Issues with food and weight are very complicated. My previous eating disorder article, titled “Problems with Food and Weight”, covered the problems people have with excess weight. Today’s writing will discuss food and eating issues that are similar to addictions.
Remember, there are several principles that are common in all addictions: heredity, the disease model, allergy, tolerance, progression, consequences (physical, emotional, and spiritual), mental defenses against self-awareness, and hitting bottom. I will begin by discussing each of these issues as they relate to food, eating, and weight.
Most people think of heredity as a direct effect. They believe that if your parents had a food, eating or weight problem, you will have a food, eating or weight problem. That is most likely true. The way your body processes food IS related to your genetics. However, addiction is much more complicated. If your parents or grandparents had any addiction, you are at a higher risk for any addiction.
In the disease model, what varies between people is their ‘drug of choice’. Your drug of choice is the substance or behavior that gets you high. If you have alcoholics, addicts, gamblers, food addicts, or even workaholics in your family tree, you might just be a person who responds to some substance or addictive behavior in an unusual way. You might just develop a drug of choice.
In this article, your drug of choice is food. Fortunately, not all food gets people high…just certain foods, mostly foods that have limited nutrition. This means that sugar, processed food and/or large amounts of food would affect you in a manner that is different from other people. It’s also behaviors. Food related behaviors such as binging, starving, vomiting, overexercising, and so on. Those are addictive too.
In the beginning, your reaction to junk foods and food behaviors is soothing and comforting. Like alcohol, your behaviors with food might make you think faster and function better. This is your allergy to food.
Unfortunately, all addictions involve tolerance to your substance. You begin to need more and more junk food to achieve less and less soothing effect.
Thus begins the progression into active addiction. People increase the amount of junk food they eat. Then they begin binging. Eventually, people binge more and more often. Eventually, people are very tragic with food. They binge and purge in a frantic attempt to get high and not suffer severe weight gain. Or they simply binge and binge until they become sick or pass out. People have died binging as their stomach bursts. This is no different from the cocaine addict who frantically snorts or shoots cocaine almost every hour as the high wears off.
Enter the consequences of food addiction. Physical consequences are very easy to see. Food addicts wear their consequences as weight on their bodies. People grow heavier and heavier as their weight balloons out of control. But there are other unseen physical consequences. Malnutrition is common. An active addict stuffs themselves with nonnutritive foods leaving no room for the basic nutrition needed to function in life. Then there are the physical illnesses related to excess weight or underweight: diabetes, heart disease, gout, and back problems to name only a few.
Emotional consequences are many: guilt, shame, remorse, pre-occupation with food instead of your life, low self-esteem, isolation, and loneliness. And the spiritual consequences of your relationship with food are the same as any addiction. You place your faith in your ‘drug of choice’ instead of God and the religion of your heart.
Like all addicts, you defend yourself against the reality of your downhill spiral. You may assert that you can diet anytime you want. You might use humor like some sad, but delightful people I have known. Dying from uncontrolled diabetes, binging on junk food and asserting in a funny tone of voice that they must, for example, eat enough to maintain their weight. Defenses are as creative as the people who use them. The point is that you might weigh three or four hundred pounds and still be telling yourself that you do not have a problem.
Hitting bottom is different from person to person. When you hit your bottom, you become unable to deny to yourself that you have this problem. The evidence around you breaks through all the techniques you use to hide from yourself. Sadly, hitting bottom is excruciatingly painful. Most frequently, what breaks through your defenses is some sort of humiliating and degrading type of experience. For alcoholics, it can be being arrested for drunk driving. For a food addict, this can include not being able to wear your clothes or being at a public function and breaking the chair you wish to sit in.
Some people hit bottom over and over again. They live out the rest of their lives at this space, unable to change or take action on their own behalf. This is unnecessary.
There are many different versions of recovery for people who have a food addiction. Overeaters Anonymous offers one version. Take this questionnaire from them to help you decide if this is the appropriate solution for you.
