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Old 06-07-2014, 08:53 AM   #61
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I've given a lot of thought to this issue of food addiction in my own life.

I certainly can't speak for everyone but here is what I've discovered about myself.

1. I can't say I'm addicted to food the way a drug addict is addicted to drugs. For example, I really can't resist birthday cake-- it is a binge food for me. AND YET when I buy a birthday cake for my kid's birthday, I absolutely never sit down and mainline it before the party. It never occurs to me. I also won't touch it after the birthday if I think my child still wants it. In fact I won't be unable to resist scarfing it down until I'm sure it's okay-- i.e. my kid doesn't want it anymore.

When I had that realization, I realized that I absolutely have control over my behavior around food. When it's not appropriate to eat something, or too much of something, I don't. That, to me, is not the behavior of an addict. That is the behavior of a person who is, at some level, choosing to eat too much.

It doesn't feel like a choice when I eat something I don't "want" to eat. But in fact, it's a choice.

My problem is not that I can't resist food. My problem is that resisting foods I like is unpleasant, and I find it hard to sustain the feeling that I REALLY REALLY care about losing weight-- enough to deny myself the pleasure that I want in the moment.

For me, I think that at some point a very long time ago, I developed the habit of eating more than I needed because I found it pleasurable, and then pretty soon it became an ingrained crutch, and it's such a deep-seated habit, and so comforting for me that I really HATE giving it up.

I lost more than a hundred pounds and kept it off for quite a while, but I definitely recall thinking to myself, as I was putting the weight back on something along the lines of "who cares?"

At any given moment, my desire to lose weight and my desire to eat more are at war.

I do think a very deeply ingrained very bad habit is different from an addiction, in that if I understand correctly, an addict truly can't control the behavior. I'm never going to hold up a convenience store because I need money to buy twinkies. That's the difference, in my mind.
No, they are basically one and the same thing. An addict CAN control the habit. The brain's reward center's, which are tied to anatomical structures reflect similar activity whether it's sugar or heroin. The reason you are never going to hold up a convenience store has more to do with the fact that your addiction is for a legal, cheap, readily available substance. And other factors.
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Old 06-07-2014, 09:01 AM   #62
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Here are some examples of my behaviors which lead me to believe I"m a food addict:

-My dr. told me that I was pre-diabetic and I continued binge eating massive amounts of sugar-laden food. I didn't care at that time but afterwards, I'd experience intense remorse and panic over becoming diabetic and being unable to do anything about it.

-In front of others, I'd try to fake normal eating, but I would hide food in my pockets and sneak it into my bedroom, shove food in my mouth when nobody was looking and keep it stashed in places where nobody would find it. I would also hide wrappers and evidence with other trash, even though externally, I can gain a lot of weight in short periods of time so I wasn't fooling anyone.

-If I would run into someone after not seeing them for a month or two, I could see the look of shock in their eyes from the drastic change in my appearance.

-Eating the addictive foods made me feel very sick and depressed, yet I couldn't stop completely...eventually, I would go back to my foods of choice. Even though I had severe heart burn and other symptoms, I just couldn't get myself to stop. For 27 years I battled this monster and it only kept getting progressively worse. I couldn't believe my own lies anymore (I'll eat well tomorrow, I'll work out and burn these calories off like Michael Phelps, yeah right, etc...).

-I would often eat so much that I could feel the food coming back up. I wouldn't even taste much of what I was shoving into my mouth. I usually couldn't remember what I had even had or how much.

-I was always chasing a better taste. Nothing ever really satisfied my expectation of how delicious something should taste. I always thought I could do better and I could find something that would satisfy me, but it was incredibly rare and eventually, non-existent.

-In the supermarket, I would hyperventilate trying to figure out which foods I should buy that would give me my fix. I was very embarrassed to buy anything and was afraid someone I know would see me. Once I would buy something, I couldn't wait till I got home to have it...I would eat it while driving but would try to drive so that people in cars next to me wouldn't see me eating an entire box of ice cream candy bars at 9 a.m. or whatever crazy things I was having.

