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Beating an Addiction to Food

By: Jo Johnson - Updated: 10 Feb 2021 | comments*Discuss
Overeating; Bulimia; Compulsion;

Food addiction can be a very serious problem for many people and in some circumstances can lead to death.Food addiction is defined as a compulsive disorder causing over-eating or bulimia which involves binge eating followed by purging the food from the body by vomiting.

Primary Methods of Overcoming the Addiction

There are a great many issues surrounding food addiction, and input from many external agencies may be needed in order to overcome the problem.

As with beating any other form of addiction, the individual must realise they have a problem and want to overcome it. Once this has been achieved advice from the GP should be sought in order to gain referral to the most appropriate places.A combination of behavioural therapy, confidence and self-esteem building and emotional exploration is usually high on the list of priorities.

One to one counselling followed by group therapy is often indicated with the aim of addressing the emotional issues behind the addiction, how and why food became such an important issue and exploration into the sufferer’s body image, as this is usually extremely distorted.

The therapist will normally discuss the person’s background and relationships to try and determine the root of the problem which must be sought in order to begin the healing process. If binging is the problem, the addict and therapist will work together to find the triggers for the binges and learn new ways of managing these feelings; common triggers include confrontation, feeling let down, loneliness, frustration and stress.

Recent research has discovered that foods known to be high in fat and sugar content cause certain chemical changes in the brain similar to those experienced when someone has used an opiate; this contributes to the proof that some foods can have addictive qualities. The identification of these types of food as a trigger for a binge is necessary and these foods can be excluded from the shopping list, thereby reducing the temptation.

Issues of control, depression, isolation, guilt and disappointment are all commonly found in those who have issues surrounding food and thorough exploration of these areas will be needed.

Therapies may be attended as an in-patient or an out-patient, at an NHS run centre, a private organisation or with a voluntary/charity led treatment centre. This plan of treatment may be organised by either a mental health establishment, psychiatrist, social worker or by the GP.

Other agencies that may be included in the treatment plan include dietricians/nutritionalists, hpnotherapists, psychotherapist and exercise trainers.

Extra help may be needed for depression and anxiety, which may require medication from the GP or by using alternative methods such as acupuncture.

Long-Term Methods of Overcoming the Addiction.

Once the initial emotional issues have been addressed, there are some measures that can be taken to help promote a positive relationship with food.

Education on the necessary food groups and the consequences of having either too little or too much of these foods is important, especially if the person is the primary cook in the family and provides and prepares the meals for other people; an understanding of the body’s calorific, carbohydrate, protein and metabolic rates will help achieve this.Cookery lessons will add to the education gained and will also act as a way of seeing the positives of food and another way of enjoying it.

Engaging on an exercise programme will help to achieve a high level of fitness and improve overall health; this is important as many overeaters or bulimics have caused their body to endure a lot of abuse and a good regular workout will help recondition the body, tone muscles and improve the circulation of blood around the vital organs.

Stress management and other hobbies and interests should be sought, not only will this prevent having too much spare time to think about food, it may open up a whole new social circle, helping to enforce a positive outlook on life.

Food addiction can be a very sad and lonely addiction and discussion and understanding should be carried out in order to determine the underlying reasons for the addiction.

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Being in a completely poor situation for a long period with no support only encourages overeating. Due to my health condition, no support, bullying /isolation for the last 40 years & unavoidable lacks of sleep due to health issues, my main aim in life has always been death.
Jo - 10-Feb-21 @ 3:20 PM
I agree with this. But what is causing the emotional problems? Some might say early neglect/abuse/bullying/losing a loved one etc could be the cause. My cause is actually ADHD. It causes me to be emotionally unstable. And me bingeing is my brain 'craving' that boost and calm all at the same time. And until my ADHD is under control then the bingeing will still happen. In the USA a ADHD drug has been approved for binge eating disorders with a success rate of 50% in an Ohio trail. The new drug is available here in the uk but only for ADHD (if you can get it!). That makes me feel there are a hell of a lot of people with eating disorders that actually have ADHD first and foremost!
Dizzy Blond - 6-Jun-16 @ 1:18 PM
I am overweight and recently gave up smoking.naturally, as for most people who give up smoking I put more weight on - about a stone.This has only taken 2 months. I have since realised that my eating addiction is the same as my smoking addiction.There is one big difference.With smoking I gave up something that I didn't need at all.All I had to do was cut it right out completely and never take another puff.I now know that even just one puff and I will be back on 20 a day because one puff leads to another .....and another......Giving up overeating is far harder.Because I cannot give up eating altogether, but the same applies as with smoking - just one mouthful leads to another and another and another and I cannot stop.Although I know it is doing me no good - just like smoking - unconsciously my brain tells me I need 5 cakes 6 slices of toast and a bar of nutty chocolate in order to survive and I cannot resist it any more than I could resist a glass of water if I haven't had a drink for a day
snugasabug - 10-Mar-14 @ 11:00 PM
Thank you for that and thank you for saying you understand. I don't know who to turn to either :( Maybe one day we can find the answer
shellshell - 28-Mar-12 @ 8:16 PM
That's really sad and I totally understand your pain. I have had private counselling and nhs psychologist counselling and both refused to concentrate on my constant obsession with food, my weight and eating. They felt my compulsive over eating and starving myself was a result of other problems but it's only ever been about my weight. I just don't know who to turn to. I'm fed up with paying or wasting time in therapy that just isnt working.
Gemr - 15-Mar-12 @ 2:38 PM
Ten years ago I managed to get a referral to an NHS psychologist for my problems with food. Yay, finally getting somewhere I thought.until said psychologist told me not to be too concerned with how bad I felt about my weight, after all there are people FAR more obses than me in the US. I couldn't believe it. Never went back - As I say that was ten years ago. Today? I still feel the same - still have an eating problem and cannot believe the amount of healthcare professionals who have patronised me and tut tutted at me about my weight problem. I now don't ever mention that I know I am a compulsive overeater - according to them I probably just can't put down that half packet of crisps, or I just put a little too much butter on my toast and it surely can't be that bad for me just to make my portions just a touch smaller. They are clueless and I am a lost soul.
shellshell - 16-Feb-12 @ 6:37 PM
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