Updated: Feb 19, 2021
Food addiction is becoming increasingly common - or at least we are becoming more aware of it. When you think of addictions, I am sure like most you think of alcohol, smoking, drugs or gambling...but food is an addiction I am seeing more and more of.
Food addiction works the same way as any other addiction. It seeks to fill a void in our lives and bury emotions that we just don't want to have. Food addiction is particularity complex as food has been in our lives forever and it is often used as a reward or treat from such an early age that it serves as a comfort to us in adult lives. When dealing with addiction we often need to completely remove the thing we are addicted to from our lives - which is not possible when it comes to food.
Binge Eating Disorder is an eating disorder with very similar traits to food addiction. Symptoms of B.E.D include:
• eating fast during a binge
• eating until you are uncomfortably full
• eating when you are not hungry
• eating secretly
• feelings of shame and guilt after a binge
So where do we even start?
Firstly we need to look at our reasons for overeating and bingeing which is easier said than done. If you has spent 20 years using food to bury down an emotion, the chances are, to find what that emotion will be difficult and to feel that emotion can be traumatic. But unless you get to the root of why you use food in this way, you won't be able to move forward.
There are many different reasons for overeating and some of them quite surprising. Eating to entertain yourself is very common. It could be boredom or you could be using food at a way to celebrate. How often to we use food for a birthday meal or celebration dinner? We may eat to lessen negative experience such as feeling down... cue the cliche of the woman eating a tub of ice cream after a breakup! It is possible to overeat because we want to be noticed or even gain authority. This can work to make us feel important or big and powerful. Probably the one is see most often is eating for comfort. We do this when we need love or even attention. We use it they same way a baby would use a 'blanky'. This can be tough as to lose this source of comfort is very difficult to cope with. Lastly, we often continue to overeat because we are afraid to lose the weight. When we lose weight we may feel that we will be more sexually attractive or we might now have to do all the things we said we would when we become slimmer. Keeping the weight means we don't have to face the realities that achieving our goal may bring with it.
Therapy is a fantastic way to explore your reasons for eating. Your reasons for keeping the weight may not be as easy to identify as you think. Cognitive behavioural therapy is often used in case of B.E.D as it works to change the thoughts behind the binges and the behaviours of the binge itself. Food addiction I believe it is important to go back and look at the source of the problem and where it began. For this I use both psychodynamic therapy and hypnosis to work with the subconscious to change those thoughts and behaviours on a deeper level. It is sometimes hard to see when there is a problem. If were carrying out behaviour all of our lives, it may seem impossible to change but if your weight is a problem, there is always something you can do. It is a road often filled fraught with despair and guilt but the rewards can change your life. The key is in discovering the unconscious reasons for behaviours around food.
I have seen so many clients who come to me with no idea that they are emotionally eating or using food for any reasons that aren't purely physically. That lightbulb moment when a client suddenly recognises what is fueling their behaviour is often exactly what is need to stop negative behaviours and change their relationship with food permanently.
If you recognise any of these reasons to eat in yourself you are not alone...and there is help out there! It is never too late to reach your goals.
As well as seeing clients on a one to one basis, I also run a weight loss programme, using a combination of cbt and hypnotherapy to help clients change their mindset and improve their relationship with food. I love working with groups as they support one another through their weight loss journey and work towards their goal, together ❤️