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By Louise Skeen
So the voice starts in your head again. “You know you don’t really need to eat anything right now”. “In fact, your last meal was not that long ago, and you’re not hungry”. But the reality is, you’re thinking about food. There’s a strong urge to have something to eat. So, do you listen to the practical voice in your head or do you feed that urge to eat something?
Does this pattern or something similar sound familiar? Are you aware that eating patterns like this are habit forming to the extent that your attempts to control your eating urges don’t work?
If so, you may be suffering with food addiction, a recognized condition where you struggle daily to control your behavior around the amount of food you eat, how many times a day you eat, where your next meal might come from, or you fear that your body may actually run out of food resulting in the common practice of binge eating.
I raise the question; is it particular food or beverages that you find yourself reaching for? Or are you more likely to need the comfort of knowing that food is available when you think you need it?
There are two different behaviors here. The first is an addiction to certain type of foods which are usually sugar, carbohydrate flour-based products in multiple forms; and the second behavior is an addiction to eating with the fear of missing out or a fear of not having enough to eat. Your brain thinks food may run out so it’s important to eat as much as you can at that moment.
For food addicts, boredom doesn’t come into the equation as a root cause. Moreover, emotions, stress levels, negative self-esteem, chemical brain imbalances or food chemical cravings, may in time create a path to having an addiction to certain foods or the need to eat. So, what you eat and how often you eat ends up messing with your head by constantly bouncing between the pleasure and pain of your next snack or meal.
How do you identify if you are truly addicted to food? Firstly, you must understand that you can’t be an addict sometimes. The occasional binge that breaks your normal habits see you easily re-adjusting to your routine lifestyle. This can be considered as just a binge. Addiction on the other hand, takes hold of five key control mechanisms in your brain. These five controls can consume you every day. No matter what someone may be addicted to, the A, B, C, D, E questions are used to identify whether someone is suffering with addiction.
The first is to ask yourself if you are able to ABSTAIN from food. Would you be able to comfortably say no to eating a meal? If you have created the habit to consume a certain food or beverage around the same time every day, are you able to break that pattern?
The second is having the ability to control your BEHAVIOUR around food? Do you find you go back for seconds, or thirds at mealtime? One biscuit from the packet leads to you finishing the entire packet within hours.
Then there are genuine CRAVINGS around foods. Do you find yourself thinking about certain foods as a reward, because the day didn’t go as planned, or because you’re tired or emotional? Do you crave for food and focus on one food that you will reward yourself with today no matter what it takes, even if you have to go out of your way to get it?
The fourth is to be in DENIAL toward the negative impact food may be making to your health. Are you finding excuses to cover real health issues, thus giving yourself permission to eat?
The final question is around your EMOTIONAL relationship toward food. Is food your best friend? Is it the tool you use to lean on for comfort? Does food consume your thinking and does the opportunity to eat excite you?
When your “yes” voice outweighs your “no” voice, you will have moved into dangerous territory and food addiction may be very real for you.
The first step to healing yourself, is acknowledging that you have the problem. The second step is to want to make the change. The third step is to make sure that anyone you spend a great amount of time with, is aware that you are turning your lifestyle around and that their support will be needed.
So let’s move forward with tools to manage your food addiction once and for all.
It’s important you understand how your brain works around addiction. It’s not always the action of eating that makes you an addict, moreso it is high glycemic foods that release feel good neurotransmitters into your brain releasing endorphins, serotonin and dopamine. It doesn’t take too long for your brain to acknowledge that certain foods make you feel good, so of course you will unconsciously be reaching for those particular foods.
Take the time to research the complex topic of food addiction and the role your front cortex plays in your ability to manage food, the amount you eat and the number of times you eat. Online, the American Society of Addiction Medicine, offer education and resources that may assist. [https://www.asam.org]
Foods purpose is to fuel our system so we have the strength and energy to function. Unfortunately, this is forgotten too often and processed, man-made foods make up a large percentage of the weekly diet. Having a basic understanding of what side effects additives, preservatives, and other ingredients in foods you like to eat have, will assist you toward making more informed choices around food. Aim to eat nutrient rich foods that are low in carbohydrates and contain good fats to avoid cravings caused by highly processed foods.
3. One Day at A Time
Deciding that you need and want to make positive changes to your habits and lifestyle can be overwhelming. Where do you start? No-one that answers yes to the A, B, C, D, E questions can manage their addiction without a sensible plan that offers small, achievable steps to long term success. So, the first step is to only focus on today. Not tomorrow, not the next 6 weeks. Just for today.
When you successfully have mastered today, then repeat the same step tomorrow. If there comes a day on your transition journey that didn’t play out the way you had hoped, go back to what you know, set your mind onto your goal, and continue back on your pathway to managing your addiction.
4. Look Deep Within Yourself
You are an adult. You think like an adult, act like an adult, work as an adult and feel like an adult, and even though this is the case, you can at times stand in situations as an adolescent or a child. It’s human nature that every adult fall’s into adolescent or child thinking, emotion, and actions; whether consciously or unconsciously.
From the time you began growing into a human, emotion, sound and action was making you. These experiences continued into your childhood with beliefs and understandings being the foundation of your adolescence. Food, when you eat and how much you eat was pretty much laid out for you by your parents until you were old enough to make your own decisions and choices around food.
Look deep into yourself and into the foundation that is you. You can’t change your past, but you can accept your past and be in charge of the choices you make today and for your future. Managing addiction will be easier once you accept that changes need to be made.
You know that exercise is beneficial to your body shape and the ability to control your weight. But what many people disregard, is that exercise releases chemicals and hormones into the brain that interact with their brain receptors which in turn stimulate pathways that reduce stress, depression and behavioral and emotional disorders. Make fitness, strength, agility and balance a key focus of importance for 30 minutes each day and experience the difference it makes to all areas of your health.
6. Drink Water
Throughout my article I have discussed food addiction. But I would also like to spell out that what you drink is also a food. If your weekly diet consists of chemical-based beverages or sugar infused drinks, then your pathway to success will become blocked. Drink six to eight glasses a clear water or organic herbal tea’s, each day. Sometimes, reaching for food at odd times of the day or night, may come down to your body being dehydrated. Top up on water first, then wait 10 minutes. If genuinely hungry at that point, then have something healthy at that time.