Do you find yourself stuffing your face when you aren’t even hungry? Maybe you’re just bored or eating idly when you aren’t actively engaging your brain. Unhealthy eating habits are something that a lot of people may struggle with. What’s worse is that many people who experience this also find it extremely difficult to stop, even though they know it’s terrible for them.
Having an addiction to eating in simple terms might refer to an uncontrollable, compulsive urge to eat. You can find yourself emotional eating rather than because you’re hungry.
Eating addiction isn’t treated or looked at the same way as other addictions, like drugs or gambling, so does that mean it’s not a real thing? No, but it does make treating it more challenging.
Let’s talk a little more about what an unhealthy relationship with food can look like and how you can overcome food addiction.
Symptoms of Food Addiction
Symptoms you experience can be emotional, social, and physical. There are sometimes similarities between the signs of food addiction and addictive substances. Some of the more common ones we see include:
- Having obsessive cravings and a loss of control
- Preoccupation with food, including getting it as well as consuming it
- Binging when you eat
- Trying to stop overeating or eating junk foods, but being unsuccessful
- Lack of control over any of your eating habits, whether it’s how much you eat when you eat or where you eat
- Adverse effects on your life, including relationships and finances
- Eating for an emotional release
- Eating alone
- Continuing to eat to the point you feel emotional discomfort or physical pain
If you compulsively eat large amounts, you might have negative feelings afterward. These negative feelings occur with other addictive behaviors, which is a similarity they share.
When struggling with an unhealthy food relationship, it can cause physical symptoms like compulsive exercise and “make up for it” or extreme dietary restriction.
What About Binge Eating Disorder (BED)?
Sometimes binge eating disorders and food addiction are talked about interchangeably. However, BED is more clearly diagnosable as an eating condition that is a mental health disorder.
Binge eating disorder involves complex elements, including biological factors and emotional and environmental factors leading to excessive eating behavior. Whereas food addiction might be more physical because you can become dependent on the physiological reaction you get from certain foods.
How to Treat Food Addiction
So here’s the hard part for some people—what can you do if you have an unhealthy relationship with food? How can you experience recovery when you struggle with food addiction?
It might sound cliché, but recognizing a problem is a big first step for drug addiction.
When you deal with compulsive eating, your treatment plan will focus on how to end your chronic overeating. You’ll learn how you can change dysfunctional eating habits into ones that are healthy over a period of time.
Some of the options that are considered a treatment for food addiction include:
- Nutritional counseling: Working with someone who’s a professional in nutrition can help you learn more about healthily approaching and choosing better foods. You can be more mindful of making dietary choices and be more conscious about how different foods affect you.
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy: CBT is an effective treatment for various addictive disorders. Working with a therapist, you can learn how to identify your negative thoughts and behaviors. You can see how those might relate to your choices and behaviors surrounding eating.
- Support group participation: There are 12-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous if you deal with drug or alcohol addiction. Similarly, there’s Overeaters Anonymous (OA) and Food Addicts in Recovery Anonymous.
Yes, professional treatment, including therapy, can go a long way to help people with an unhealthy relationship with food, but there are other things you can do too.
Some people find self-help books excellent when they have a behavioral addiction. There are guides and frameworks you can follow so that you can start to tackle your compulsive eating.
There are also lifestyle changes to try as you find the combination that’s best for you.
Some examples of lifestyle changes include:
- Break out of compulsive eating habits by making small lifestyle changes
- Give your craving time to pass before taking action
- Eat three healthy, balanced meals every day
- Drink a lot of water; it’s good for your general health and can also help with cravings
- Be a mindful eater, have meals that you take the time to prepare. Sit down and have them slowly
- Reduce temptations by eliminating triggering foods at home
- Get plenty of sleep
- Find healthy ways to deal with stress
Including Exercise In Your Routine
Okay, here’s the best piece of advice we have for you—exercise!
There are many reasons for you to think about starting a workout routine if you’re grappling with compulsive habits that go beyond weight loss or body shape.
First, you can get that emotional high that you might get from certain foods through exercise instead. You can boost your endorphins and let those feel-good chemicals flood your body with a challenging workout rather than having a snack.
Exercise is also an excellent way to structure your time so that you’re not constantly thinking about eating.
You can direct your energy to healthier alternatives.
Exercise can give you a social support network if you do it in a gym, and it’s good for your overall health. You may be trying to lose weight in addition to overcoming a tendency to eat compulsively, so exercise can help you reach your goals faster.
Being physically active is an excellent way to cope with stress and other triggers too. You might otherwise find yourself relying on food as a crutch when you’re experiencing uncomfortable or stressful emotions. Working out can help relieve that stress and provide emotional release differently.
When you’re physically active, it improves your body image and can improve your self-esteem.
Need help with food addiction? Follow our guide and take steps towards a better life, but the best thing you could do to help yourself is to sign up for classes at Fort Fitness. The Fort Fitness family believes fitness is more than just for looks; it’s a lifestyle and something we do for a purpose. Call 949-544-1557 and sign up today, we can help you mentally and physically feel your best!