Written by Pamela K. Orgeron, M.A., Ed.S., BCCC, ACLC, Author
Is it really possible to be free from food addiction? Yes, freedom from food addiction is possible. I am living proof!
My habits surrounding food and eating haven’t always been healthy. Twenty-five to 35 years ago I would eat for a lot of reasons other than physiological hunger, which is the only legitimate reason to eat. I would eat out of boredom, eat to relieve stress, eat to avoid hurting someone’s feelings, eat to celebrate, and the list goes on. Now, I enjoy the pleasure of eating only when I am hungry and have the discipline to stop eating when I am full.
My unhealthy eating attitudes and behaviors years ago were rooted in unhealthy eating habits learned as a child, as well as reactions to past abuse. Because the roots of my unhealthy eating behaviors were two-fold, overcoming the unhealthy eating behaviors had to be approached from two directions: one was unlearning the dysfunctional attitudes and behavior patterns that always resulted in my always being on a roller-coaster in terms of my weight. The second approach to acquiring healthy eating attitudes and behaviors required healing the past hurts that triggered the various types of emotional eating in my life.
Overcoming Unhealthy Eating Habits
Before one can overcome unhealthy attitudes and behaviors, he or she must first recognize the dysfunction of the “stinking” thinking and unhealthy behaviors associated with food and eating. What are dysfunctional thinking and behavioral patterns associated with food and eating? Examples of the ones that I had to recognize, unlearn, and substitute healthier thought and behavior patterns with include:
- Thinking a person has to eat to avoid hurting someone’s feelings, for example when visiting a relative who wants everyone to try out his or her new recipe
- Eating as a reward for good behavior
- Eating when not hungry just to celebrate an occasion, such as at a wedding, shower, etc.
- Eating just to be sociable, such as at a party, church fellowship, etc.
- Rote eating, such as eating popcorn or a bag of chips while watching television.
Eating for the wrong reasons such as the ones previously listed too often leads to food addiction, similar to alcohol and drug addictions. For those interested in learning more about overcoming food addiction, I recommend these individuals read the new book Food as an Idol: The Types, Causes, Consequences, Conquering, and Prevention of Disordered Eating.
Healing Past Hurts
Both over and undereating for emotional reasons due to past abuse, regardless of the type of abuse, is all too common in today’s society. Often, as I once did, victims of sexual abuse, in particular, will either starve or stuff themselves in an effort to make their bodies unattractive due to their fear of a recurrence of similar abuse. To help such individuals overcome past abuse as I have done, I wrote We Survived Sexual Abuse! You Can Too!: Personal Stories of Sexual Abuse Survivors with Informations about Sexual Abuse Prevention, Effects, and Recovery.
In closing, I want to point out that overcoming food addiction is no easy battle. In fact, overcoming food addiction may be one of the hardest battles one must face in life. Unlike alcohol or drugs that one can learn to live without, the body requires the right kinds of food in the right amounts to achieve and maintain a healthy weight.