“Do I just lack willpower with food?”
“Am I a binge eater, or is this food addiction?”
“How do I know if I’m a food addict?”
If you’re grappling with these questions, you may feel puzzled. Perhaps you’ve struggled with binge eating, dieting, weight loss and weight gain, body image, bulimia, or other eating disorders. Maybe you’ve considered or undergone bariatric surgery. You suspect that you’re not a “normal” eater, but are you really addicted to food?
As with all addictions, there is no simple blood test to determine whether or not you have the disease of food addiction.
You can, however, ask yourself a series of questions:
- Do I think about food or my weight all the time?
- Have I lost weight over and over only to gain it back, and more?
- Do I obsessively count calories?
- Do I have physical problems resulting from the way I eat, or don’t eat?
- Do I eat large amounts of food in a short period of time?
- Do certain foods trigger binges?
- Do I weigh myself once or twice (or more) a day?
- Do I attempt or use purging (vomiting, laxatives, fasting, or exercise) to “get rid of” food I’ve eaten?
- Do I eat differently in front of people than I do when I’m alone?
- Do I have emotional problems resulting from the way I eat or don’t eat?
- Do I find it difficult to stop eating after one or two bites of certain foods?
- Have I done serious work in psychotherapy only to find my “food problem” was unaffected?
- Have my eating and/or eating behaviours caused negative consequences in my life?
- Has a family member or medical practitioner said they are concerned about my health due to my eating?
Answering yes to one or more of these questions may indicate that you are dealing with food addiction.
“Okay, great. I may or may not have food addiction. What do I do now?”
One of the best ways to figure out if you are food addicted is to try treatment for food addiction and see if that helps.
There are many different ideas about what the “proper” treatment for food addiction is. However, there is one common theme in the successful treatment of any addiction: that is to abstain from the substance or behavior that we are addicted to.
For food addicts, that means abstaining from eating the foods or using the food behaviors that our brains and bodies have become dependent on.
Figuring out what foods we are addicted to and how to go about abstaining can be tough, and we often need support with this. A lot of support exists, including a plethora of 12-Step, peer-led food groups. One group that you may be familiar with is Overeaters Anonymous.
Many of us need further professional support for our food addiction from therapists, recovery coaches, and treatment facilities. SHiFT – Recovery by Acorn offers several treatment options, including our signature 6-day residential program The Acorn Intensive, our SHiFT 5 Week Program (36-day residential/outpatient combined program), Coaching, our 3-Days with SHiFT recharge, and Alumni Weekend workshops.
Here is one way to begin to figure out which foods are addictive for you. Write a list of all the foods:
- that you have binged on
- that you have started eating and couldn’t stop
- that you feel you couldn’t live without
- that you spend a lot of time thinking about
The most common ingredients are sugar, flour, certain grains, high fat, and salty foods.
Take an honest inventory of your eating history. Once you have identified your list, then try to completely abstain from these items. (Bear in mind that addictive food ingredients like sugar are hiding out under different names in most packaged food items, including yogurt, sauces, and dressings). See what happens. Is it really hard to abstain? Can you do this? Do you have symptoms of detoxification, like headaches, foggy brain, fatigue, and irritability?
If you are able to continue abstaining from these ingredients completely, then after about a week or so your cravings and food obsessions should start to diminish. If this happens, then it may mean that you are chemically dependent on addictive foods.
If you are unable to abstain despite a strong desire to do so, then there is also a good chance that you are food addicted.
At SHiFT, we understand the struggle of food addiction, both personally and professionally. There is hope. We are committed to bringing you a life of freedom from food obsession.
Join us to discover a whole new way of living. Join us to discover the SHiFT: Sobriety, Hope, Freedom, and Transformation.