Breaking Out of Your Food Trance; Healthy Eating Tips to Fight Food Addiction
Food addiction often follows the same pattern as other attempts to get healthy. As you fall asleep, you swear to yourself that tomorrow will be the first day of your new life. You will get up and go for a run. You will eat a healthy, nutritious smoothie for breakfast. And, you will remain active throughout the day, being sure to pass of fatty and/or sugary snacks. It will be the birth of a brand new you, a healthy, balanced you.
As the day continues, you find your commitment flagging. When you encounter stressors, like a traffic jam or a disagreement with a co-worker, your anxiety begins to build. Before long, you have abandoned all pretense at the new you and are shoveling candy into your mouth, trying to numb the negative feelings welling inside of you. Then, you emerge from your binge and have to face the reality of your choices. The shame of having abandoned your commitment to your self further fuels your desire to shovel treats into your mouth. You are looking for a food fix.
When this pattern is played out, you invariably question yourself. Why am I incapable of sticking to my fitness and nutrition plans? Why am I so weak? Why don’t I have any willpower. Rather than blame yourself, it’s time to consider the idea that your brain is addicted to food.
The idea of food addiction is a bit hard to get your head around. It sounds so negative and serious. You just like sweets or crave comfort foods; you aren’t an addict. However, food addiction is very legitimate and it affects more people that you realize. Food manufacturers are betting that their perfect combinations of savory, salty, and sweet will make your need to consume them urgent. But, there are things you can do to fight your addiction.
Determine Whether or Not Your Unhealthy Eating Is an Actual Food Addiction
Before you begin treating a food addiction, you need to determine whether you have one or not. Typically, this is established using a questionnaire designed by scientists at Yale University’s Rudd Center for Food Science & Policy. It is called the Yale Food Addiction Scale, a 25-point survey.
* Food taken in larger amounts and for longer periods than planned
* Insistent desire or recurrent unsuccessful attempts to quit
* Excessive amounts of time spent obtaining, eating, and recovering
* Vital occupational, social, and/or recreational activities reduced or avoided altogether
* Eating continues despite knowledge of undesirable costs
* Tolerance develops, meaning a noticeable increase in amount needed and a noticeable decrease in its effect
* Withdrawal symptoms (agitation, anxiety, other physical symptoms) set in when diet is controlled
Let Go of the Idea That Your Food Addiction Was Fated
Yes, genetics are responsible for many different facets of your appearance, health, and responses to stimuli. And, you can’t alter your genes. But, that doesn’t mean that you have to look to a family history of food addiction and accept that you have one and are powerless to change it.
The way that your genes are expressed and the way they work with your mind and body depends in large part upon you. If you can change behaviors associated with these genes, you can modify the way these genes communicate. So, modifying how you react to stress, the foods you eat, and your physical activity, you can triumph over genetics.
This isn’t something that will happen overnight, but you can make small alterations and build upon them. You have the power to define your destiny. But, you will likely need outside support and a plan, so be sure to reach out to people you trust for help.
Begin Looking at Food Objectively
Manufacturers are experts at producing foods that are chock full of salt, fat, and sugar. These are often referred to as “hyperpalatable.” Plus, they often require no cooking or preparation, are inexpensive, and are easily attainable. They are made for mass consumption. They are not, however, what your body needs to function. On some level, you know that, but the louder voice in your head is telling you that these foods are a comfort. They are the salve for your emotional wounds. And, yes, they do function that way for you at times. This is why you need to remove the emotional component and look at them solely as a source of nutrition.
You must look to nutritional staples that can give you the healthy requirements your body depends upon. Yes, you crave fat. But, you would do better to get it from fish, lean meats, oil, avocados, and nuts. Yes, you crave carbs, but you can get those from whole grains, sweet fruit, and vegetables. Your brain is designed to enjoy these foods. But, you may not understand that because you have negative emotional associations with them.
Remove the emotional lens through which you filter your emotional eating. Even if you still continue to binge as a coping mechanism, a change to healthier nutrition makes it a slightly less serious issue.
Consider Professional Help
A food addiction develops and persists because certain foods trigger your brain to release dopamine, a feel-good chemical. It is the same chemical released during drug and alcohol use. Once you get a positive sensation from eating, you can begin doing it more often and in larger quantities to continue enjoying the stimulation of the reward center in your brain, the same way you would with a cocaine or opiate addiction.
In order to fight against a food addiction, you also have to fight against the pleasure it triggers in your brain, and that is hard work. You may benefit, therefore, from joining a support group, like Overeaters Anonymous; seeing a therapist; or entering a rehabilitation program. It’s not unusual to need some outside assistance in recovering from a food addiction, so you shouldn’t feel any shame about seeking it out. It’s very brave to admit that you have a problem and to take the steps necessary to fix it.
Mary Claire is an enthusiast writer and blogger. She focuses her topic on child abusive and problematic behaviour, addiction and recovery. To find out more: Rehab Centres
Photo by Britt Selvitelle