Not all addictions are the same (drugs or alcohol), in fact people can become addicted to everything from gambling to sex to food. Compulsive eating or other eating addictions are different than other addictions. Learn more about how people become addicted to food and ways to rebuild a healthy relationship to food in recovery.
Foods do not have addictive properties in the same way drugs or alcohol do. A person cannot become dependent on food in the same way as drugs or alcohol. The main factor in food addiction has more to do with how a person behaves around food, thoughts about food and the way habits are formed with food.
People use food for many reasons but persons with addiction use it to cope with emotional matters and repeatedly use food (or withhold food) to numb underlying pain. By using food as a means of dealing with anxiety, stress and grief, the body becomes conditioned to crave the process to feel relief, which builds a repetitive pattern of behavior. Foods that people crave can have certain substances such as sugar or fat but generally it begins when a young child is given a treat as a reward for good behavior or in celebration. Reward centers of the brain light up and release dopamine which triggers the body to seek out more of the same to get the desired response.
Recovery from a food addiction is a process which is worth taking to find freedom from food. Taking back one’s own power from food requires a team approach to fulfill recovery goals. This includes:
- Developing a healthy relationship with food. A person cannot abstain from eating but must learn to cope in a healthy way with food by relearning patterns of thinking and behavior associated with healthy eating habits.
- Set boundaries with unsafe foods. Triggers or ‘unsafe’ foods are removed from diets and boundaries are set to be healthier. Eliminate temptation until the person can live in a balanced way again.
- Follow a structured meal plan. A person with an unhealthy food relationship may try following a meal plan with normal eating habits. Having a plan helps guide a person to the right ways to eat safely without deprivation.
- Learn healthy coping strategies. Reasons for turning to food to cope will be uncovered and healthier mechanisms developed. Strategies must be learned to deal with the emotions and behaviors which help a person eat properly.
- Professional advice. Seeking help for food addiction is a process which takes time and does not happen overnight. A professional will help a person get into the right frame of mind to tackle underlying issues head on and create strategies for lasting change.
Food addiction can be treated with the right support and treatment protocol. If you or a loved one have challenges with eating habits and struggle with food, Hired Power can help you find resources to create lasting, positive change.