Food addiction, also called binge eating disorder, is a recognized condition and one that has many similarities to drug addiction and alcoholism.
For this type of addict, food is the drug. There may be one type of food that is particularly attractive, but ultimately any will do when the need to binge arises.
Tips to cope with food addiction
Therapists and support groups can help food addicts control their urges and learn to eat better, but the drug is still always there. While an alcoholic can avoid bars and parties with drinking, a food addict can never fully give up the habit. How do they cope?
1. Get addiction treatment
Binge eating is now recognized by mental health professionals as a true eating disorder. It also has many things in common with addiction. If you are a binge eater or a food addict, you obsess over food. You think about it constantly and binge frequently. This means eating so much in one sitting that you feel physically sick. You probably do this alone and then feel extreme guilt or shame afterward. You often feel intense cravings for food. Binge eaters often cycle through binging and maintaining control, either through restricted diet or exercise.
Because binge eating is so similar to addiction — and in fact researchers have found real similarities in the brains of drug addicts and food addicts — you could benefit from getting addiction treatment. Consider finding a counselor or therapist experienced in working with behavioral addictions. These are the addictions that don’t involve drugs or alcohol and include eating as well as compulsive gambling or shopping and sex addiction.
2. Work with a nutritionist or dietician
Working with someone who is an expert in eating well is also a good idea. Being a food addict isn’t actually related to your level of knowledge of healthy eating. However, learning about what you should and should not be eating can be helpful. A registered dietician can help you plan healthful meals. Having that guideline can be a powerful way to stick to a pattern of eating without binging. You might also consider working with a personal trainer to help you lose weight and get fit in a safe way.
3. Avoid problem foods
As a food addict, you can’t totally give up your drug of choice. You can give up your biggest problem foods, though. This can make a big difference, because many people find that their problem foods trigger binges. Observe your patterns of eating and binging and note what types of foods you crave the most and which set you off on a binge cycle. For some it may be sugary foods, while for others the salty crunch of a potato chip does it. Find your triggers and cut them out, cold turkey. Just make sure to run this by your dietician or nutritionist to be sure it makes sense for your health.
4. Go to support meetings
For many food addicts, a support group for food addiction is a powerful way to stay binge-free. Support groups have long been used by alcoholics and drug addicts and are most helpful after going through professional treatment. A support group for food addiction is not a treatment in itself but is a useful tool for maintaining healthy eating habits and resisting urges to give in to cravings. At a support group, you’ll find like-minded people who have had the same struggles. Leaning on each other will help you to live as a food addict in a world filled with tempting foods.
There is still hope for food addicts
There is still hope for such a difficult addiction. Work hard to follow the above tips and success will be much easier. We believe in you, now it’s time for you to also believe in yourself!