely irrate and angry when denied food or the opportunity to eat
- Physical symptoms like headaches, irritability, depression and insomnia
It's important to recognize these symptoms and admit that help is needed. Don't be afraid to seek out help once you've realized that you suffer from food addiction - much like other forms of addiction, food addiction is related to brain triggers that associate eating food with the high that drug users and alcoholics feel when using their substance of choice.
Step 2. See a Doctor
Food addiction can quickly lead to a myriad of health problems, especially obesity. That's why it's critical that you see a doctor for a full check-up once you've identified your food addiction issues. Be sure to explain to your doctor that you are a food addict and describe your eating habits. In addition to doing a full inspection of your current health, the doctor will be able to provide tips and advice for your recovery as well as dietary suggestions. Doctors are also a great resource if you have questions about starting a diet program or if you want to get a referral for a nutritionist.
Step 3. Change Your Diet
Unlike other forms of addiction, you can't just simply quit the substance that's being abused. You'll always have to eat, so your next step is to create a healthy diet along with healthy eating habits. The following are some healthy diet tips for people struggling to overcome their food addiction:
- Use healthy substitutes: Try baked chips with a low salt content instead of potato chips. Eat frozen yogurt instead of ice cream. Using these kinds of substitutions is a great way to transition to a healthier diet while still satisfying your cravings.
- Focus on moderation: When you have a serious craving for something like chocolate, try having half as much as you normally would to satisfy that craving. Continue reducing that intake until it reaches a manageable amount, such as one or two bites of chocolate instead of an entire candy bar.
- Use hunger as a regulator: Always ask yourself if you are really hungry before you begin eating. By eating only when you are hungry, you limit the amount of food you eat while also transforming your relationship with food.
- Plan out your meals: Planning out your meals in advance can help you avoid last-minute snacking or ordering take-out.
- Drink lots of water: Drinking lots of water every day can help offset food cravings.
- Brush your teeth: Though it isn't technically a diet change, this can help you avoid eating unnecessarily. If you feel a craving coming on, brush your teeth or use mouthwash. The strong minty taste typically deters eating.
Step 4. Utilize Useful Therapies
Many of the therapies used for people with food addiction are facilitated by professionals, such as a food addiction therapist or counselor. Going to a support group for food addiction can also be very helpful for those trying to change their ways. It's also important to consider counseling or therapy for emotional issues as well since these are often the triggers behind food addiction.
Other therapies can be enacted by the individual all on their own. These are typically lifestyle changes, such as exercising more often or using deep breathing methods to meditate. Keeping a food journal and writing about your feelings and cravings can also be a helpful way to identify problem areas. Once you identify the foods or situations that cause problems for you, take steps to actively avoid those triggers.
Step 5. Get Support From Friends and Family
Share your experiences and goals with trusted family members or friends. Having people who can listen and support you can positively affect your recovery. Meanwhile, the fact that others are aware of your goals can help motivate you to stick to your diet plans. Overcoming your food addiction can have its ups and downs, so setting up a support system can really help you through the process.