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Food Addiction Treatment: Overcoming The Urge To Eat

The urge to eat is a common human experience, whether it be from hunger or boredom. Eating can often feel like the only relief for stress and anxiety. However, some people have an intense and uncontrollable urge to eat, often leading them to overeat. In some cases, this can lead to a full-blown eating disorder that includes anorexia or bulimia.

Food addiction treatment addresses the root causes of food addiction, rehabilitating it from a mental illness and streamlining it back as a healthy habit. The signs and symptoms of an addiction to food can vary dramatically depending on the different eating disorders. A professional food advisor can help you figure out which type of eating disorder or overeating problem you have and the best way to address it.

Treating food addiction disorder is in a lot of ways, similar to treatment of any other addiction. It starts by admitting you have a problem and taking an inventory of what is going on in your life that has led to the food addiction.

What is Food Addiction?

Food addiction is characterised by obsessive thoughts about and urges for specific foods. These cravings are usually followed by feelings of guilt or shame after eating the desired food. A person may have a more general addiction to food, which is characterised by the excessive consumption of large amounts of any type of food.

For those who suffer from food addiction, highly palatable foods which typically are high in sugar or salt content, trigger chemical reactions in the brain that induce satisfaction or pleasure. This euphoric feeling is similar to the feeling got from substance addiction. It also activates the brain’s reward centre. Those with food addiction become dependent on these feelings which perpetuates a continued need to eat. Most often they eat beyond what is required as what is required for normal consumption. This behaviour leads to a variety of different physical, emotional, and social consequences such as digestive issues, heart disease, obesity, low-self esteem, depression, and isolation.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse states that there are currently no specific medications for food addiction. However, there are some treatments that may help with reducing food cravings or controlling the excessive consumption of food.

For sufferers of food addiction, it is not easy to get help on their own. If you feel that you have a food addiction or have a loved one struggling, contact a treatment centre such as PROMIS where they have professional help. PROMIS has different treatment options to help with food and other addiction,  providing the care and recovery to a life free of addiction. 

Signs and Symptoms of a Food Addiction

Sometimes, when people are addicted to food they might have a hard time stopping themselves from overeating. At other times, there is no way that the person can stop eating even if they wanted to. The signs and symptoms of food addiction can vary from person to person, but there are some common signs.

Some people might get very uncomfortable when they do not eat enough or when they skip meals. This can lead to feelings of hunger, irritability, and even manifest in anger.

Other people might have trouble controlling their eating or they may eat more than usual when they are feeling stressed. They may also find themselves eating when they are bored.

The most common signs of food addiction are overeating, binging, and feeling out of control around food.

The Signs:

– feeling uncomfortable when they do not eat enough or skip meals

– overeating, binging, and feeling out of control around food

The Symptoms:

– feeling uncomfortable when they don’t eat enough or skip meals

– overeating, binging, and feeling out of control around food

– feeling hungry, irritable, or even angry

Types of Food Addiction Treatment

There are many different types of food addiction treatment. These various treatments range from 12-step programs and traditional recovery methods to holistic approaches such as assistance from nutritionists, motivational speakers, and hypnotists.

Some programs and traditional recovery methods focus on an addict’s mental health and how their addiction affects them. It is more of a spiritual approach that deals with the person as a whole.

The holistic approaches focus on the physical health of an addict and how their addiction affects them in that way. It is more of a science-based approach with little to no spirituality included.

The person suffering from food addiction will have both their mental and spiritual well-being taken into account in the holistic approach, while this is not considered in the traditional programs. The 12-step programs can come across as being more spiritual in nature, while the holistic approach is not.

Residential Inpatient Treatment for Food Addiction

Residential inpatient treatment for food addiction is an intensive form of treatment that can be useful in helping people with eating disorders. A residential or an inpatient facility is a place that provides an intensive program where people recovering from alcohol, drug, food, and other addictions can go for a week or more of treatment.

The programs used in these residential or inpatient facilities include evidence-based treatment options that have been shown to be highly effective. These treatment programs are effective in the recovery process for food addiction and other eating disorders.

What Are the Overall Goals of an Eating Addiction Rehab?

The overall goal of any addiction treatment is to reduce the severity and frequency of cravings for a substance, whether it be food, drugs, or other substance or behavioural dependence. In many cases, an eating disorder addict will also have an addiction to drugs or alcohol, complicating the situation when it comes to treatment. One of the main goals in any eating disorder rehab is for the person suffering from any addictive behaviours to learn healthy ways of coping with stress and anxiety so that they can move on with their lives.

Although the treatment program for an eating disorder is usually personalised based on each individual’s needs, most food addiction treatment programmes have similar goals. These goals would typically be: 

  • Getting back to a healthy body weight
  • Stabilising symptoms and medical effects caused by the eating disorder
  • Eliminating negative behaviours
  • Building self-esteem and improving body image
  • Learning new coping skills to deal with stressful situations
  • Learning nutrition and healthy, flexible eating habits

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