An anonymous reader writes in and asks: “Can you be addicted to food? And if so, is the treatment the same as for drugs and alcohol?”
I am not an expert on food addiction but I do know that it exists and it can be especially tricky because abstinence is not an option. You have to eat to live.
With booze and drugs it is simple (but not easy), just don’t drink or do drugs. That is the start of recovery. Abstinence becomes our baseline for success. With food addiction, you still have to keep eating of course. So what they focus on I believe is on becoming more conscious of their eating. You learn to identify “true hunger” versus when you are just “emotionally eating” and so on.
I work with one lady who used to be a very, very large woman and she did the Overeaters Anonymous thing and she has a sponsor and works a 12 step program and she has been at her ideal weight for years now and feels great about herself. She showed me an old pic of herself once and I could not believe it. The program has worked for her. She started doing all sorts of exercises for losing weight. She has very strict portions made out in advance for all her meals and she does not really participate in our potluck at work (she attends but simply eats her own lunch).
So I am not an expert and I can not pretend to be one, but if you are seeking help in this area then you should ask around and find some resources. If you can’t change on your own then you need to ask for help. Simple as that.
My own experience with food addiction
I am not overweight and I never have been, but I think I am still addicted to junk food. My diet is terrible.
In fact, I just returned to regular eating this morning after finishing up a 4 day juice fast. I don’t know what draws me to fasting but it definitely has a spiritual element to it. I keep going back to fasting every couple of months for some reason. It has become a routine for me.
Juice fasting sounds like torture but it’s not bad at all. After your body figures out that you are no longer giving it food it turns the digestive system off and you are no longer hungry. Then you have ridiculous amounts of energy and will only need to sleep for about 70 percent of what you normally sleep. This has been my experience anyway.
What really blows me away about juice fasting is that you learn to appreciate food again. When you’re fasting and you smell something cooking, it’s almost like a whole meal just by smelling it. Then when you finally return to eating real food it is like a divine gift. The first thing you bite into is like the best tasting thing in the world.
Really I am not suggesting that anyone juice fast, as it’s not the best way to lose weight. In fact, it’s not even a good way to lose weight. I just mention fasting because it opened my eyes up to my relationship with food.
I work with all of these nurses in a treatment center, and all we do all day long is eat. They bring in pretzels and combos and chips and cookies and all sorts of food gets shared and put out and passed around, and then we have lunch, and on and on and on.
When you fast, you learn that you don’t need all that stuff. And you start to realize that when you are reaching for pretzels or snack cakes or even carrot sticks, you are probably not eating for the right reason. It is amazing how little we really need to live on. Now if you knew me in person you would say that I do not have a weight problem and that I probably don’t need to watch what I eat so much. But the fact is that I eat junk all day long. And I’ve been eating this way my whole life. Constantly snacking in between meals. For what? Do I really need the calories? It’s all junk anyways!
I am trying to change my diet because I eat lots of junk and TV dinners and red meat. I have been trying to change it for a few years now and I have done poorly at it. After each fast, my intention is to go buy a bunch of salad and veggies and stuff but it never happens.
So what does my own experience with drug and alcohol addiction tell me? It tells me that in order to overcome my addiction, I had to utilize the help of other people. I tried to figure it out on my own but I could not do it. So eventually I had to seek help from others. And of course, there is a 12 step group for food addiction called overeaters anonymous.
So if you are struggling with overcoming food addiction and want to know what to do, I can give you the solution in one sentence: ask for help. I am not an expert in food addiction so you should find someone who is. Then ask them for help. Find a group, find a sponsor, find someone you trust, find someone who has what you want. Find a person who has conquered their food addiction. Someone who has the problem and is no longer eating compulsively. Find that person and ask them for help.
Hard to do for some people. Some addicts die before they learn how to ask for help.
12 step groups are nice because they are free. Almost all other solutions will cost money, and most of them will be no more helpful than overeaters anonymous (which is 12 step based).
Probably a good starting point as any.
Does anyone else out there struggle with their diet?