Food is a drug Part II

As you might guess the foods that lend themselves to being addictive are the ones that are higher fat, full of refined sugar, and starchy carbohydrates.  These all play a role in providing some of those hormones I mentioned yesterday (serotonin, endorphins, and dopamine).  That’s why they are called comfort foods; I mean seriously hand me a spoon and a bowl full of mashed potatoes and I am one happy girl.  I will say that personally after experimenting I have found I do much better with having fat in what I eat.  I have found that it leaves me feeling fuller quicker and is much more satisfying; this could be because if it has fat they tend to put less refined sugar in it.
Okay I have identified I am addicted to food or am an emotional eater, what now?  Here are some tools and techniques to help that will work whether you are an emotional eater or addicted.
Preventative tools

  • DON’T KEEP IT ON HAND: If you have a binge food, don’t have it around I have said this over and over, I stand by it as sound advice.
  • EMOTIONS: Dealing with emotions is vital in this process for many reasons.  Many times even if you are an addicted eater you are also an emotional eater.  The way you discovered the addiction was the desire to feel comfort or mood change when the food of choice was eaten you got the physiological response you needed to soothe the emotions and the addictive cycle was born.  As you go through and possibly eliminate foods you are also ending a relationship with food that is unhealthy.  Grief is very likely to occur at this loss.  There are also frustrations and emotions that will occur as you work to get other people on board with changes.
  • SUPPORT: Develop a support network of people that get where you are coming from.  Therapy is extremely helpful here to deal with emotions as I said above.  There are also many groups out there that offer sponsors who can also help keep you accountable.

  • COPING SKILLS: Find pleasurable activities, rewards, visualization, imagery, deep breathing, and ways to relax that have nothing to do with food.  It’s not always easy to figure this one out, but it is vital.  You can’t expect change if you reward yourself for eating healthier by getting ice cream.  Especially if you are addicted to sugar and carbohydrates because that is exactly what ice cream is.  In a minute we will practice some of these skills.

  • TRIGGERS:  In substance abuse we talk a lot about knowing what triggers you to use.  The same thing goes here.  What triggers you to eat uncontrollably?  Fighting with coworkers or significant others?  Certain times of the day/month/year?  Certain smells?  Do an inventory because if you know your triggers than you can think ahead of time how you might deal with them.

  • ABSTINENCE:  There are an increasing amount of treatments that focus on total abstinence from the addictive foods.  This is much like someone in recovery from drugs or alcohol.  However this is something that you need to be careful with and work with a doctor or dietitian in order to make sure you are still getting proper nutrition.  We can live without drugs and alcohol, but you cannot live without food.  PLEASE DON”T DO THIS WITHOUT GUIDANCE!!!  Sugar is often the first food that is cut out for abstinence.  There are many forms of sugar to consider and again getting some assistance for this is helpful.  Cutting sugar out does not mean cutting out foods that NATURALLY have sugar (i.e. fruits) but is more of a reference to cutting out foods with added sugars and sweeteners.  The other food that is looked at for abstinence is simple carbohydrates.  Again this is something that it is helpful to get some guidance on.

 Intervention tools

  • Not surprisingly many of the intervention tools are the same as the prevention.  Delay, distract, change where you are, reach out to friends, deep breathe and do some visualization.

  • Mindfulness techniques play a big role here as well; once you start making connections as to the emotions that are related to your binge eating using self-talk to remind yourself of what you are doing really help.

Here is a list of some suggested reading and resources I have also included some examples of mindfulness techniques to help you:
Meditations to use
1)         Concentration meditation: focus on a single point, describe it to yourself, and focus on details, the closer you look the more you might see.
2)         Mantra Meditation: Use familiar phrases or prayers.  For example:
Prayer of St. Francis
Prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen
Serenity Prayer
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.
Tranquility in front of me.
Calmness beside me.
Stillness around me.
Compassion inside me.
Mindfulness techniques from “50 Ways to Soothe Yourself Without Food”:
Count on your senses pg 611
When you have trouble clearing your mind of thoughts of food, try focusing on your senses.
State one scent you can smell.
Name two sounds you can hear.
Describe three sensations your body is feeling, such as temperature, the texture of your sweater, and your feet against the ground.
Identify four colors that you see.
To yourself begin by naming five things you see in front of you.
JOURNALING: This is a good way to start sorting your thoughts and can be helpful in the recovery process to identify triggers and emotional issues that lead to over eating.  Perhaps one type of journaling might involve “looking at the bright side” where you pick a positive time in your life and write about everything you can remember about it.
LAUGH:  listen to or watch your favorite comedy, nothing relieves stress like laughing so hard you cry or pee.
SOOTHING: Find a soothing object, something related to good memories or that is soothing.  Keep it handy and when you feel distressed pick it up and use it.  It could be anything from a piece of jewelry to a pen to a book.  Find a soothing saying or affirmation for yourself.  Keep it nearby or post it in the house perhaps so that you can look at it and read it.  Also consider having soothing pictures, music, your favorite clothes, blanket, or tea. 
My favorite de-stressor to be honest; walking, jogging, any kind of physical activity can release natural hormones (such as endorphins, serotonin, and dopamine) that reduce stress, anxiety, and depression.  If you aren’t confident enough to go to the gym there are plenty of things you can do at home.  It will help increase your confidence of being able to make change as well.
DEEP BREATHING AND PROGRESSIVE MUSCLE RELAXATION: Again I can’t stress the benefits enough of this.  Progressive muscle relaxation is just like it sounds.  Tensing each group of muscles in your body one at a time (progressively) and then relaxing them.  Start at either the top of your head or with your feet.  Tense and hold each body part for 10 seconds then relax for 10 until you have tensed all parts.  Deep breathing is release all of your breath, then breathe in through your nose for 5 seconds, hold for 7, and then breathe out through your mouth for 8.  If you haven’t practiced this for a while do each part as much as you are able.  When you breathe try to get more breath through using your gut rather than your chest.

“50 Ways to Soothe Yourself Without Food” by Susan Albers PSY.D.
“Eating Mindfully” by Susan Albers PSY.D.
“Anatomy of a Food Addiction: the Brain Chemistry of Overeating.”  Anne Katherine, M.A.
Overeaters Anonymous 
Food Addicts Anonymous  
National Eating Disorders Association 
Food Addiction Institute
ACORN Food Dependency Recovery Services
I hope all of this has been helpful and at least gives you a place to start for support and information.  I do highly suggest that you get assistance from a professional if food has become a struggle.  It’s much “easier” to deal with other drugs or substances, because you can live without them, food we cannot live without.  With some help and support you can change the relationship that you have with food to a healthier one. 

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