Over the past few years of my life, I have met a fair amount of people that cannot tell the difference of when they are eating for hunger or pleasure. Not only that, but as I have said in the past, food can be an addition. An eating addiction is a behavioral addiction that is characterized by the compulsive consumption of palatable foods. These foods activate your brain’s reward system, continuing the cycle of addiction.
Hunger can be defined as having a feeling of discomfort caused by a lack of food, coupled with the desire to eat, while pleasure is a feeling of happy satisfaction and enjoyment (Dictionary.com). Speaking from experience, food has always been an emotional outlet, which in the past led me to becoming overweight and unsatisfied with who I was. I realized that all of the feelings I was hiding inside, I was ridding through the emotional satisfaction I received from food. In order for me to stop my addiction to food, I had to cut out certain foods cold turkey, which ended up leading to another type of horrible relationship with food. Eventually, I was able to pursue an understanding, where the gym became my safe zone and I used food as a comfort when I really needed it. Unfortunately. not everyone has the ability to figure out how to differentiate between hunger and pleasure, leading to a future where food is all you can think of.
Scientifically, when you are eating, the gastrointestinal tract sends signals to your brain telling you when are full. Afterwards, the body can go two to three hours without being hungry. Of course, this can change base on your stress or activity levels, but overall this is the basis. Therefore, after lunch you should be full for a little while. However, if within the next 10 minutes you are seeing yourself thinking or eating more food, that can lead to the cycle of eating for pleasure or in some cases boredom. At that point, eating has become a comfort and sometimes a safety for people. This addiction is more like a psychological issue learning how to build a healthy relationship with food. This is not easy to do especially because our body runs on food. Some people would rather starve then learn how to cope with their addiction to food. However, this only leads to an eventual downfall and many other issues.
Some individuals believe that when people gain weight or develop weight related diseases that it is their fault for being addicted to eating food. When my dad was diagnosed with diabetes, everyone in my family pounced on him blaming him for his weight gain and letting his food intake getting this far. To be honest, my dad loves food, but sometimes he loves food because its an emotional outlet for when he is stressed. It is not a comfort to eat carrots. Sometimes he would eat more because he was watching the football game (usually our team was losing so it was very stressful to watch :)) Overall, food addiction is not fake or made up. It is a real disorder and some individuals just need a little push on how to learn how to be friends with food. I can tell you that I struggle every single day and no one should ever think they are alone in this!
Here are some tips to learning how to control your urges to eat food for pleasure:
- Determine if you NEED to eat or if your STOMACH needs to eat
- When you feel like you NEED TO eat, try to distract yourself with something else: art, exercise, drinking, hanging out with friends
- If that does not work, try giving yourself a goal or an award if you do not eat one day for pleasure
- Find someone to be your “sponsor” and help motivate you
- Do it with a friend who understands what you are going through
If anyone is interested in how I dealt with it, I would be happy to share!