-I went from occasional binges to all day non stop stuffing myself. I felt completely powerless and I wished I could go to a residential facility for eating disorders, yet I didn't think I qualified because I wasn't anorexic and only occasionally bulimic...I knew that purging was useless because after purging, I'd go and get more food to stuff into my body.

-I tried diets, meds, purging, restricting and eventually, I would give up because I could only white-knuckle it for so long.

-I felt like I was slowly killing myself. I absolutely believe food addiction has deadly consequences and even though they're not as swift as those of heroine, they eventually lead you to the same 6 feet under ground.

I know this all sounds very dramatic, but I take this very seriously. I don't believe every overweight person is a food addict, but I do believe every food addict can manage their addiction if they come to realize that it's not about willpower....at least that's how it is for me anyway.

I want to thank you as well for sharing this. It seems it speaks to many of us and I know for me, there were parts that were exactly what I have felt and been through over the years.

I haven't read this whole thread, so I might be asking something you already answered, but how have you been managing this food addiction? Are you abstaining from sugar and/or carbs? I have found this to be the most effective way to manage this addiction for me, but at the same time I have difficultly with feeling restricted, as that leads to a binge as well.

You are so right to refer to it as a monster. It absolutely is a monster. It seems to be the last addiction that does not receive support or validation from society. I see so many programs for drug addicts, alcoholics, or even gamblers. Tell someone that drugs addicts are lazy and should stop through will power, and you would get a ration of sh!t, but its perfectly acceptable to say that about "fat" people. Its perfectly acceptable to say we are lazy and weak...I feel that food addiction is really shamed in the public eye and in my opinion, that makes it harder for many people to seek help. We feel that unless we are 80 lbs and obviously anorexic, that we do not have an eating disorder, we just need to try harder and put down the fork... and so we continue to deal with shame and guilt and feeling like failures....which only drives us towards our drug of choice. Its a very sad and lonely cycle.
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Old 06-07-2014, 09:09 AM   #63
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Bottom line is that if thinking of food as an addiction helps frame your solution then who's to argue the efficacy of that? ...Once I gave up on the addiction theory I was miraculously no longer addicted to the foods other people told me were addictive.
Totally agree with this. The addiction model (or framework) is just a model. If it helps, great. For my part, I prefer to believe that I can do things I once considered impossible, like keeping Nutella in the house and eating only a spoonful or two every couple of weeks, leaving a portion of a delicious entree on my plate, etc.

I find moderation more freeing than abstinence, so I'm inclined toward models that support moderation. But that's just me.

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Old 06-07-2014, 09:16 AM   #64
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I want to thank you as well for sharing this. It seems it speaks to many of us and I know for me, there were parts that were exactly what I have felt and been through over the years.

I haven't read this whole thread, so I might be asking something you already answered, but how have you been managing this food addiction? Are you abstaining from sugar and/or carbs? I have found this to be the most effective way to manage this addiction for me, but at the same time I have difficultly with feeling restricted, as that leads to a binge as well.

You are so right to refer to it as a monster. It absolutely is a monster. It seems to be the last addiction that does not receive support or validation from society. I see so many programs for drug addicts, alcoholics, or even gamblers. Tell someone that drugs addicts are lazy and should stop through will power, and you would get a ration of sh!t, but its perfectly acceptable to say that about "fat" people. Its perfectly acceptable to say we are lazy and weak...I feel that food addiction is really shamed in the public eye and in my opinion, that makes it harder for many people to seek help. We feel that unless we are 80 lbs and obviously anorexic, that we do not have an eating disorder, we just need to try harder and put down the fork... and so we continue to deal with shame and guilt and feeling like failures....which only drives us towards our drug of choice. Its a very sad and lonely cycle.
I agree wholeheartedly.

I haven't solved my issue but recognizing it as an addiction has helped me a lot. FWIW, here is what I am finding helpful lately:
1) restricting sugar/refined carbs to social occasions, ie weddings, graduations, parties, get-togethers. My social life makes these no more than once/week usually. It might not work if you have more frequent events
This keeps me from feeling deprived and also takes away the stress of white-knuckling while others around me indulge. The rest of the time I avoid those things. Sometimes I slip, but generally not.

2) Three books have been especially helpful The End of Overeating by David Kessler; Addiction & Grace by Gerald May (there are references to religion in this one that don't fit me at all but I find the book overall very helpful). Brain over Binge by Kathryn Hansen.