___Do you eat when you’re not hungry?
___Do you go on eating binges for no apparent reason?
___Do you have feelings of guilt and remorse after overeating?
___Do you give too much time and thought to food?
___Do you look forward with pleasure and anticipation to the time when you can eat alone?
___Do you plan these secret binges ahead of time?
___Do you eat sensibly before others and make up for it alone?
___Is your weight affecting the way you live your life?
___Have you tried to diet for a week (or longer), only to fall short of your goal?
___Do you resent others telling you to “use a little willpower” to stop overeating?
___Despite evidence to the contrary, have you continued to assert that you can diet “on your own” whenever you wish?
___Do you crave to eat at a definite time, day or night, other than mealtime?
___Do you eat to escape from worries or trouble?
___Have you ever been treated for obesity or a food-related condition?
___Does your eating behavior make you or others unhappy?
Have you answered yes to three or more of these questions? If so, it is probable that you have or are well on your way to having a compulsive overeating problem. Overeaters Anonymous believes that the way to arrest this progressive disease is to practice the Twelve-Step recovery program.
There are other 12-recovery programs for food addiction. These are, with links to their websites: ABA – Anorexics and Bulimics Anonymous, CEA – Compulsive Eaters Anonymous, EDA – Eating Disorders Anonymous, FA – Food Addicts in Recovery Anonymous, FAA – Food Addicts Anonymous, GSA – GreySheeters Anonymous, O.A. H.O.W.
12-Step Recovery wellness is for food addicts who are actively involved in one of the many and varied 12-step programs. This means you regularly attend meetings, have a sponsor, have worked all the way through the 12-steps, and are actively involved in your recovery program. This is a coaching approach specifically designed for food addicts in recovery who have inner nudges to achieve more in your lives.
If you have responses to this post, or just want to share your thoughts, please comment in the reply box below. I’d love to hear what you are thinking.
Contact me to follow that inner nudge calling you to live more richly:
Telephone: (615) 464-3791
©2017 by Laura Coleman, Ph.D. All rights reserved.
You can have a weight problem and NOT have a medical disorder, a diagnosable mental condition, or an addiction. Chances are good that you could change one or more of your behaviors and achieve your goals with life coaching.
Some people simply eat too much food or too much of the wrong kinds of foods and gain weight. For you, the solution is to go on a healthy diet and increase your exercise. You can obtain a healthy diet from your medical professional, a dietician or nutritionist. Life coaching can help you make your choices as well as keep your motivation high.
Many people find that they can simply increase their exercise by walking or riding a bicycle instead of driving. Maybe you’d like to take a dance class, join a health club, or plan for a marathon. This too is about your drive to reach your goals. Life coaching is all about your goals.
Then there is our modern lifestyle. We work long hours, so we don’t cook the healthier simple foods. Instead, we eat on the run. The foods we eat are loaded with empty calories: Sugar, white flour, and fat. Healthier foods are labor intensive and often require an hour or two to prepare. This is a very difficult activity after a long hard day working on your job. There are several solutions to this. Your answers depend on your values and personal decisions. A life coach helps you hear yourself and make those decisions in a self-enhancing way.
Our modern lifestyle contributes to health and weight problems. People a multitude of labor saving devices. And technology. I love this. Machines, appliances, computers, phones, tablets, and more. It does seem as if our lives are easier than they were 150 years ago. We shop online and no longer walk from store to store. We have appliances to do a lot of the activities that keep our lives functional.
Unfortunately, there have been what are called unintended consequences. One is that we simply use less energy in our day. And we consume fewer calories. Less activity, the same calorie consumption leads to less physical fitness and weight gain.
Then, we are often expected to do much more sedentary work. These days more people are doing work that involves using our minds rather than their bodies. We are less active and we have less time for the physical activities needed by our bodies. This is a real dilemma most people face daily.
