Drugs and alcohol will come first in people’s minds most of the time if not all the time when we talk about addiction but did you know one can quickly become a food addict? An addiction is a chronic dysfunction of the brain system that involves reward, motivation, and memory. It’s about how your body craves a substance or behavior, especially if it causes a compulsive or obsessive pursuit of “reward” and a lack of concern over consequences. Food can be one of those substances.
We all know that eating is a basic need and safe to say, it is a pleasurable experience. Over time eating as an experience has evolved from relative food scarcity to an overabundance of food in many areas now, no longer just a response to hunger but a form of social engagement and unfortunately in the era of the double burden of malnutrition, a source of disease too.
If you ever find yourself eating beyond nutritional necessity, using food to self-soothe, know that yours is tending towards an addiction. A good thing is starting to get misused. Instead of eating for physical reasons, you are beginning to eat for emotional reasons. Food is becoming a source of emotional comfort, and you are becoming dependent on this comfort as means of coping. This now has a name; emotional eating.
What is emotional eating?
Emotional eating is eating as a way to suppress or soothe negative emotions, such as stress, anger, fear, boredom, sadness, and loneliness. In short, a response to negative emotions rather than to physical hunger. Just like an addiction, emotional eaters find it difficult to stop overeating, despite the negative consequences, such as weight gain, diabetes, or even social isolation. The crux of emotional eating is that emotions, not food, are the primary reason for eating.
Emotional eating is characterized by not feeling, carrying internal shame, and not seeking help because often you do not know you are battling a legitimate problem. Emotional eating is rarely fixed by diet as it is more to the mind than it is to the food. Behavioral changes come first and go a long way before the diet changes. Binging on anything, work, shopping, sex, or in this case food, is the malnutrition of your emotions that needs to be attended to. There is no external fix for this internal problem, it is an inside out job. There is a need to review the way we use food as a way to cope with life. Questions like, what was the problem that made food your solution? are a good way to start this journey, the healing one that is. If you can not ask yourself, a professional like a therapist can be better placed to help. Awareness, understanding, and compassionate approach is the path I would wish every emotional eater to hop on.
Emotional eating is not about being weak or not having willpower, you are strong because it takes a lot to do what you do consistently. You are warriors and fighters and that can work for you instead of against you. You are loved and seeking help is not an indicator for failure. Extreme diets will treat the ‘symptoms’ and you will get results that will make you feel good for just a while. Unless you identify the root cause will you see permanency in your solutions? Whatever is going on inside, feel it before you feed it.
It is not a too late friend, we can still do something and set you up for a better life lived. I wish you the best and I look forward to hearing from you.
See you next Wednesday