The Food Addict

I am a food addict. 

Similar to an alcoholic in that, if I have so much as a taste of food I go on to eat far more than I need and it makes me ill and  a failure.  If I don't do something about it, it will eventually kill me with something like heart disease or diabetes.

However, unlike an alcoholic there is this paradox. If I abstain from food I will quickly die. 

There are 2 particular concepts known as the pleasure trap and the cram circuit which I think could be particularly useful to understand to help come to grips with battling with food addiction.  

But first - 

Is it possible to be a food addict?

In my own experience, yes it is.

However, this addiction is not like others.  People are addicted to many things, the most well know being drugs, alcohol and tobacco or nicotine. Others that spring to mind are chocolate, coffee or caffeine, sugar - but food itself?

Food addiction is different to  other types because with addictions to smoking or alcohol , for example, you know what it is you need to stop doing, and even though it is immensely difficult to do it, it IS possible.

When it comes to food addiction, what do you do?  You cannot just give up food because you will die.  Cutting back on the quantity you  eat is not possible either, not in the full term because your body's cutting back button is broken.  Your body and brain is constantly telling you that you need more food and if you don't get this extra food you are going to starve to death and there is no stronger will in most people than the will to live - try fighting that.  Just stop eating when you are full?  The food addict never feels full or satisfied in any noticeable way.

Most addicts are addicted to stuff that is not vital for life. 

When you are addicted to food you are taking in too much of something you actually need to survive.  This is what makes it difficult to combat.

What is a Food Addict?

You get up out of bed, you have breakfast.  Then you get to the door to leave for work and you think of the long gap until break. This is your last chance to eat for the next few hours.  So you snatch a biscuit out of the cupboard to eat on the way. 

Then you park up in the car park and break still seems a long way off so you eat one of the sandwiches you made for lunch.  This is yet another last chance to eat.

Then there's a pot of sweets on the desk left over from yesterday when everyone clubbed together for an afternoon treat.  You have just one, but that's OK because one is irrelevant.  By break time you have had six.

When break comes you are very good and have a yoghurt and an apple. Then five minutes before the end of break you panic when you realise it is another 2 hours until lunch so you nip out to the vending machine for a bar of chocolate and while you are there buy a sandwich to make up for the one you ate earlier. You eat the chocolate on the way back to the office and arrive 5 minutes late.

For lunch you eat the sandwich you just bought plus the sandwich you still have left, plus you also have a big slice of cake and a packet of crisps (that's chips to any Americans reading this).  For most of the rest of the time you read a book and chat, but then you have another panic when the end of lunch is approaching.  You might not get your afternoon break today and tea time is like 7 hours away.  This time you buy a bag of peanuts because that seems better than a bar of chocolate............ and so it goes on

You don't think you eat much and wonder why you  are putting on weight?  Of course you only planned to have a reasonable amount, but with all the extras you don't realise how much it all adds up to .  A sandwich, a chocolate bar, 6 sweets, a bag of peanuts - these were all extras which individually didn't seem like much but probably add up to at least 500 calories, possibly 1,000!

A food addict rarely eats because of hunger, they eat to relieve an itch, an emptiness and a void.  Not a hungry void, not an emptiness of food, no, they are already full of food.  This is a different emptiness and is the same feeling of compulsion that any drug addict or alcoholic gets.  Food has become an addictive drug.  You have to have food to hand just like a smoker never goes anywhere without ciggies.

It seems impossible to break free because if you cut down on food, the craving gets worse.  The battle to resist the urge is constant and it becomes impossible to keep up any sort of diet forever.  You can't live the rest of your life like this it is torture.  This is why diets fail. 

The urge to eat more when you are already full is stronger than the urge for a thirsty person to take a drink. The panic you feel if you are facing the prospect of there being no food handy for a few hours is totally irrational.  Have you ever left the house and then gone back again to put a few biscuits in a bag to put in your pocket "just in case"?

Like with any addiction, what the food addict needs is understanding.  Once you understand what is happening that is half the battle won. 

If you can also GET VERY ANGRY! about it that's even better. Maybe this will get you angry: it is not you who is to blame. Like the tobacco industry, like drug pushers, the aim of food manufacturers is to get you buying more.  They make their food "moreish" another word for addictive.  They know you will eat more than you need and rub their hands with glee knowing this means more money for them. They are taking your hard earned money off you for stuff they know is making you overweight and ill.  You are paying them to slowly kill you.

Does that make you angry enough to stop buying tasty treats and to start losing weight?

Eating real food must most certainly help, avoiding refined and processed, and keep to a balanced diet, Making sure you include everything your body needs - including fats/oils in their natural form rahter than refined, and carbs, micronutrients, protein and fibre - so you don't crave for them. But actually being able to keep to this is a different matter

I don't think anyone truly has the answer, but here are two concepts that might help

First, something called the pleasure trap.  This is where you have become so used to rich food that it becomes normal, not the treat that it should be

Also - more interestingly a concept called "the cram circuit"  which explains the natural urge to cram in as much rich food as possible - how this is not a problem in a natural environment, but over time when unnaturally surrounded daily by high calorie food it becomes a conditioned response - similar to the Pavlov dog experiment - in which a full stomach becomes an irresistable signal to eat more - excitingly interesting explanation of how someone can become a food addict.  See the video below



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Please remember that the author of this website is not a professional.  All statements are opinions and not to be taken as advice.

Interesting reading - eat like a normal person

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