How to deal with an eating addiction
How to deal with an eating addiction
You wake up in the middle of the night searching for anything to eat. You become grumpy and irritable if you haven’t had a chocolate in a while.
You look at the scale and become more and more depressed because that number just keeps growing. This is depressing, so in order for you to feel better, you eat more. It becomes a horrible ongoing cycle and you know it will only get worse, but you can’t stop.
Many people wonder if they have a problem with food.
Food addiction is a serious problem and one of the main reasons that some people use can’t control themselves around foods, no matter how hard they try.
What is an eating addiction?
Very simply, food addiction is being addicted to junk food, much like the drug addict is addicted to cocaine.
To understand food addiction, you need a basic level of understanding of addiction.
Addiction is the excessive or compulsive use of a substance or behavior, despite knowing there are severe and serious consequences.
It’s the inability to stop, despite all attempts to moderate their use or cut down.
Similar to addictive drugs, foods high in carbs and sugars release feel good triggers in the brain.
That is exactly what food addiction is; eating large amounts of unhealthy foods, whilst well knowing it only causes more harm than good.
The person with an overeating addiction develops an unhealthy relationship with food.
Food addiction is a behavioral addiction that, much like gambling, sex or shopping, triggers intense pleasure.
When the cocaine addict uses Cocaine, a great amount of dopamine gets released in the brain. These neurotransmitters are the reward centers or the feel good creators in the brain. The human body is designed to handle so much. It is not designed to handle to insane highs or insane lows (think depression.)
When the food addict eats junk food, that is highly processed and high in sugars, fats or even salt, these feel good transmitters (dopamine) is released. That is why eating junk food is so pleasurable.
These reward signals override feelings of fullness and that is why people addicted to food keep eating, even after knowing they have had way to much.
In essence, the food addict, much like the cocaine addict mentioned, chases a constant high.
The problem: the more they eat, the more their tolerance for food increases.
What happens is that the more this person eats, the more dopamine gets released. They then need this release of dopamine to reach a state or feeling of normality. Less dopamine gets released with each relapse and they need more food to reach that state of normality and that is how addiction works, regardless of the substance.
As the disease of addiction thickens; they feel worse about themselves, they try to ration their foods, they go on diets, controlled eating plans, they try that whole “eating in moderation” thing. All of this with little success.
Drug addicts or alcoholics receive more compassion and empathy than those with a chronic addiction to food.
Contrary to what many people may think; being addicted to food is not due to greediness or a lack of will power. Such thinking is outright ignorant. Yes, they have made bad choices with food, but thinking of such a person as lazy, weak or greedy is incredibly naïve. The person has become pendant on food and that is why thy struggle to stop. Their brain believes they can only survive with food. Rewiring their brain is very difficult, and that is the process of recovery.
Before we go on, let’s squash a myth:
While obesity could be a sign indicating that someone may suffer with an overeating addiction, it does not make it a clear sign that someone is addicted to food.
Signs or symptoms of food addiction
Unlike drugs or alcohol, detecting food addiction is not as simple. There are no blood or urine tests for food addiction. You may have frequent tests that reflect high cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, you may even have developed diabetes. None of these tests are sure ways to detect if you or someone you love suffers from the disease of addiction.
What makes detection even harder is if the person is completely unwilling to be honest about his or her eating habits.
Well then how would you know if you may suffer with an eating addiction?
The first most important tool in identifying any possible issues with over-eating addiction is complete honesty.
There is no obvious test to determine whether you or someone you love has a problem. There are a few signs and symptoms to look out for.
Ask yourself the below questions to find out if you may have a problem:
1) Do you hide the amount of food you eat from others?
2) Do you try quitting junk food, only to find that a few days, sometimes, hours later you give in to your cravings and end up eating even more than you should have?
3) Have you tried countless diets designed to control your eating, but none of them seem to last?
4) Are you super creative with some of the excuses you come up with for why you should eat?
5) Do you have feelings of guilt and shame when eating certain foods?
6) Do you have constant cravings, even when you’re full?
7) You realize the physical and emotional effects of over eating unhealthy foods, yet you can’t seem to stop yourself from consuming these foods?
