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How to Beat Food Addiction

By Kelsey Casselbury ; Updated July 18, 2017

Food addiction doesn’t have an entry in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders from the American Psychiatric Association, but that doesn’t mean it’s not something that people struggle with every day. Those who battle food addiction have difficulty controlling their intake of certain foods or food in general, though it’s not something that necessarily leads to being overweight or obese. If you struggle with food addiction, you should seek professional help or support; however, there are some steps you can take on your own to overcome the addiction.

Recognizing the Signs

There’s a difference between indulging in cravings and battling food addiction. According to the Food Addiction Institute, early stages of food addiction could include occasional food binges, a little extra food eaten or increased snacking, as well as lying, isolating or feeling guilty about food. Moderate stages of food addiction can see yo-yo dieting and weight loss, hoarding or lying about food and a sense of guilt or shame about weight and food consumption. Late-stage food addicts often see attempts at dieting as hopeless and lie to health care professionals about their eating habits. They are often obese or have an advanced eating disorder and consequences such as diabetes, heart disease, depression, anxiety and high blood pressure.

Identify Your Trigger Foods

An alcoholic's disease can be triggered by a glass of wine or beer, and a food addiction can be triggered by certain substances, too, says the Obesity and Food Addiction Summit website. Common triggers include refined carbohydrates, sweeteners, fat and processed foods. Eating these foods can trigger a relapse into out-of-control eating habits. Determine which foods serve as triggers for you, and rid your house of them.

Create a Food Plan

Rather than go on a diet, a habit common for food addicts, create a food plan for a healthy lifestyle. For some, the difference might be a matter of semantics, but the Food Addiction Institute notes that diets often rely on willpower, something that food addicts can lack. Food Addicts Anonymous offers up an initial food plan for addict, which eliminates sugar, flour, wheat and excessive amounts of fat -- all potential trigger foods for addicts. It does not focus on reducing calories, and it’s meant for recovery and a lifestyle change.

Find Professional Help

In many cases, you will need professional help from a doctor or psychiatrist to treat food addiction. According to physician nutrition specialist Melina Jampolis on CNN.com, certain behaviors could improve through cognitive behavioral therapy or 12-step programs. These include eating when you’re no longer hungry, feeling fatigued from overeating, dealing with negative feelings from overeating, physical withdrawal symptoms when cutting down on certain foods, distressing behavior related to food and food getting in the way of functioning in your daily life. You can also seek help from support groups such as Food Addicts Anonymous or Overeaters Anonymous.

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