Let’s talk about food addiction.
First, I want to start off by saying, I am not a doctor. I have no medical ability to diagnose you or myself with a disorder of any kind. So please, do not take this blog post as medical advice.
For as long as I can remember, food has been an integral part of my life. Of course, we need it to survive, but food also holds a special place in my heart. My family, like many of yours I’m sure, uses food to celebrate, connect with each other, and mourn. Growing up, I would spend hours in the kitchen with my grandma making pies for Thanksgiving, or helping her cook a roast for grandpa’s birthday. My mom and I bake together all the time, whether it is stress baking, sad baking or happy baking, it is our go to relaxation technique. I don’t feel that any of these things are necessarily bad, unless you can’t control your eating habits, or have a food addiction.
Lately, I have been reading up on food addiction and the most shocking part has been the amount of people who don’t believe that a person can truly be addicted to food. But my question is, if a person can become addicted to caffeine, why is it so unbelievable that a person could become addicted to eating? An interesting article I read, published by WebMD stated: “Like addictive drugs, highly palatable foods trigger feel-good brain chemicals such as dopamine. Once people experience pleasure associated with increased dopamine transmission in the brain’s reward pathway from eating certain foods, they quickly feel the need to eat again.” So, this explains why families often turn to food in a time of celebration or mourning, and personally, helps me understand why I have always turned to food when I am feeling down. Even as a young child I would reach for a snack when sad, or beg my mom for another soda at my birthday party; food is my happy drug.
Though I have not been formally diagnosed, I do believe I have a food addiction, and if I can be vulnerable for a few sentences, I will explain myself further. I constantly think about food. When I wake up, I think about breakfast and what I will bring for lunch. At work, I worry about fitting in my mid-morning snack and making time in my schedule to eat the sandwich I brought. I pack an assortment of snacks (I try to make them healthy) to munch on throughout the day at my desk because I worry about what will happen if I don’t. Along with my food addiction comes my anxiety disorder. If I have to miss a meal due to an event or long meeting, I start to feel panicky, hoping I won’t pass out from low blood sugar (even though I am not diabetic) or worried about feeling shaky and sick. In reality, the chances of any of these things happening are slim, but my anxious mind doesn’t care about the statistics, it cares about the what-ifs. At home, I immediately find something to munch on while I make dinner, of if I order in with my friend, I order a lot. Generally, I don’t eat everything I order, but I feel a need to have a lot of food in front of me, just in case I need it. I have been known to make a special trip to the grocery store for a single pint of ice cream, even though I don’t need it, and I look forward to my midnight snack just before bed. Unlike the healthy people in my life, I don’t automatically think of food as fuel for my body. To me, food is a bargaining chip. If I have a bad day, it is okay to eat that whole pint of ice cream; I mean after all, I deserve it! If my day goes well and something great happens, why not enjoy an extra side of fries with my meal, I earned it after all!
I see food as an instant mood lifter, not as necessity for life.
So far in my journey, I have made small strides in healing from this addiction, but unfortunately, I will never be able to stay away from food, which is what makes food addiction so unique. In order to live a successful and happy life, I need food. I need to nourish my body and make sure it has all the things it needs to carry me through my days, but in order to do that, I have to overcome this addiction.
I hope this post helps you understand those around you who are dealing with a food addiction, or maybe it helps you recognize some unhealthy traits in yourself. If you feel like you are alone in your addiction, please know that you aren’t. I am right here with you and so are thousands of others. I know it isn’t an easy road to walk down, but it will be worth it in the end.