Do you struggle with an eating disorder or other compulsive behaviours that affect your life? Perhaps you have labelled yourself a ‘food addict’ and feel like you are at the mercy of certain foods. So much so, that you can’t even keep them in your house. If this sounds like you, then you might need help for food addiction.
It’s understandable that you feel this way. Food manufacturers invest millions into their recipe creation to ensure it’s hitting the sweet spot for taste and leaving you wanting more. Read more here (1, 2)
Food researchers know that a magic combination of sugar and fat will light up the reward system of the brain when consumed. MRIs show us that the exact same neural pathways of the brain are activated through the consumption of chocolate, as in those with drug addictions. (3,4,5,6,)
The concept of food being classed as an addictive substance is however a controversial one. I believe this may be because omitting chocolate from the diet is unlikely to have the same physiological reaction in the body as withdrawals from drugs or alcohol.
Nonetheless, your feeling like you have no control over these foods is real and we’re going to explore some ways to take your power back.
Discover the best ways to overcome food obsession and get help for food addiction.
Balance your blood sugars
High carbohydrate foods – including chocolate and other sugary sweets – may cause addiction-like cravings. They also alter your blood sugar and hormone levels in similar ways to addictive substances. If you’re consuming a diet high in refined carbohydrates, this may be exacerbating your cravings. The more you have, the more you want! To minimize blood sugar imbalances it is recommended that you follow the gentle nutrition principles of a balanced plate guide.
Eating meals that incorporate a balance between protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats is important. It not only keeps you fuller for longer but provides you with a stable release of energy throughout the day, hence reducing powerful cravings that might be coming from a sugar crash.
Challenge the food police
Whilst I’ve highlighted how refined foods like chocolate can feel like a narcotic, I personally don’t prescribe to the belief that a ‘troublesome’ food should be completely removed from the diet.
Yes, this food is designed to be pleasurable but we should experience pleasure in eating!. To omit or deny ourselves pleasurable foods feels depressing. However, feelings of deprivation are often what make us desire these foods more.
When I’m working with clients, I get them to connect with their internal dialogue about their ‘substance of choice’. Often they will have thoughts like:
“I can’t control myself around this food”
“I shouldn’t be eating it, it’s so bad for me”
“It has too many calories, I’ll get so fat”
“Once I have one, I’ll have to eat them all”
What they soon realize is that they have very strong views about these foods and judge themselves harshly based on their consumption. My response is always…
“Unless you have stolen it, you should never feel guilty about food”.
When we attach labels of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ to our food choices we are attaching judgment to ourselves. These feelings of guilt and shame are only going to make us feel worse.
For food to lose the hold it has over us, we need to become more neutral about it. Food is neither good nor bad, it is just food and ALL foods can have a place in our diet.
Check your stress
Emotions such as stress and overwhelm can leave us reaching for food in an attempt to self-soothe. When we experience stress it is often experienced physically through symptoms such as tension, palpitations, sweating, and shortness of breath. These symptoms can be uncomfortable or distressing and as humans, we are hardwired to find the quickest route to relief.
One fast-track way to self-soothe is chocolate! As mentioned above, it releases dopamine into the reward system of the brain and provides instant relief.
Whilst it’s impossible to remove all stressors, try taking a helicopter view of your life and consider:
Are there things I need to stop doing?
Are there opportunities to outsource or delegate?
Are there areas of my life where I need stronger boundaries?
Is there a deeper issue that needs to be addressed?
In my humble experience, people pleasing is a common trait of individuals that struggle with overeating. It’s quite typical for me to have clients that prioritise other people’s needs before their own and as a result, can often feel frustrated or even resentful.
For clients that perhaps struggle in holding strong boundaries for themselves or suffer from low self-esteem, food can become either a primary source of comfort and/or a means of further punishment.
Our relationship with food is extremely complex and sadly the rhetoric to simply eat less and move more causes much more harm than good. When seeking help for food addiction, a person-centred and holistic approach must be taken. If you recognise that you need help in healing your relationship with food, you can book a discovery call for a no-obligation chat about my services.
In addition to being an accredited CBT Therapist, I also like to incorporate more ‘alternative’ therapies such as hypnotherapy and emotional freedom technique into my practice. I believe that the most transformational change for clients occurs when we can address the underlying subconscious beliefs that are maintaining the issues, alongside the behavioural change of adapting eating habits and behaviours.
I have created a free ‘Understanding your eating’ eBook which will help you explore your own relationship with food a little deeper. You’ll also receive access to my bespoke transformational hypnosis recordings. Get your freebie here