Addiction to Food

Research has shown that there are psychological and physiological differences in the brain of someone who has any addictions.

Addiction means that the individual still goes for the thing they crave even though they are aware that following this path is dangerous and can lead to life threatening consequences.  Trying to break the cycle of addiction causes frustration, internal anxiety and distress and physical discomfort. As I have explored the issues around compulsive eating and problems with obesity I am more convinced that there is a problem with addiction to food. Not all foods just the ones one craves. Not many obese or over weight people crave carrots raw or otherwise, veg and even fruits nice and good as they are. Cravings are usually about favourite foods that are bad unless taken in moderation. Chocolate, cake and fatty foods are the most common. Crisps, nuts and savouries treats are on the list. Not many people crave salad and flat white fish these are the foods one is supposed to eat for a healthy life.

In the main my article is geared to those who are yo-yo dieters. Or serial  dieters those of us who diet on and off for a few weeks to lose a few pounds and then give up for no major reason.  Because the mind of a dieter is  preoccupied with food dieting or otherwise huge concentration is required. The serial dieter is always thinking about food whether on a diet or what to have for next meal. It is a way of life and comes in fits and starts throughout life. Each time a few pounds if lost it will be regained along with a few more.

Along with the preoccupation with food comes guilt and shame of failing. Seen as a loser without will power, even though  constantly thinking about what the next meal is going to be. What the portion size is,   scales at the ready, how many calories in a potato and so on.  Always the desire for the wrong food whilst eating the right food.

The food addict is a mindless eater and the breaking of the cycle of short-term dieting comes with eating almost unconsciously. Dissociating from reality to some extent.

I hear myself saying ‘why did I eat that’ or ‘wish I hadn’t eaten that’ because then I have slipped back onto the not caring the mindlessness around food usually going hand in hand with ‘it doesn’t matter’ and ‘fuck it’. However what it means in reality is ‘I don’t matter’/ I don’t love myself enough to care. Now comes the cycle of addiction.

  1. Must start a diet tomorrow.
  2. Food shopping for healthy eating
  3. Walking past the favourite things like crisps, biscuits, crackers and cheese and chocolate things for puddings.
  4. Good start and keeping diary feeling positive and weeks and a few pounds lighter something happens.
  5. A weekend away,out to lunch with a friend and then wham bam fuck it off the diet. However with this comes the guilt and a touch of secrecy. Motivation has gone and is replaced by contempt for oneself and some contempt for others. Mainly because one feels ashamed of not having enough will power so unhappiness follows.

If one turns to food for comfort in times of distress this is why one gains weight.

So if it’s hard for you to imagine what that feels like think for a minute what do you do when you need to comfort yourself. Some say jog or cycle or the gym. Knit, embriodery or anything you do to comfort yourself what ever it may be. Then imagine you cannot do any of it again that method of self comfort has gone. You cannot have it anymore. How does that feel?

If you are an alcoholic or a drug addict or a compulsive gambler etc you have to make a complete stop from your substance. With food that is not possible is it? I am not saying that somewhere in ones history is a valid reason where it all started. Maybe from being abused or hungry or shamed and so on?

Personally it began somewhere in childhood. Body image and family comments. AS a child I was different from the norm because I had longer limbs, more shape and was generally taller than the other kids in the family. In the north of England people were smaller generally because of poverty and living amongst tall factories where the sun didn’t shine rickets were in the plenty.  However even in spite of this I was physically different. Blue eyes and blond hair of viking stock it seems because as it turned out my father had been an American airman from an affair my mother had in the mid forties. During family events I would be paraded in front of relatives who generally were admiring of my stature but it didn’t feel like admiration to me it felt like shame.

I think this was the start of body consciousness and not in a good way. Regardless of all this I was generally hungry because in the late forties and fifties we were.

I do not know what my triggers are. A life time of dieting even when I wasn’t overweight. I just felt fat. Slimming pills and starvation diets were a regular event and in the sixties we could buy slimming tablets over the counter at boots chemist. Doctors didn’t worry about giving out   Dospan addictive I hear. Dieting in my twenties was a way of life. For special events do a diet of boiled eggs and salad for a couple of weeks and lose a stone. I am now seventy-three and still in this battle within myself when I should be relaxing into old age happily. Am I addicted to certain foods or am I crazy. I don’t know and maybe never will.

Suggestions welcome

Author: juneyhh

I am a retired psychotherapist of 20 years working in the north of England up to my retirement in 2010 mainly because I remarried and thought at that time it was the right thing to do. Retrospectively giving up on work felt like giving up on life as I knew it. Realising since that one doesn't have to give up on something in order to build something new. Now nine years on, divorced and having moved to Cornwall Iwonder what it was all about. It's harder to start a fresh at 70, not impossible but harder.

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