Food addiction is more common than many people think. It’s not simply associated with people who eat too much and become obese but also those who are addicted to a particular type of food and can’t live without it.
When you consider that certain types of our daily nourishment can produce effects similar to the taking of a drug you can see why it can become such a problem. Food addiction can include binging on sweet or salty foods and comes with cravings that can be just as bad as those smokers feel when they are trying to quit.
Most people understand drug and alcohol addiction but many often can’t get to grips with the notion of a food addiction, particularly how damaging it can be. Not only can those who overeat certain types of food become unhealthily obese, they can increase their chance of developing cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Not only that, they may also have to cope with the low esteem, depression and shame that accompanies an eating disorder.
Broaching the Subject of Food Addiction
It’s not easy to bring up the subject of addiction and most of us don’t have the counselling and caring skills to make it any easier. If you think a loved one or friend has a food addiction, finding the right time to broach the subject is paramount. When there is a problem, though, early intervention is better than letting things carrying on and probably getting worse as time goes on.
Try not to be moralistic or judgmental, lean towards compassion and understanding. Many food addicts will be embarrassed that they have been ‘found out’ so you need to make sure that they know you are here to help and understand what they are going through.
Putting a Plan Together for Food Addiction
The first aim of getting your family member or friend out of their food addiction is to come to terms with how you are going change their relationship with food. That means learning how to eat properly and to reduce their dependence on a particular food. It’s a good idea to do as much research as you can and contact organisations that help people with eating disorders. This way you will be forearmed and forewarned and know much more about what to expect.
Many people will start by making a list of ‘bad’ foods that are part of the addiction and look at ways of replacing these or at least putting them out of bounds. Making sure certain foods aren’t allowed in the home can be a good idea and eliminating the temptation can reduce the amount of stress the individual is put under.
Other things that can be put in place are healthy eating plans that are easy to stick to and reducing the amount of time the addict is alone in the presence of temptation.
The Underlying Causes of Food Addiction
In severe cases of food addiction there are generally underlying emotional and psychological causes that need to be explored and these can be the most difficult to get to the bottom of. Getting professional help is usually an advantage in this case and there are good services available in many countries. There are processes such as the 12 Step Recovery Programme and Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) which can help in some cases and you should look at these closely to see if they can help.
This is not a question of removing food and everything will be okay. Food addiction is an ingrained behaviour that takes time to overcome. There will be times when your friend or family member gives into temptation and you will have to treat that in a calm and reflective manner. It takes a lot of patience to help someone with an addiction and you should be prepared to be in it for the long run. Getting support yourself is important, either a close friend who can listen to your problems or a member of a group that has experience of food disorders.
Above all, keep the end goal in mind, the time when your loved one will be free from their addiction and leading a full and healthy life.