Understanding Food Addiction

The first step to realizing that you might have a food addiction and breaking free from it is to understand the addiction in the first place. Much like those who find themselves addicted to drugs and have difficulty stopping due to the horrible side effects and withdrawal feelings that they get when they try, chemicals in foods, sugars, fats, various food dyes, and even unhealthy carbohydrates work much the same way, wreaking havoc on the body when you stop eating them. In fact, that's exactly where your cravings come from when you have spent too long a time without eating these types of foods, and food companies prey on that! They essentially create products with these ingredients in them to help you get hooked, and stay hooked, on certain foods. (Hello Diet Coke- I’m talking to you!)

Signs of Food Addiction

If you are wondering if you have a food addiction, here are a few signs that can help pinpoint it and explain what is going on inside your body and brain:

  • Overeating and dealing with sluggishness from it
  • Craving certain processed foods, such as chips or cookies, too often
  • Eating foods even when you aren't hungry
  • Frequently using "comfort foods" to help you feel better
  • Worrying about eating too much of a certain food
  • Having mood swings when you want a certain food badly and cannot have it

How to Combat Food Addiction

Combating food addiction is obviously easier said than done: after all, you're going to have cravings and you might even have mood swings, thanks to your brain demanding those constant chemicals. But it's still worthwhile to fight through it and not give in.

You can either quit your food addiction cold turkey, which can be pretty difficult, or you can start out slowly and replace highly addictive foods in your system with more nutritious, healthy options instead.

For example, the first thing that you can do is eliminate any sweetened beverages or artificially sweetened foods in your home. This can include candy, soda, and juice that isn't 100 percent juice. These items, innocent as though they may seem, are often the foods and drinks that we find ourselves most addicted to. Instead of soda or juice, try drinking water. If you need to drink something with flavor, consider purchasing an infusing pitcher and adding real fruit to your water. Instead of candy, keep raisins and nuts stocked in your pantry, giving you access to better snack choices.

If these changes sound like too much too soon, start with a certain time of day and focus on that. For example- no processed foods at breakfast. Or no processed foods after 6 pm. Once you get comfortable there, you can start expanding your time period.

Eating breakfast, especially a healthy one with high protein, gives you a great energy boost and can help you start your day off right. Skip over the bacon and pancakes and aim for healthier options, such as eggs, nuts, yogurt, and oatmeal.

Eat several small, healthy snacks throughout the day to balance out your blood glucose levels and prevent you from crashing, making you reach for the closest thing, which may be unhealthy. Eat healthier snacks, such as nuts, whole grains, and protein rich choices like a hard boiled egg or a piece of chicken.

Grocery shop and stick to your list: filter out the unnecessary items and choose to load up on fresh fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and yogurt instead. This can really help your body and keep you feeling fuller longer. Avoid the snack section and the candy in the check out aisles, even though it might seem difficult. Chances are if you only have healthy options at home, you will be more likely to eat those instead of going out to purchase a snack, such as candy or donuts.

Food addiction can feel hopelessly inescapable, but that is far from true. You can work your way through it and break your addiction and you feel amazing for doing so!