Food is life and for many of us food is love. We all have warm memories of home cooked meals or baked cookies.
The foods we eat as a family and as a culture form deeply-ingrained comforts within our own reward systems and sometimes, especially in times of emotional distress, we dive head first into these food comforts to give us the high we need to get through. This can be an ongoing addiction to overeating
certain foods or a compulsion to binge and go overboard whenever we can arrange it.
The dangers of binge eating are not readily apparent like with, say, a meth addiction. You see immediate physical debilitation with hard drug abuse but eating disorders are subtle and take years to show signs of degraded health from obesity to diabetes. To make matters worse, a food addiction isn’t something you can just quit cold turkey. You need to eat. The trick is eating the right foods and in the right amounts.
Pumping the Brakes
Binge eating is often an emotional response but it can become a habit over time. It’s not easy to “just eat less” as some might suggest. you need to take the time to develop new nutrition and coping strategies if you’re going to beat this unhealthy habit.
For starters, take stock of what you eat, how much, and how often by tracking your food in a food diary. Many food addicts will hide their intake from friends and loved ones so it’s important that this food journal be truthful and honest. This will help you see where you’re going wrong and when.
The next step is to make small changes to your habits. Don’t attack the problem of eating junk food by making blanket statements like “I’m going to stop eating junk food.” These are unrealistic expectations you know you won’t stick to. But start by eliminating just one junk food, maybe even your favorite. Sometimes eliminating trigger foods one by one can help you to make systematic progress toward your goals.
Re-Train Your Brain
Over time, you’ll want to use other habit tricks that will help reduce your food intake. For instance, try to leave food on the plate when you eat. Many of us have a learned instinct from our upbringing to avoid waste and finish your food but, for the most part, we don’t need all the food we heap on our plates. So leave some there. Even just a little bit.
Another trick is one addicts are taught to use in recovery treatment, which is to delay, escape, and distract. When you feel the compulsion to binge eat, delay for 15 minutes, get out of the house (or whatever environment you’re in), or distract yourself with a hobby or interest that doesn’t relate to food. Often the trick is just to get your wandering mind away from the go-to comfort habits of binge eating.
Your long term health is important and if you are struggling with balance and making good choices, contact one of our nutrition and recovery experts at Banyan Treatment Center.