Getting Control of Food Addiction
Christina had been overweight ever since she was a child, and at 49, had struggled with diets and rollercoaster weight loss and gain for decades. She decided that she had an “addiction” to certain foods, and this caused her a lot of uneasiness not only in trying to avoid those foods at all costs, but also because she felt she didn’t have control over her body. She had read that sugar, fat and salt are all highly addictive substances that are far too prevalent in store-bought foods. Yet she knew intuitively that there was something more to the equation.
Determined to find out what it was, Christina decided never to go on a weight-loss diet again. After all, she thought, if the majority of North Americans have tried dieting, yet over 63% are still overweight, and only 3% of dieters keep the weight off, “that tells me we’ve got this dieting thing wrong.”
Over the next three years, she unearthed a lot of secrets not only about food, but about her body and her emotions, which were the core reasons for her weight gain. What did she learn? #1.
Christina found out that as a child, she was one of over 50% toddlers given sugar every day; and early exposure to sweets has long-term consequences; the addiction follows you for the rest of your life (and is linked to diabetes incidence). When others strongly dictated what/how much she ate – and sometimes made her feel guilty if she didn’t – she grew up feeling disconnected from her body, no longer recognizing basic signals like hunger and fullness. She decided to once again learn to listen to her body’s internal cues, becoming a more intuitive eater, rather than relying on other influencers (like “traditional” mealtimes set by the clock or addictive foods). #2.
Christina realized that she is an emotional eater. She uses food to nurture herself or “escape” when bored, worried, angry, lonely or stressed. To overcome this, she knew she needed to be willing to uncover unfinished business from her past, to strip away layers of fat and forgotten memories to become both physically and emotionally healthy. With counselling and reading books on the subject, she was able to recognize outdated and incorrect perceptions about herself. She found relief in learning how to love herself – to be her own best friend – even when life came at her from all directions. #3.
Christina recognized that her “addiction” was actually more about not wanting to face how she was feeling at that moment. By nature, we all seek pleasure and want to avoid any type of pain – even if it’s a boring work task or difficult phone call that must be made – so we gravitate to something else that will help us feel better and escape. With this denial or avoidance the problem still remains and “fixes” are temporary, but become automatic substitutes out of habit, often learned over years. Christina practiced being consciously, acutely aware of what she was thinking before putting food into her mouth. #4.
To uncover her triggers, every time Christina reached for food, she stopped herself just before, and asked herself 3 questions:1. Am I hungry?2. Am I trying to escape or ease or energize?
(Are you escaping from or avoiding an emotion linked to a thought about a person/event such as worry or anger; are you easing boredom or a tense body that needs stretching; or are you tired because you didn’t get enough sleep so need energizing through a walk/nap?)3. Is there something better that I could do?
(Call someone, do yoga, take a bath, read or listen to something calming/inspirational, wash the dishes or clean the floor; you might not particularly like housework, but when you become constructive, your mood changes.