Food Addiction / obsession Recovery
Food is one way we bring joy into our daily lives. It nourishes the body, provides energy to get us through the day, and is essential for the development and maintenance of our health. Food connects us to each other, serving as a focal point for catching up with friends, big family gatherings, celebrating birthdays and other special occasions, and comforting us in times of grief or loss.
For some people, however, food can also become an obsession or even an addiction.
What is Food Addiction or Obsession?
Food obsession can be described as the compulsive consumption of food. The two main ways it’s different from standard eating habits are frequency and quantity.
The average person may eat breakfast, lunch, dinner, and perhaps a mid-morning and/or mid-afternoon snack. A food-addicted person is more likely to eat at least three main meals with multiple snacks between, as well as additional food after dinner, sometimes even during the night.
Food quantity can also increase for food-obsessed people, who may find it difficult to stop eating when they are full, and instead frequently overeat (at times to the point of being sick).
What Causes Food Obsession?
Food is one of our most basic needs but has been made into so much more than that. Over the past century, food has become more accessible, more affordable, more varied, and “thanks to salt, fat, sugar, and flavor enhancers” more delicious.
On a biological level, when we eat tasty food, it can trigger the release of chemicals in our brain such as dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins, which make us feel good. The more chemicals that are released, the better we feel.
The foods that generate the strongest reactions are those high in salt, fat, sugar, and flavor enhancers. These are called “highly palatable foods”, or are sometimes referred to as “comfort food” or “feel-good food.”
The more we consume these highly palatable foods, the less receptive our brains become to the chemicals released. This means we need to consume more of the food to get the same good sensation. For example, someone who rarely eats sweet food may only need a few pieces of chocolate to feel good, while someone who regularly eats sweet food would need to eat a whole block of chocolate to get the same level of chemical reward.
While most people use food as one of many different tools for feeling good and getting through the day, for some people it can become a primary coping mechanism that begins to dominate their lives. There are many factors that can play a role in someone becoming food-obsessed or food addicted. These can include:
- Physiological and personal factors, such as genetics, hormone imbalances, illnesses such as chronic anxiety, boredom, or not having adequate coping mechanisms
- Social factors, such as peer pressure, cultural norms, social etiquette (for example, frequent social gatherings centered on food)
- Environmental factors, such as a stressful job or home life, or significant life changes (for example, starting a new job, moving to a new place, marriage, separation/divorce, the birth of a child, or children leaving home)
- Historical factors and triggering events, which can include things such as experiencing abuse and other mistreatment, traumatic experiences, grief, loss, or conflict
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What’s Going Wrong?
I’ve Tried to Beat Foof Addiction But I Keep Failing!
The stigmatization of diets, weight gain, unhealthy lifestyles, and addiction makes it difficult for people who are dealing with a food obsession or food addiction to seek effective help. You might have tried things like:
- Going cold turkey: cutting out all “unhealthy” food and only allowing yourself to eat small meals three times a day
- Hyper-restriction: cutting out most foods you would normally eat, and only letting yourself eat the very occasional “cheat” food
- Extreme diets: smoothie diets, diets where you only ever eat green food, etc.
- Substitution: switching out food you enjoy for food you hate, simply because it is the ‘healthy’ option
The problem with these types of solutions is that they ignore the factors that lead to becoming food-obsessed in the first place, they require extreme self-discipline, they feel dissatisfying (a celery stick just can’t compare to a good cookie), and they are normally unsustainablemeaning you are more likely to go back to your compulsive eating as well as feeling terrible that you didn’t overcome it. It becomes a vicious cycle and it’s easy to lose hope.
But you can beat your food addiction/obsession, and I am here to help.
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