Obesity has been on the rise in recent years with over thirty five percent of US adults suffering from the effects of being chronically overweight, an number that is three times higher than it was just one generation ago. While there are many overlapping theories about why this is, many researchers have stated that food addiction is to blame due to diets high in fats and sugars. Studies have shown a correlation between eating certain types of foods, such as sugar and starches, and brain patterns that mimic those of drug addicts.
Those who are suffering from an addiction, including those who are struggling with chronic overeating and binging, suffer from a lack of dopamine receptors, or feel good hormones. This causes severe cravings for food as well as an increased tolerance for their foods of choice, leading them to eat more to attain the same feeling of fullness that others achieve with a regular sized meal. It also takes far more to satiate their cravings causing binge behavior that is not normally seen in those with average weights.
Food addiction also causes the same types of withdrawals and intense cravings that drug addicts suffer from, causing many sufferers to binge eat in the middle of the night when they have less self-control. While there are fewer programs to assist those who are struggling with food addiction, services have been popping up to address this growing epidemic. It can be more difficult to change the behaviors that are associated with food addiction as you cannot just quit eating like you can quit doing drugs, however; there are different ways that one can address their size and concerns.
Following are some helpful tips that can help you to fight back against your food addiction and obesity.
- Eat enough during the day: This advice may sound odd but research has found a clear link between eating foods low in nutrients and obesity so choosing the right diet is crucial. You have to make sure that you focus on consuming foods that are high in fiber, protein, and healthy fats so that your body does not have cravings that are not healthy for you. Plan your meals and make sure that you are eating as much as your body needs while also getting all the nutrients that you need to be healthy.
- Take the time to enjoy your food: With our busy schedules, many of us are working through our lunch hour and rushing through the rest of the day. Try to take the time to really enjoy the food in front of you, taking at least half an hour to finish your meal to ensure that you are not responding to cravings instead of a genuine need for nutrients. Remember that it takes at least twenty minutes for your brain to signal to your stomach that you are full, so when you cram food in quickly you are missing your body’s signals.
- Put down your fork in between bites: So that you are not just shovelling food in your mouth quickly and make sure you take a sip of water between every bite. Research has shown that many people have lost the ability to ascertain if they are hungry or thirsty causing people to eat when they should be drinking. If you are at home, take the time to make multiple courses to choose from so that you have to pause to decide what to serve yourself, something that is easier if you do not put all of your food on your plate at the same time.
Pay attention to your food: Another worrisome trait of a busy population is that we no longer pay attention to what we are putting in our mouths when we are snacking. We lean towards having conversations either in person or on the phone while we are eating a quick bite. While it may seem odd to focus more on food when you are struggling with an addiction, it will actually help you to make healthier choices during your day. When you are not focused on your meal you will usually grab something easy to eat that will satisfy your cravings, leading to high starch and high sugar options that do not actually fill you up. This causes imbalances in your system and will make you hungry again in less than in hour due to the empty calories. Taking a moment to think about your food and focus will help you to have more self-control and feel full for longer.
- Know your triggers and avoid them: Everyone has a certain food that will cause them to lose their willpower, so it is wise to look at what those are and try to avoid them. This does not mean that you have to completely remove them from your diet but you do need to learn how to eat them in moderation.
- Pick on day a week that you can purchase one of your favorite food items: Learn to stick to only that day to make sure that you are able to cut down on overeating. If you see that you are mostly overeating while you are out with friends then you should make a plan when you go out. Either get something that has lower calories and more fiber, or plan your week’s diet for the eventuality that you may eat foods that aren’t good for you. Do your best to mitigate the damage from chronic over-snacking by avoiding high stress situations and bringing your own food.
- Keep a Journal: For those who are just beginning to fight their food addiction, journals can be a very powerful tool. Many people are in denial about how many calories they really eat daily so the act of recording every food and beverage they consume can shine a light on their bad eating habit. This tool will also help people to see the times of the day that they struggle the most with overeating and help them to combat them. If you are aware that you eat the most during dinner with the family, then you have been able to identify a trigger that you can begin to work on. Your journal will help to enlighten you to patterns in your life that you haven’t previously recognized so that you can change your eating patterns.
- Join a support group: While there is less food addiction support groups than there are ones for drug addiction, there are enough to help you in your battle against food addiction and obesity. Having a group of people available to help you through this difficult time can make all the difference while you are trying to change your life. Choose a group that you feel comfortable in that does not support self-starving for weight loss so that you can change your behaviors as easily as possible.