3) acceptance that I will have to work at it every day--it's hard work. I still relapse into thinking I deserve or can get away with or "need" my fix. That's hard-wired into my brain. I'm working on strngthening the other part of brain that goes for delayed gratification.

Btw, many alcohol rehab professionals view alcohol addiction as fundamentally an addiction to sugar.
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Old 06-07-2014, 09:20 AM   #65
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Gotta emphasise, just for clarification, that i have never ever thought that mind was outside the body. Never thought that thoughts came from somewhere else or some magical place. I know its all part of the body and body chemistry.
I didn't read you as saying that, quite the opposite FWIW!
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Old 06-07-2014, 12:34 PM   #66
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Totally agree with this. The addiction model (or framework) is just a model. If it helps, great. For my part, I prefer to believe that I can do things I once considered impossible, like keeping Nutella in the house and eating only a spoonful or two every couple of weeks, leaving a portion of a delicious entree on my plate, etc.

I find moderation more freeing than abstinence, so I'm inclined toward models that support moderation. But that's just me.

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Old 06-07-2014, 03:04 PM   #67
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The struggle each person faces is very personal. You may not diminish what I have been through, the extent of my eating disorder, or the amount of work that I put into addressing it. There is a difference between finding the right method and finding the method that everyone else says is the right method. I can only speak through my own experience, I may not have as much weight to lose as you but that does not mean I have not faced my own struggles.

Exactly! And by denying that food addiction exists (which is exactly what YOU said), you not only diminish those who've experience it, you deny their very experience.

If you found the right method by denying YOUR addiction, then you were never an addict.


I also did not say that you did not face your own struggles, just that you cannot fully understand mine, nor can I fully understand yours. That's not diminishing either.

If you've never eaten food from the trash or gotten into a car accident because you were more interested in the donuts on your passenger seat than the road ahead, you cannot possibly understand the extreme power food can have over a person's life.

It's one thing to say "I am not a food addict, just because some people thought I was," and an entirely different (and deeply disrespectful and offensive) thing to say food addiction does not exist, especially directly to the people experiencing it.
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Old 06-07-2014, 03:22 PM   #68
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Moderation is not seen as a tool, but it's a powerful one.
And moderation as a tool doesn't deny or diminish the addiction model. Many addicts are able to use moderation, especially for the soft addictions without strong physiological dependence.

Shopping addicts HAVE to use moderation, unless they are able to turn all their finances over to someone else. Sex addicts generally do not abstain from all sex their entire lives, they have to either redefine abstinence or learn some form of moderation.

Clinically there's a distinction between eating disorders, substance abuse, ocd, and impulse control issues, but there are more similarities than differences, making the addiction model useful in treating these disorders. So useful, that "addiction" has become the term many people with these issues self-identify as addicts. And the usefulness and use of the term, make it real.

That doesn't make all addictions equal. There are few situations in which a food addict will face severe legal consequences for their food abuse (not that it couldn't happen).

Clinical addiction isn't identical to the colloquial use of the word addiction, but that doesn't make the layman's definition nonexistent, especially just because you haven't experienced it.

Neither does the ability to use moderation (with lots of hard work, and perhaps not possible for everyone) negate the possibility of addiction (or something so much like addiction that the difference is inconsequential).
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Old 06-07-2014, 03:44 PM   #69
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Exactly! And by denying that food addiction exists (which is exactly what YOU said), you not only diminish those who've experience it, you deny their very experience.

If you found the right method by denying YOUR addiction, then you were never an addict.


I also did not say that you did not face your own struggles, just that you cannot fully understand mine, nor can I fully understand yours. That's not diminishing either.

If you've never eaten food from the trash or gotten into a car accident because you were more interested in the donuts on your passenger seat than the road ahead, you cannot possibly understand the extreme power food can have over a person's life.

