Confronting the Psychology of Food Addiction

Dr. Purushothaman
January 12, 2014


When you think about an emotionally traumatic experience, like breaking up with your significant other, is your first impulse to eat something to calm down? Do you think about food when facing other stressful scenarios, such as talking to someone you don't particularly like, or even the idea of just getting through your day? If so, you are showing the classic signs of being addicted to food [], and as a result, you are probably also overweight. If you resort to eating as way to combat your emotional stress, you have a dangerous psychological addiction that is affecting your physical health. But how do you overcome an addiction to something as necessary as food?

Food addiction, like other addictions, starts in the brain. Physical addiction is always much easier to cure than psychological addiction, because unlike physical addiction, psychological addiction is rooted deep within our neural pathways. We build profound emotional connections with our addiction. Every time we have a stressful feeling, we will automatically start thinking about eating to help combat that stress. This is the brutal truth of addiction.

In the case of food, we are surrounded by it all day, throughout the year. In fact, there are holidays set aside just for eating-such as Thanksgiving-that make food addiction an incredibly difficult disease to cure. How do we teach ourselves to think differently about food? If you will pardon the expression, cold turkey, when it comes to food addiction, is simply not possible. You need to keep eating to survive. But you need to learn how to eat to satisfy your hunger, not your emotional cravings.

As with any addiction, the first step in overcoming food addiction is learning to recognize that you are addicted to food. Once you've made this painful admission, your life will become much easier to control. You will begin to see clearly how you've been using food as a way to compensate for your emotions.

Of course, it is rare to be able to make this major breakthrough on your own. You may benefit from having other people to guide you through this process. Finding someone who can motivate you when you feel weak or tired, or when you feel you may be on the verge of a relapse, is invaluable. Learning how to eat in a healthy manner will take time, but it is not impossible. The most difficult step is in confronting the psychology of the addiction, and understanding just how deeply embedded it is.

Once you begin to separate eating from your emotions, you will begin to lose weight and feel better. You will discover that you have the power to control your life without food. You will no longer be ruled by the kitchen, the bathroom scale, or your emotions! The freedom and personal pride that you will experience will add joy to your life, and take inches off your waistline.

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