I always find it interesting that food addiction is so common, and yet it is overshadowed by other addictions. Some might see it as more shameful, whilst others dismiss it as frivolous compared with alcohol or drug addiction. But it can have a significant impact on someone's life.
Here are 10 top tips to help you manage food addiction. It is a starting point, and talking to a trained professional can help build on these initial steps.
1. If you have lost control of the amount of food you eat, and it has become harmful, you are addicted to food
2. Maintaining a food diary can help you to see, in black and white, your habits around food. Sometimes we distort reality by merely thinking about it, but writing it down makes it more concrete
3. Really challenge yourself to reflect on what food means to you. Is it merely fuel to survive, or is it a means of coping with difficult times?
4. Try to identify the ‘hot spots’ when it comes to food. Do you tend to reach for chocolate during times of stress? Do you tend to overdo it on coffee first thing in the morning?
5. Once you are aware of the hot spots, you can put things in place to make a change. For example, if you anticipate a stressful period, try to schedule a relaxing run at the gym, rather than relying on the chocolate bar
6. Try to identify the ‘maintaining factors’ that keep you caught in this food addiction. For example, are you in a relationship where food is also an issue for that partner? Working together to manage this can often work much better than trying to go it alone
7. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) can help you to examine the thoughts and assumptions that are attached to food. For example, you might catastrophise each time you give into the temptation of having more food. You might overlook the moments when you have managed to resist the problematic food.
8. Adopt a kinder voice. Try to congratulate yourself for the times you were able to resist, rather than constantly punishing yourself for the slip-ups. The trouble with punishment is that it fuels the guilt, which may ultimately lead you to eat more in an attempt to feel better
9. You can learn from the positives. Instead of focusing on all the times you ate chocolate, when did you not? Do you notice any patterns about those positive moments when you did not eat the problematic food? You might learn from these moments how to set up more of the same, and increase your chance of breaking the cycle of addiction
10. Mindfulness can help you to become aware of the present moment, and this can reveal what might otherwise have become automatic behaviour (for example, reaching for the nibbles during a television programme or as you read an article about food addiction)