Food addiction affects a large number of individuals, even though it's not accepted as a true diagnosis (yet) in the medical profession. Using the Yale Food Addiction Scale, 5-10% of the general population test positive for food addiction. People with food addiction struggle with food obsessions, binging, body image issues and often experience depression and anxiety. Listed below are 5 things you may not know about food addiction that can help you gain perspective on this problem. Under each is a recommended practice to get you started on your journey to recovery.
Yo-yo dieting makes food addiction worse
If you’re not satisfied with your body, doesn’t it make sense to put yourself on a diet? If you don’t trust yourself to eat healthily, doesn’t it make sense to be strict in how you think about food? The fact is, these strategies aren’t effective because they don’t address the deeper issues. For instance, the reason diets don’t work is because they focus solely on the the surface. People are made to believe that if they just lose weight, their lives will change, their stress will go away, and they will somehow magically be comfortable around food when the diet ends. But you know that this isn't true.
1. I will not diet. My body is an exquisitely tuned organism that knows how to manage its weight. I don’t need to restrict my food intake to make my body work correctly.
There's a difference between asking yourself: "What's wrong with me?" and recognizing "What happened to you."
If you are like many people with food addiction, you may be able to recognize that your emotions at times feel overwhelming, or you may be the type of person who has completely shut down any access to your emotions and even has trouble identifying what you are feeling.
Sometimes the reason your emotions can feel so out of control is because of traumatic experiences. Childhood maltreatment or other traumas may have made you feel the need to be on red alert all the time. Being on red alert is an over-activation of your stress response system. Being on red alert can lead to anxiety, depression, fatigue and feelings of guilt and shame. And it is these emotions exacerbate food addiction behaviors.
2. I will become more aware of when I am emotionally hungry and find other ways of coping with my emotions without always using food.
Your body has all the wisdom you need to overcome your food addiction.
You may feel your body is not your ally, but a recalcitrant and stubborn enemy that you’re trying to beat in the game of weight loss. You may feel embarrassed by your body or feel your body is always throwing you a curve ball with random food cravings and desires, strange sensations that you don’t understand and even stranger needs that may baffle you. By changing your relationship with your body, you will be able to tap into its wisdom to heal. You can't jump the chasm from hating your body to loving or being positive about your body right away. Instead try on being neutral towards your body instead of being negative.
3. I will interrupt any negative inner dialogue I have towards my body and replace it with a neutral thought.
Unconscious core beliefs can stand between you and your goal to put an end to your food addiction behaviors.
When first formed, usually when you were younger and during times of transition, trauma, or emotional upheaval, core beliefs are solutions to problems you couldn’t solve—perhaps because you didn’t have the resources at the time. For example, you may have learned not to show any emotion as a child as a way to avoid being hurt. Your core belief, in this case, might be "Showing others how I feel is dangerous." Having such negative core beliefs can make food addiction symptoms and behaviors worse and if not addressed, can make it difficult to recover from food addiction.
4. I will honor the part of me who did what she could to survive and instead of continuing with negative core beliefs, I will start journaling about guiding principles (gp) I can use for my new life. (Ex. instead of "I'm not worthy", a gp could be "I value myself."
Recovery from food addiction may be different than you expect
For food addiction, abstinence means no longer practicing your food addiction behaviors - such as eating impulsively, obsessing about food, restricting, etc. Your food addiction behaviors serve as a distraction from dealing with underlying issues in your life and allow you to stay in denial about other issues that you are not addressing.
5. I will be gentle with myself as I learn new ways of being the best I can be.
Being anchored is about being true to yourself and accessing your inner strength.
At some point, you will come to realize that changing your appearance is no longer about matching Western culture’s ideal of what you should look like; but rather, who you are on the inside and being able to express your true and authentic self, no matter what your size or shape.
At the end of the day, what most people truly want is to be able to express themselves fully and without fear of judgment. It's important to understand what it means to be true to yourself, to turn away from your inner critic and instead listen to your inner wisdom—the wise part of yourself that will guide you with kindness and gentleness toward reaching the goals that are right for you.
One day you will tell your story of how you’ve overcome what you’re going through now, and it will become part of someone else’s survival guide. Unknown
If you've been struggling with food addiction or think you have food addiction, you're not alone. If you're ready to go beyond dieting and make peace with food and your body, set up a FREE consult appointment to discuss your personal food and body image issues.