If the answers to the questions above leave you feeling uncomfortable, because some of it may ring true, then continue reading.
Effects of eating disorder
What often begins as an innocent passion for food can turn deadly.
The most visibly obvious of the dangers associated with overeating are the physical side effects, but the results of an overeating disorder goes much deeper than that.
Anyone that suffers from an overeating addiction, leads a perilous, low quality life.
To illustrate this, let’s discuss some of the dangers involved when you consume junk food excessively.
Physical side effects
Most of the physical side effects suffered is health related.
People that eat junk food excessively are more likely to suffer from diabetes, high cholesterol or kidney disease amongst many other physical illnesses.
The more they eat, the more overweight they become, leading to bone deterioration and arthritis.
Their immune system weakens as they are most likely not receiving enough vitamins and nutrients.
Mental side effects
As with most illnesses, there is a great deal of emotional turmoil that occurs, sometimes, long before the physical side effects have kicked in.
Think back to a time when you ate excessively, only to get on the scale and realize that the damned number just keeps going higher, or that none of your clothes fit anymore. You look in the mirror and try your hardest to hide that double chin you’re fast gaining.
What’s the first emotion that hits you with a wave of vengeance? Depression.
As the weight gain increases and all physical side effects kick in, the overeater feels and thinks poorly of him or herself.
They lose any confidence they once had. They no longer feel deserving of other’s company, of their own company and as a result, they eat more in a desperate attempt to escape the harsh reality.
The emotional component that comes with the disease of addiction is the biggest reason that a person struggles to stop.
There is a complete lack of control once they eat again and this leaves the addict to feel they are weak or that they lack any willpower to control their eating. Their self esteem plummets.
Constant hiding food consumption raises anxiety, the addict becomes a nervous wreck. To top things off, they face constant feelings of shame and guilt and so the process of self hatred begins.
It’s clear that the emotional side effects of a chronic overeater can be severe, but it doesn’t end there.
Social side effects
As the emotional side effects kick in and the overeater experiences waves of depression, their social life takes a huge backseat, leaving them with even deeper loneliness and depression.
Because the poor nutrition the overeater receives, the overeater is more susceptible to sleeping disorders.
They soon develop an overall poor quality of life.
The shame and guilt leads them to social isolation. This does not just end with his or her social circles or friends, but this goes as far as their family life and even their career.
Rewarding ourselves with food is completely normal, so is overeating occasionally, but when food, more especially junk food, becomes our crutch, the side effects can be severe.
A lot more severe than we might have initially given it thought.
How to deal with an eating disorder
The overeater consumes a large amount of processed or junk food, because it provides them with a temporary release from psychological stress and provides a diversion from the weighing feelings of shame, guilt, etc
As mentioned in a previous post, overeating is something that I have struggled with. It’s been an ongoing battle of mine, ever since I started my road of recovery.
As a result, I did a lot of research and look into overeating addiction.
While I do not have all the answers, I can expand on what has helped for me and the research I have made on the topic.
Dealing with an overeating addiction is difficult.
The negative image people have on those that have an overeating addiction makes matters worse, it makes reaching out and asking for help that much worse.
We fear being viewed as weak, lazy or greedy.
What makes treating an overeating addiction even harder is that food is not something we can escape. In order for us to survive and for our bodies to sustain itself, we have to eat food.
Unhealthy food is easily accessible, everywhere you turn you will find a fast food joint, countless brands of chocolates on the shelves you will have to go to to buy your healthy groceries.
These bad foods are not something that we can escape.
The real work comes in when you have to train your body and mind and neglect the bad, unhealthy food we rely on and replace it with healthier food that sustains us and provides our bodies with the nutrition it requires.
Whenever you try to quit the unhealthy processed and junk foods, you experience withdrawal symptoms.
Withdrawal symptoms include irritation, snappiness with others, unexplainable mode swings.
We experience these withdrawal symptoms because our body has become so used to having these substances they have become our only coping mechanism. When these substances are taken away from us, we do not know how to handle it.
Before we discuss suggested routes of recovery, there is one important thing to remember and that is
For addiction, moderation fails. Every time.
Another important thing to mention is that this post is only written for those that truly believe they have an eating disorder. If you do not fully believe you have an eating disorder, then these tools may not be for you.
