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Food Addiction: How Can We Heal?

by Anonymous, 1611759397069


Food addiction had plagued my life for years. But had it really plagued my life, or was it just my perception of it that did? When I look back on these years now, I recognize the ample lessons that it taught me, the appreciation of my body that it gave me, and the openness to life that it allowed me. Now, I’m not saying that living this way was healthy for my body, mind, or soul, or that it is a way of life that we, as humans, should maintain, but it was something that, I personally think, was quite necessary for my growth. The accumulation of every binge eating episode, every tumultuous thought, every felt emotion has led me to a new path, a new path of mind-body connection and self-study. My hope for you after reading this article is that you can see that it is not your lack of willpower that prevents you from finding healing from your binge eating disorder, but it is how you cope with factors that originate from outside of you. **What is food addiction, and what are its causes?** We need food to survive, and not only do we require food as sustenance, but it is also a source of pleasure, and we, as humans, are drawn to pleasure. That’s what makes food addiction so challenging. We can never escape the mechanism behind the addiction. Foods that are high in fat, salt, and/or sugar trigger chemical reactions in the brain that produce feelings of pleasure. We then become addicted to these feelings of pleasure, feelings which are acquired through the consumption of these foods. This perpetuates the cycle of binge eating. Biological, psychological, or social factors can be at the heart of an individual’s food addiction. Let me highlight a few causes of each: Biological factors can include hormonal imbalances or brain structure abnormalities, for example. These reasons are rooted in your biological makeup, your genetics. Psychological factors can include an inability to healthily cope with negative circumstances or being a victim of a trauma, such as emotional or physical abuse. Individuals turn to food as a comfort and a coping mechanism to relieve these intense emotions felt. Social factors can include a lack of social support or pressure from society. These reasons stem from your relationship with others. **What are the effects of food addiction?** Just as food addiction is caused by biological, psychological, and social factors, it has physical, psychological, and social effects as well. As binge eating often leads to weight gain, it has severe physical implications. It can lead to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, digestive issues, arthritis, and sleep disorders, to name a few. With this weight gain, individuals may begin to have a felt sense of a need to stay hidden or private. This has a plethora of psychological and social effects associated with it. Individuals may feel a lack of confidence or self-esteem, depression, anxiety, irritability, emotional detachment, isolation, division, again, to name a few. Many individuals may feel a sense of embarrassment or shame surrounding their binge eating patterns. As such, oftentimes, individuals will resort to binge eating when they are alone, facilitating isolation and shutting out of social support, support that is necessary to heal. **Healing from binge eating disorder** We cannot escape food, so how does it become our enemy? Healing from binge eating disorder requires a shift in perception, a shift in how we perceive food, ourselves, and the world. What if food was not the enemy? What if the body was not the enemy? What if we learned how to sit with feelings, even uncomfortable ones, especially the uncomfortable ones? What if the problem is not within, but outside of self - even perhaps in a society that does not support or teach how to navigate heavy emotions or experiences, and which promote a culture of comparison, perfectionism, and an ever-changing body image ideal. Food addiction is not a food obsession, it is a biologically, psychologically, or socially constructed disorder. It becomes a way to cope, to cope with just about anything...input - fear, overwhelm, anxiety, loneliness, grief, comparison, perfectionism, negative experiences, trauma, uncertainty, depression, loss, etc. It becomes a source of comfort, a dependable pattern, a welcome/unwelcome friend. However, when we can recognize that the addiction originates outside of us, and when we learn alternative ways to cope with those biological, psychological, and social factors, we can find healing in our process. To stop binge eating does not mean that you had the strong willpower to do so. It means that you tuned in to you, into what you were feeling, into the root of your problem, and implemented techniques and tools that held space for all of the thoughts, feelings, and physiological experiences. To stop binge eating means learning ways to navigate differently, learning to appreciate the wonder of one's own body, the gifts it gives every moment, and, ultimately, to come back home to self.