Food addiction

June 7, 2012
Denise Simmons, Corporate Chef

Is there such a thing?  There’s a lot of controversy about it in the news these days.  I tend to think people can become addicted to food the same way we become addicted to drugs, alcohol, sex, gambling, etc.  The euphoria of the high, regardless of how we achieve it, is a very intoxicating thing-pardon the pun.  Unfortunately, regardless of what our addiction may be, the high never lasts long enough, so we either learn to live without it, or we chase it until it kills us.

So how do we deal with food addiction?  Every successful program designed to help addicts recover is very straight forward-we have to stop doing whatever it is we do for our high.  The thing about food addiction recovery is we can’t just stop eating.  We have to learn how to continue the behavior, but without the resulting high.  We have to retrain how we think & feel about food.

Do we have to give up the foods we crave most?  Like a heroin addict can never shoot up again, can the food addict never have another piece of candy (or cake, fried chicken, greasy burger…).  If that’s the case, where do we draw the line?  It’s ok to have a muffin but not a piece of cake?  How do we qualify what’s ‘good’ food vs ‘bad’ food?  Is it the same for everyone, or does every individual have their own food demons?

I’ve spent close to 40 years on the diet roller coaster.  During the ‘good’ times, i.e., times of weight loss, it’s about depriving myself, beating myself up for not living up to the expectations of eating only the diet foods I’m allowed to eat.  This results in the ‘bad’ times…when I finally cave and eat what I want.. the weight comes piling back on-all that I lost during the good time, plus an extra 20-30% for good measure.

Can eating mindfully be the answer?  If I say to myself I can have anything I want, as long as I’m truly hungry for food (not for companionship, comfort, love…), and I stop eating once I’m satisfied, can I become be a healthier person?  By not focusing on weight, but on what my body tells me it needs, can I achieve a healthier weight?  So far, the answer is yes.  It’s not a quick recovery, but I’m hoping it’s a long term solution that I can live with for the rest of my life.

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