It might seem like you just inhale food and calories from the air, gaining weight. But there are many behaviors in most people’s life that defeat their desire to be trim and healthy. And this requires behavior changes.
Our lives are busier and it’s more difficult to set your priorities. Pre-packaged, unhealthy foods abound in the grocery. And fast food is available almost on every corner. People work hard and eat at their desks.
Other people are thought to have an allergy to certain food or the chemicals in foods. A gazillion books have been written about the problems with sugar, white flour, and processed foods. They are not healthy, cause massive weight gain and, in some people, create a craving for more.
There are some excellent workbooks out there on behavior change. Charts and graphs to complete where you examine your behavior. And organized programs to help you do just that. The one catch is that these programs decide for you where you begin and which behaviors you should change.
Unfortunately, each worksheet, every program, and all the choices require time and effort. The effort of self-examination and the effort of participating in the program. And the important effort of the behavior change you need to make. Life coaching starts where you are. In a life coaching relationship, you select the behaviors you see as problematic and make your own plans to change them. You progress at your own pace. You put your effort where you feel it will do the most good.
Then there is the difficulty people have due to chronic dieting. Some researchers have proposed that there is a normal weight setpoint for each person. This means that the weight you are right now might be the weight that is normal for your body. When you lose weight below that setpoint, your body objects and fights back. Some feel this is related to the days when food was less available. Our bodies are magnificent and have adapted to life cycles of starvation and abundance. During abundance, our bodies pile on the weight to prepare for the coming cycle of starvation. Only life is not like that for most people today.
Years ago there was a research project conducted with people who volunteered to stay in a hospital setting and eat what was prescribed. The first part of this experiment had the volunteers on a strict diet calculated to cause each person to loose 10% of their body weight.
Once this part of the research was finished, food was supplied without limits. The volunteers could eat whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted, and as much as they wanted. At first, they chose the highest calorie foods. And they ate and ate, much like binge eaters until they gained weight. Only they didn’t just gain back that 10% of the weight they lost. They also gained an additional 10% above the weight they started with. This is an example what our bodies think about starvation diets and weight loss.
Some researchers have suggested you can change your setpoint with aerobic exercise. And that is a good idea for a multitude of reasons. Only one of which is your weight setpoint. Aerobic exercise is good for weight, as an antidote to stress, for depression as well. general overall fitness, well-being, and even fatigue.
Other authorities in the field of eating disorders have pointed to the fashion industry and media. They suggest that unreal and idealized images of beauty put invisible pressures on people to live up to an impossible and unhealthy standard. I remember reading about a fashion shoot for a jeans ad. It took something like 5 people to put the jeans on her. These jeans were deliberately several sizes too small for her. They immersed them in water and then demanded that she lean back, stay still and stiff like a board while staff forced the jeans on her. This was given as an example of an advertising campaign with unreal images. These images are thought to create a desire in some to become thinner than their body needs. Maybe even excessively so. Life coaching can help you create your vision of a healthy, normal weight with a satisfying life. And then life coaching can help you identify the steps you wish to take toward those goals.
The catch here is, once more, behavior change. Everything we want in life requires some effort. The choice is where you want to put your energy. What do you think is the most important behavior for you to change? How much personal power do you want in life? What is your chosen life?
Life coaching is helpful for people who want to eat healthier, increase their exercise, and change their lifestyle. Life coaching is great for people who look to empower themselves. In life coaching, you set your goals based on the deeper desires you hold. You hold the power. Make the choices. Decide which behaviors and actions you want to explore. We work together as you move forward along the path to your dreams of a healthier, happier you.
If you have responses to my columns, have questions, or just want to share your thoughts, write your comment in the reply box below. I’d love to hear what you are thinking.
Contact me for an appointment to begin reaching for the dreams within you.
Telephone: (615) 464-3791
©2017 by Laura Coleman, Ph.D. All rights reserved.