“Food Addiction” is it real?

Going back a few years, I legit thought I was “addicted” to sugar. I read books on it, listened to podcasts about it and everything they were describing was how I felt and acted around sugar.

Part of my brain liked this realisation because it was an “excuse” as to why I couldn’t control myself. It was my “fault”, I was ADDICTED! And so I put myself on a quest to cut it out of my diet completely, promising myself that I would never eat the “poison” again!

Of course, that lasted about 3 days 🤣 and there I was again, sat on the sofa, belly so full I could hardly breathe, loathing the sight of myself and all the empty chocolate wrappers.

But even still, the diet voice was still there… “Now that you’ve binged on chocolate and sugar again, write down how sh*t you feel. Then when you give up sugar again on Monday – for real this time – you’ll have something to refer back to.”

That’s what a lot of experts say in the personal development world, isn’t it…? To take full responsibility and to remind yourself that YOU are in control and everything in life is a CHOICE.

Want a better life? Then ask better questions and make better choices…

There are 2 things wrong with that statement;

  1. In order to make a conscious choice, we need to be in a relaxed state to do so. Chronic dieters who are stuck in the diet-binge cycle have so much food and body trauma, it’s impossible for them to be able to make any kind of relaxed conscious choice around food. (Until they do the work around this.)

2. Eating is a biological need – it’s a natural animal instinct, just like breathing and thirst. And when we restrict – whether that’s cutting out foods groups, stopping sugar, restricting calories, or even thinking about dieting – our bodies biologically crave high-fat high sugar foods. Your biology literally physically changes to drive you to eat these types of food. To learn more about this read my article on binge eating.

In this episode I’m going to reveal the truth about “food addiction” (I can’t even type it without putting it in quotes😆) so that you can see that you’re not broken or weird or addicted… you’re just like I used to be and all you need to do is come back to yourself and know that there is another way. 🙏🏼

Food addiction or diet addiction?

Food addicts

If you think that you’re addicted to food other than being addicted to dieting, then you’re wrong…!

As human’s living in our current society, we genuinely believe that it’s a really noble, healthy, important and responsible thing to do to spend our entire lives trying to manage this “food addiction.” We are all petrified of being addicted to food.

But here’s the thing:

Restricting food will have your body and your brain mimic an addiction to food.

Truth bomb…

You can’t be addicted to something that you need to survive.

Caroline Dooner

Read that again…

Usually with an actual addiction, such as drugs, the more you have, the worse the addiction gets. Food actually has the opposite effect…

When you are finally fed consistently, that is when most people find that their actual “addiction” slowly melts away. If it really was an addiction, that wouldn’t happen.

I like to call it more of a fixation on food instead of an addiction. It can feel like an addiction, but I can assure you, it’s not. It’s a fixation.

When we are fixated on food, our hunger hormones change, our body makes biological changes to ensure that we are kept consistently fixated on foods, it makes food taste better, it makes you feel hungrier. It will also make you binge on food and then gain weight really fast as an actual way to try to save your life to prepare for the next famine that it thinks is coming.

Then when we experience that we’re like:

“You see, I told you! I’m a food addict! I’m going to put myself back on another diet…”

And so the cycle continues…

Most of us think we are food addicts but what food addicts actually are is diet addicts.

Diet addicts

Every time we “blow it” and let our “addiction” control our lives, binge on food and go on a food bender whether for a night or a week or for months, we then put ourselves on another diet. All of this just keeps us in that food fixated state.

What most of us actually need to do is to address our addiction to body manipulation and dieting. That is the roundabout way for the majority of people to address their “food addiction.”

Emotional eating

We can and do use food as a way to numb and soothe ourselves so I don’t wanna say that that’s not a piece of the puzzle, however the more restricted we are, the more “effective” food is as a drug. The more we get out of that restrictive cycle – whether that’s physical or/and mental restriction– the less our brains will reward us when we do use food as comfort.

Because when we’re either dieting or thinking about dieting, our brain actively rewards us for choosing food to comfort ourselves because our bodies have been sending our brain signals telling it to eat high-fat high sugar foods now because there is a famine coming!

Again, this means that when we do eat when we are actively physically or mentally restricting, the brain rewards us in a similar way to that of a drug addict getting their fix.

When we are feeding ourselves enough consistently, our brain doesn’t reward us in the same way as before and therefore food naturally falls away as the only coping mechanism.

That’s not to say that it wouldn’t be helpful to find other ways to help us to take care of our emotions and our trauma if that’s a piece of the puzzle, but blaming it on food and food addiction is just not a helpful way of going about helping your relationship with food and your body.

It’s totally ok its food is one of your coping mechanisms but when it’s the only way that you know how to deal with your emotions, it can become super unhelpful pretty fast. So the way forward is to explore and expand other ways to help you to cope with your emotions without making choosing food wrong!

Because it’s not wrong, no matter how much society has taught us that it is! That’s most likely the whole reason as to why you choose food as a coping mechanism because you’ve been dieting for many years! This just perpetuates the “problem.”

That’s why restriction is NEVER the answer, no matter how much you eat emotionally. Even though this is so counter-culture and it can be a lot for people to wrap their heads around… but it is really liberating. The ONLY way to food freedom and sanity around food is to ALLOW ALL FOOD.

What’s underneath the diet addiction?

Here are some great journaling prompts for you to explore what’s underneath the need to diet:

  1. Why do I want to diet, what am I hoping to achieve by doing so?
  2. What’s underneath that? Why do I want to acheive ___ thorugh dieting?
  3. What do I make ___ mean? What will change in my life if I was to have that?
  4. Will ___ really magically happen and fall into place if I was succsseful at dieting?
  5. Is dieting (and the binging, struggles and low self esteem) really worth it to ahieve ___?
  6. Can I look to acheiving ___ in a different way?
  7. What can I learn about myself after this jounrlaing exercise?


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