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From food addiction to food serenity: Becoming a healthier you

From food addiction to food serenity: Becoming a healthier you

Are you a food addict?

Do you have a tortured relationship with food because you either over-eat or undereat? Do you eat junk food for comfort only to feel terrible about it afterwards?

Just over 5 percent of the population suffer from food addiction. It is estimated that as many as 40 percent of the overweight and obese struggle with an addiction to food.

Food addiction occurs when the normal ability to feel full and satisfied is swamped by an insatiable desire to keep eating. Their obsession to food dominates all other interests, such as friends, family and work.Food addicts will lie, cheat and steal. The consequences of their eating, such as diabetes, hypertension and obesity, frighten them but don't stop them. The ‘stop switch’ seems to be broken.

There is hope. Food addiction is an addiction like alcohol and cocaine, and there are relapse prevention tools that work. Tools such as the following dos and don'ts will help you move from a tortured relationship to food to one of sobriety and food serenity.


Do

Do identify your trigger foods

If you are a food addict, the first task is to identify what foods spark your cravings. A recent study showed which processed foods are addictive to most people. They would could cause unbearable cravings for food addicts. These include chocolate, chips, even cheeseburgers and cereal.

Do clean out your fridge and cupboards of all your trigger foods

Out of sight, out of mind. Once you have identified the foods that make you want to eat, it is essential that you throw them away. Not having the food around will not tempt you to eat when you are angry, tired or depressed. These are times when your willpower is at its weakest.

If you live with someone who wants to keep these foods around, ask them to keep separate and locked cupboards. Ask your family or roommates to not prepare or eat these foods in front of you. Sit out of arm's reach from the popcorn or chips if you are sitting together.

Do plan your healthy meals in advance

If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Do not rely on fast food in a crunch. Eating well takes an effort. Eating fresh foods require regular shopping trips, then chopping and preparing foods daily. These are the foods will make you feel full and satisfied.

If you don't plan your meals in advance, you may find yourself at a fast-food counter on a rushed day. A variety store junk food snack could prove disastrous. Fast foods, such as hot dogs and burgers or junk foods such as chips and soda have high amounts of sugar, fat and salt. These will trigger you to into a relapse of overeating and weight gain and depression.

Do create a safe treat food

Eating well does not mean being deprived of the pleasure of eating food. We are hard-wired to enjoy food.

All of us want a treat once in a while. Once you have detoxed from the sugary and fatty foods, you will find that many natural foods are scrumptious! Find a recipe that you really like and save it for special times. Examples are a baked apple with coconut butter, mashed banana with cream or strawberries with balsamic vinegar.

Remember that the your treat should not be one of your trigger foods, even in small amounts. A food addict can not have just a few cookies or a small piece of cake, as this will lead to a binge of overeating.

Do get a food buddy for support and discuss with family

It is very difficult to stay ‘sober’ of candies, chips, cereals in our current food environment where temptations are everywhere. Have a food buddy to help you. Talking to someone about your fears and sharing strategies to avoid tempting foods, especially in awkward circumstances like a wedding or birthday party, is crucial. Very few people can manage their addiction alone.

Ask your family and friends to help you. A first step is asking them not to tempt you with their latest new recipe. Finding others who are wanting to follow the same meal plan as you is a bonus. You might even find help at your local weight watchers group, as long as you tell them that you are avoiding trigger foods. There are a number of 12 step community food groups like Overeaters Anonymous and Foods Addicts in Recovery Anonymous where you can find fellow food addicts who have found their way into recovery.


Don't

Do not give into temptations: the buffet, the party, the pizza night out

Buffets, cocktail parties with orderves, the pizza night with friends are all places that a newly recovering food addict has to avoid.. If you really want to go, eat beforehand so that you don’t need to eat at the party. Bring your own food. Order from the menu if you are at a buffet or ask a friend to get your food for you.

Do not go on a diet

Diets are triggers to relapse. Having a sane and happy relationship with your food means that you must eat to satisfaction. A diet that restricts calories or healthy food groups will leave you hungry and craving. This could lead to a binge and the dangers of an endless binge - restricting cycle. A recovering food addict’s meal plan is not a diet. It is eating food the way our bodies are meant enjoy.

Do not give in to guilt trips

No doubt you will be accosted by people who want to offer you their latest recipe. You will have to learn how to say no. If the person is insistent, take the item, thanking them and say that you are not hungry and will save it for later. Or hold the napkin with the food, putting it down later. People rarely notice what you do with your food after a few moments.

Do not try to do this alone

Willpower has a very short shelf-life. Recovery is not a solo affair. There will be moments when you feel too upset to care about your new meal plan. Having supports to help you through the weak moments are crucial. Attempting to eat a diet free of addictive foods alone is a recipe for failure! If you could have done this by yourself - you would have already done it years ago, right?

Do not avoid seeking medical help if necessary

Food addicts are often on medication due to the consequences of their addiction. Keep in touch with your doctor since conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, arthritis can dramatically change for the better once you have adopted an ‘abstinent’ diet. You may have to change your medications.


Summary
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If you have determined you are a food addict, you will have to make some major changes to your life. Find the food that are ‘drugs’ to your system and eliminate them from your diet. Rid your house of these temptations. Avoid the places, like buffets, and the people that will tempt you. Plan your meals in advance. Get support from a food buddy.

You are embarking on more than a radically changed meal plan. You are beginning a journey that will move you from the relentless obsession for food to a contented enjoyment of it. You will experience food sobriety and food serenity. Then you can finally experience the life that is awaiting you!


More expert advice about Eating Disorders

Photo Credits: Subbotina Anna/bigstock.com; Check Man, Cross Man and Jump Man © ioannis kounadeas - Fotolia.com

Dr. Vera Tarman, MD, FCFP, M.Sc. ABAMAddictionologist, Medical Director of Renascent

Vera Tarman, MD, FCFP, MSc. ABAM is an addictions medical specialist. She is the medical director of Renascent, Canada’s largest rehabilitation center for substance abuse. She has her American Board of Addiction Medicine specialization. She h...

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