Food addiction is one of the most misunderstood addictions in our society. Still, it is very real, having both similarities and differences to drug or alcohol addiction.
Some of the differences are:
Unlike alcohol or drugs, we all need food in order to live. Therefore, there is no putting it aside and saying “never again will I put you into my system”. We can do that with some types of foods such as food containing sugar or white flour. Still, there are certain foods that can trigger a craving for these foods.
Food addiction is more easily hidden than alcoholism or drug addiction. The only outward manifestation of food addiction is weight gain…and that can easily be blamed on metabolism, thyroid or other health issues.
Food addiction is not taken as seriously as drug and alcohol addiction, and often attributed to weakness or a lack of will power. Part of this is attributed to the fact that not every person who is overweight suffers from a food addiction and everyone who loses weight does not suffer from a food addiction. Just because one person loses weight more easily than someone else has nothing to do with will power and everything to do with regard to what caused the weight gain in the first place. Some people gain weight because their metabolism slows down or because of a medical condition. Some people gain because of a simple lifestyle change that has nothing to do with a food addiction.
Food addiction is socially acceptable in ways that other addictions are not…as well as encouraged. Food is the main focus at wedding receptions, parties, church socials, family get togethers. People are encouraged to eat too much. People are given the idea that eating certain foods will make them happy. The truth is that eating certain foods will simply make you fat.
Just go to a restaurant and look at the size of the portions. The plates are not regular dinner plates. They are serving platters. There is more than one serving on a platter, and enough to take home for another meal. The last time I went to my favorite restaurant, I got a take out box and had it for dinner for the next 2 days. Sadly, I can well remember when I would sit in the restaurant and eat the entire platter in one sitting.
Like drug and alcohol addiction, there are also similarities:
The addiction stems from a need deep inside…an emptiness that one is trying to fill. Everyone who has an addiction is trying to fill a void. Sometimes that void comes from a past trauma. For me, my food addiction stemmed from the trauma of childhood sexual abuse. The food numbed the pain, and became a friend that I believed was safe and could not hurt me. In an unconscious way, I believe that the weight also served as a barrier to keep people away from me. After all, if nobody got near me…then nobody could hurt me.
The effects are numbing, and a person will often feel euphoric or sleepy. Depression is also a symptom of food addiction.
Feelings of guilt follow a binge which often leads to another binge to take away the pain. A food addict feels guilty for eating certain foods or for binging. Many times an addict will promise to start over “tomorrow”. The problem is that tomorrow rarely comes. Failure upon failure only leads to more guilt and self loathing…which leads to more binging.
The addiction takes a downward spiral, affecting other areas of a person’s life. As in other addictions, food addiction will worsen and eventually affect other areas of a person’s life. A person who gains a lot of weight will feel the physical, social and economic repercussions of weight gain. Health will be affected. There will be more of a tendency to isolate oneself from other people. There will be a loss of self-esteem, which will affect everything…including the career path you may try and go on.
If you believe you are suffering from a food addiction, there are support groups who can help you. Don’t be afraid to seek help. You will find that you are not alone in the problem that you are having.