Dietician Susie Burrell
takes a look at freeing yourself from food addiction.
Food addiction is a topic that comes up frequently in weight loss chat rooms and diet blogs as people struggling with their weight will describe a state in which they feel completely out of control with their eating.
Descriptions of this out-of-control behaviour include eating frenzies in which entire cakes, packets of biscuits and large blocks of chocolate are eaten to pre-planned binges. Some have confessed to buying large amounts of food for the sole purpose of eating for comfort and a sense of extreme fullness that accompanies it.
So, is food addiction real and if so, what causes it? But most importantly, how can we manage it?
A component of a perceived "food addiction" will be behavioural, while other parts psychological and physiological. For example, the complex taste mix of fat and sugar found in cakes, biscuits, chocolate and fast foods will over time prime the brain to crave more of these foods if they are regularly consumed.
For individuals who are psychologically vulnerable, for example those who are lonely, depressed or just bored who self-medicate with food, a potential link may be formed in the brain between the tastes of these foods and the outcome (such as feeling better).
Then there may also be the powerful early programming which taught us as children that we will never be thin, or that you eat to self soothe. Such early teachings exist in the subconscious, driving us towards these behaviours when we are most vulnerable.
So, the cure to food addiction is threefold. Firstly, you need to eliminate the craving response from the brain by going cold turkey. Secondly, you need to keep psychologically engaged and thirdly, you need to identify when you are most vulnerable and repeatedly practice not indulging yourself. This will take time and patience.
Just as an AA member may state, "I have not had a drink for so many days", so too becomes the mantra for those with "food addiction" "I have not had a binge for … days."
A rather harsh intervention perhaps but one that will ultimately free you from the addictive foods, the guilt and give you your life back.