It’s a fact of our human chemistry that we must consume food, or we’ll die. So, how can someone develop food addiction? And if we are addicted and decide to find treatment, then how do we become sober from food? Indeed, it is a bizarre notion.
First, food addicts don’t stop eating. The objective of recovery from a food addiction is to eat without guilt, without obsessive and compulsive behaviors, and to live without thinking about food every waking minute. There is clearly a difference between eating food and being obsessed with eating food. Eating a bowl of ice cream at 2 o’clock in the morning doesn’t mean you have an addiction to food. Eating when you’re not really hungry, however, could be an indication that you might have a problem. Likewise, if you feel guilt when you eat, if you hide food you’re eating, or if you get emotional relief from eating certain foods, then there’s a strong indication of food addiction in your behavior.
To determine your real pattern of eating, begin by keeping a diary. So, you record what, when, and the amount you eat, and if you were hungry, bored, or unable to stop yourself from eating. Using a piece of graph paper, simply place the times on the left and the dates across the top. Next, develop a code for your reasons for eating, and maybe even your favorite foods, so you don’t have to write as much. Enter everything you eat, which means you’ll need to keep it with you when you go out. Keep the diary for 2-4 weeks, and then chart the data. You’ll see if there is a pattern, and from that pattern, you’ll be able to determine your habits.
If you find that you are sluggish from overeating on a regular basis, if you suffer anxiety when you try to avoid certain foods, if you become agitated when you can’t eat particular food, or if your eating habits interfere with your ability to function normally in a job, home, school, or other relationships, then you should consider yourself in need of professional addiction treatment.
But how does a food addiction differ from alcohol or drug addiction? In many ways it doesn’t. It can be as dangerous as heroin or cocaine. Your heart races. Your thoughts are about your next bite. Unhealthy foods target the same receptors as drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes. The chances are that you’ll react like a substance abuser and need treatment.
You can’t do it alone, any more than you can break a drug habit or alcoholism by yourself. Like drug and alcohol addiction, you may need to hit your own bottom before you seek real help. You don’t see what food is doing to your life, and you are killing yourself slowly.
Many people are overweight because they overeat. They don’t feel out of control. But a food addict can’t stop thinking about food. Working a 12 Step program, you can address your addiction in a safe, judgment-free environment with others who understand your problem because they share it as well. But until you’re ready to stop the insanity, you’ll be busy changing nothing and denying what everyone else sees. So, what is the first step?
Some people find checking into an addiction rehab that specializes in food addictions as well is a great way to start. If you’re not ready for that, you can start by throwing away all the junk food in your house. In fact, bag it and take it to a dumpster at least 10 miles from home. The reason is that many food addicts will go so far as to dig through the garbage to reclaim their lost food. Begin a structured regiment of walking, exercise, or writing. The point is to do something that will help you refocus your attention on something other than food. Find a meeting of OA, Overeaters Anonymous. If you find you’re struggling, rethink a rehab. Once you decide to work on your food addiction, you can find calm and peace without feeding your addiction.