The Leading Expert in Treatment for Alcohol and Substance Abuse
and Founder of The Hills Treatment Center
Food Addiction

Food Addiction is not unlike drug or sex addiction. Food addiction is broad term that covers several types of disordered eating habits. Sometimes, it is an uncontrollable urge to eat excess amounts of refined carbohydrates, sugars and flour substances. Another common food addiction can be the opposite, with addicts obsessively restricting food intake and compulsively counting calories.

Food addicts come in all shapes and sizes. Many are obeseand their addiction is overeating while others are underweight, and they are typically addicted to not eating. Bulimics are also food addicts, and so are people who of normal weight but are just obsessed with food.

A food addict's entire life is affected by their obsession; it can deteriorate their health, emotional, social and spiritual lives. Many food addicts have extreme emotions when they are indulging in their addiction. It is often hard for food addicts to sustain relationships because everything comes secondary to food. Symptoms of food addiction can ultimately lead the addict to an early death, so it is important to recognize it and seek help.

Symptoms of food addiction include:
  • Uncontrollable intake of food, especially foods that are high in fat, sugar, and carbohydrates
  • Unsuccessfully trying to lose weight through various weight-loss programs
  • Using laxatives or diuretics, vomiting or excessively exercising after a meal to avoid weight gain
  • "Eating your feelings"
  • Using food as a method of comfort when the addict is sad or as a reward
  • Feeling ashamed, depressed, sad or helpless about weight and/or food
  • Becoming irritable before, during, or after eating
  • Hiding food
  • Eating in private
  • Avoiding social situations due to insecurities about weight or fear of eating in public
  • Stealing other people's food
  • Being more interested in food than social interactions

Food addiction is a biochemical disorder and it cannot be cured but willpower or therapy alone. There are many different treatment opportunities for food addiction. Some options are seeing a therapist, nutritionist, counselor, eating disorder specialist, or attending a treatment facility. Addicts can also attend 12-Step meetings such as Overeaters Anonymous (OA) or Food Addicts Anonymous (FAA). Some tips for avoiding compulsive eating are:
  • Knowing what triggers food cravings and avoiding them
  • Drinking at least 64 ounces of water daily
  • Healthy exercising (not excessively)
  • Using relaxation methods such as deep breathing or meditation
  • Acquiring new hobbies to distract from the obsession to eat

Like all addictions, food addiction can consume an addict's life. But recovery is possible with dedication and a desire to get better. Having one of the several food addictions is a complicated affliction to overcome. An alcoholic may avoid situations that are associated with alcohol but someone who has issues with food does not have that luxury. Food is a part of everyday life - we need food to survive. Through treatment, a food addict can learn to change distorted perceptions around food and build healthy eating habits.

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