Recovery begins with accepting and then deciding to never eat such foods again. We accept it, not because we are weak, but because we are fighting for the quality of life, we know we deserve.
While there are many ways to treat an overeating addiction, the best and most accurate answer is complete abstinence.
Like drug addicts or alcoholics, the only way to recover is by completely cutting off these bad foods. The addict addicted to junk cannot eat in moderation. This has been proven time and time again. They wish they could eat these foods successfully, but they can’t. This is exactly like the drug addict; they have tried time and time again to use this substance of choice successfully (without letting their life go in ruins), but find themselves unable to do so. They have to remain free all of addictive substances to recover.
Be prepared for relapses.
The most important thing to remember when embarking on your road towards recovery is that you did not become addicted to food overnight.
It is therefore unfair for you to think you will have recovery from the addiction whacked overnight.
Starting your journey of recovery will be one of the most rewarding, but hardest tasks you will ever embark on. The key is to not give up, you will eventually get it right.
Suggested routes for recovery
12 step programs. Overeaters anonymous
Overeaters anonymous is great fellowship that believes that by working through your problem with other people that are going through the same problem, your chances of recovery is greatly improved. As an overeater, we have isolated ourselves from the outside world, we have so much guilt and shame that we do not know how to discuss, having a helpful support group is one of our greatest assets in recovery.
The approach they take is to not only address the issues at hand, the overeating addiction, but to address the root cause of the problem. In this program, you will undress all your fears, your hates, your resentments, people you have harmed with your addiction and work through as your recovery strengthens.
There is a reason why it is one of the most effective tools for gaining freedom from overeating.
Be sure to check our their site to locate your nearest meeting. They also have incredible online meetings for those that are unable to attend meetings.
Check out their site: https://oa.org/
Psychologist or therapy
An overeating addiction is your problem, but until you deal with the root cause of the problem, the problem will always persist.
Therapy is very helpful in this regard. You get to uncover everything that has been holding you back.
When we eat copious amounts of junk or processed foods, we do so in an attempt to escape our reality. Once you deal with these issues you are trying to run away from, conquering this illness becomes so much easier.
These deep underlying issues need to be address, food addiction does not just go away or fix itself.
We may not be able to avoid fast food restaurants or that chocolate wrapper on the shelve, but there is a few things you can do to make this easier.
1) Avoid fast food places. In the beginning, it will be very hard to do so. You may even want to find another route is you have to drive past your favorite restaurant, until you strong enough, if the cravings are too intense to handle in the beginning.
2) Try to avoid going on diets – I know this may sound weird, but diets are intended for short term, weight loss. They are designed to be a temporary weight loss solution and is not something sustainable in the long term. The reality is that once the diet is over, people go back to bad eating habits and are back at square one.
3) Try not to focus on weight loss as your goal. Having weight loss as your primary goal can increase the risk of cross addicting to another addiction, such as bulimia. This adds on to the second tip. Weight loss is certainly one of the great benefits of starting recovery, but it should never be the main goal. Remember, your goal is to live the life you deserve, free of guilt, shame and anger. Aim for that and you ensure that you have a solid foundation for your recovery.
4) Ensure that you have your meals planned – because you need to be cognizant of everything you put in your mouth, having well planed meals is essential. You should be able to know what’s for breakfast on Friday or what’s for supper on Sunday. Not having proper meal plans can increase the risk of eating unhealthy, convenient foods.
5) Write a Pro and Con list. – In order for you to want recovery, you need to assess that you know why recovery is good of you and why maintaining the current unhealthy life style. Draw up a pro and con list for your recovery plan.
6) Identify trigger foods. Many people have that ultimate crutch. Be it ice cream, chocolate or Hamburgers. Identify your trigger foods and ensure that you stay away from these at all cost.
For addiction, moderation fails.
An overeating addiction is the same as someone addicted to drugs or alcohol.
The risks of overeating are far greater than we may have given thought, but, there are ways for us to overcome this illness.
Like all other addictions, completely abstinence is required.
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Do you have any experience with overeating? How has it affected your life? Have you fought for your life back as yet?
I would love to hear your feedback in the comments below: