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Food Addiction

Counseling CEU Course:

~ Examine the difference between overeating and food addiction
~ Evaluate myths about food addiction
~ Explore the behavioral and biological mechanisms underlying food addiction
~ Identify ways to address food addiction triggers
Why I Care/How It Impacts Recovery
~ Excessive food consumption is socially acceptable and food addiction rarely causes imminent legal problems, so it can go unchecked for a long time
~ For some people, addictive behaviors started with food addiction
~ For others, when their substance of choice was removed, food was available for self-soothing
~ Regularly using food to self-soothe is, at the very least, a relapse warning sign if not a full-blown relapse.
Food Addiction vs. Overeating
~ Food can become an addiction, when it is used to
~ Escape from negative feeling states AND
~ Continues to be used despite negative consequences
~ The person experiences psychological withdrawals and cravings when he or she cannot access food to cope
~ Overeating is often a bad habit, but can be stopped with education, planning and mindfulness
Food Addiction vs. Overeating
~ Experiments show that, for some people, the same reward and pleasure centers of the brain that are triggered by other addictions are also activated by food, especially highly palatable foods.
~ Highly palatable foods are foods rich in:
~ Sugar
~ Fat
~ Salt

Signs and Symptoms
~ You frequently crave certain foods
~ You often eat even when you are not hungry.
~ You eat much more than you intended to, sometimes to the point of feeling excessively “stuffed.”
~ You often feel guilty after eating particular foods
~ You sometimes make excuses in your head about why you should eat something that you are craving.
~ You have repeatedly tried to quit eating or setting rules (includes cheat meals/days) about certain foods, but been unsuccessful.
~ You often hide your consumption of unhealthy foods from others.
~ You feel unable to control your consumption of unhealthy foods, despite knowing that they are causing you physical harm (includes weight gain).

Signs and Symptoms cont…
~ You eat certain foods so often or in such large amounts that you start eating food instead of working, spending time with the family, or doing recreational activities.
~ You avoid social situations where certain foods are available because of fear of overeating.
~ You have problems functioning effectively at your job or school because of food and eating.
~ When you cut down on certain foods (excluding caffeinated beverages), you have symptoms such as anxiety, agitation
~ Eating food causes problems such as depression, anxiety, self-loathing, or guilt.
~ You find yourself eating more and more often due to stress
~ Food addiction is an excuse for over eating
~ FALSE: Someone with a food addiction is using food to cope and activate reward pathways to help them feel “normal” or “calm.”
~ Any emotional eating is wrong
~ FALSE: Just like having a few drinks occasionally after a hard day does NOT qualify a person as an alcoholic, occasionally eating to self soothe is a normal reaction to an abnormal situation
~ Our society actually teaches self-soothing through food, so one would expect using that as a fall-back occasionally
~ Abstinence is key
~ FALSE: Unlike addiction to illicit drugs, a person cannot quit eating.
~ Elimination of an entire food or food group is rarely recommended as it makes it more likely for a binge.
~ Since one addiction will likely be replaced by another, understanding and awareness of WHY the person is eating is more important than eliminating a food
~ Binge eating is caused by certain foods
~ FALSE: Binge eating is caused by a need to numb, escape or feel pleasure.
~ Highly processed foods are more likely to activate these reward pathways due to their easy digestion and prior conditioning
~ Food Addiction is the same a loving food
~ FALSE: People who love food can stop eating when needed. Food is not serving a protective function
~ Certain foods are more rewarding. Get those foods out of your house for now
~ Temporal separation and extra effort required will make accessing those foods less rewarding
~ Make sure there are lower calorie rewarding alternatives—apples, bananas
~ This will ease the transition. Even if you are emotionally eating, it can help reduce the guilt
~ Only eat at the table and without television
~ Try to “close the kitchen” at a certain time

~ Identify your other tools
~ Get 4 sheets of paper. One for each of the following feelings: Boredom, Anxiety, Anger, Depression
~ On each sheet, identify three or more things you can do to alleviate that feeling.
~ Call/message ________________________
~ Go on a walk/run
~ Listen to music
~ Clean the house
~ Surf the internet to learn about …
~ Journal

~ Get a baseline
~ For a week, keep a food journal of what you eat, how much, whether or not you were hungry and what your emotional state was

~ This will give you an idea about how often you eat when you are not hungry, and your food choices.

~ For the next week
~ Keep a food journal of what you eat, how much, whether or not you were hungry, what your emotional state was and alternative activities

~ Do 15. If you are not hungry, drink a glass of fluid, then go do something else for 15 minutes. Many times the craving will pass

~ Identify triggers and ways to deal with them
~ Habit eating
~ Time of day
~ Activity
~ Visual triggers
~ Restaurants
~ Other people eating
~ Television
~ Olfactory (smell) triggers

~ Eliminate vulnerabilities
~ Inadequate Sleep
~ Dehydration
~ Boredom
~ Poor time management
~ Address mood issues
~ Depression
~ Anxiety
~ Anger
~ Stress

Apply It
~ Identify 3 ways you could have used this information in the past week.
~ What was the situation?
~ What did you do?
~ How effective was that for you?
~ Short term
~ Long Term
~ If you would have had this new information, what could you have done differently?
~ How would that have changed the outcome?
~ How can you start integrating this knowledge into your routine
~ Food, especially processed foods activate the brain’s pleasure circuits (for some more than others)
~ You may have a food addiction if you are:
~ Spending more time than intended preparing to eat, eating or recovering from eating
~ Eating for reasons other than hunger
~ Forgoing other interests
~ Experiencing guilt or shame about eating
~ The first step is to figure out what you are eating and why
~ Identify triggers and interventions for non-hunger eating
~ Explore other ways you can deal with stress, anxiety, anger, depression and boredom
~ Eliminate vulnerabilities by getting enough rest and proper nutrition
~ Address underlying mental health issues