It's one thing to say "I am not a food addict, just because some people thought I was," and an entirely different (and deeply disrespectful and offensive) thing to say food addiction does not exist, especially directly to the people experiencing it.
I've stayed out of this (i think, LOL) but i agree. I believe that i am a food addict and HAVE to take measures in my life to manage it which is how i lost 100 lbs, facing that fact and realizing i have to put restrictions in place, much like how i had to quit smoking because at age 19, i was headed toward 3 packs a day addiction but with food obviously there cannot be abstinence. I don't think calling food an addiction takes away from the struggles others have with substance or alcohol or tobacco abuse or whatever else, how could it? Its MY personal experience, having an addictive personality. And I KNOW... food is an addiction of mine.
FWIW.
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Old 06-07-2014, 05:18 PM   #70
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has more to do with the fact that your addiction is for a legal, cheap, readily available substance. And other factors.
Actually, there is compelling evidence on both sides of this debate, and I'm quite familiar with it.

I think if someone experiences their own battle with food as an addiction that is perfectly valid from a psychological viewpoint and may turn out to be true from a physiological viewpoint-- but the jury is still out.

You should feel free to speak to your own addiction if you feel that you have one. I made it quite clear at the top of the post that I'm speaking for myself and I would not characterize my relationship with food as an addiction.
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Old 06-07-2014, 05:42 PM   #71
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...but with food obviously there cannot be abstinence. I don't think calling food an addiction takes away from the struggles others have with substance or alcohol or tobacco abuse or whatever else, how could it? Its MY personal experience, having an addictive personality. And I KNOW... food is an addiction of mine.
FWIW.

But there actually can be abstinence, because not all food is addictive. You can completely avoid all the foods that trigger the physiological response. Whether you want to, need to, or choose to is a different matter.

The 12 step abstinence program developed by Alcoholics Anonymous is often used in eating disorder treatment, but it's not the only model. It's just one of the more common.


There are "moderation" programs even for illegal drug abuse (some view AA and other 12 step programs as a "dangerous cult").


There's more commonalities than differences between substance abuse and addiction; eating disorders; and other impulse control issues like sex addiction, compulsive gambling, hoarding, animal hoarding, compulsive spending, or other compulsive thrill seeking.

There are many models for treatment besides abstinence, though absinence is possible for all of them. It's just a matter of defining abstinence and the behaviors which are to be abstained from.

Virtually all food addiction is an addiction to either non-fiber carbohydrates or the combination of carbs, salt, and fat. Insulin resistance appears to also create the strongest physiological component, so in some cases abstinence can completely break the addiction cycle. Control blood sugar and insulin and you control the pathological hunger.

Insulin and blood sugar may even be the critical component on most food abuse/addiction situations.

Complete, permanent abstinence may or may not be necessary, but abstinence may be easier for many than trying to surf the blood sugar waves trying to get to moderation.

Some alcoholics can hang out at bars and have booze in the hous. Some can even drink socially (use moderation). Some can't. Food addiction is no different.

Choosing abstinence (for today) t doesn't have to be about food hate or paranoia. It can just be about making the path easier. I find that some of my trigger foods I can keep in the house, but it's not worth it to me to do so. For example, for some reason I can have Hershey's chocolate almond spread in the house, and use it in moderation, but not Nutella, even though they're very similar. Why? I have no idea. Possibly because the Hershey spread is not as salty. I might even be able to learn moderation if I needed to.

But even though I can, or could doesn't mean I should have to. They're both unnecessary temptations. It's easier and less stressful for me to abstain completely from the salt/sugar/fat trifecta that is my addiction.

I know I would have even more success if I just committed to abstinence completely and didn't keep trying to "learn moderation."

Food-related abstinence is difficult to accept and embrace, especially with the mainstream view that it isn't even possible (or isn't physiologically or mentally healthy).
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Old 06-07-2014, 05:54 PM   #72
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Actually, there is compelling evidence on both sides of this debate, and I'm quite familiar with it.

I think if someone experiences their own battle with food as an addiction that is perfectly valid from a psychological viewpoint and may turn out to be true from a physiological viewpoint-- but the jury is still out.

You should feel free to speak to your own addiction if you feel that you have one. I made it quite clear at the top of the post that I'm speaking for myself and I would not characterize my relationship with food as an addiction.
I get that you don't like the term addict applied to yourself & I certainly honor that. When you draw the disctinction between addiction and bad habits I'm confused since this view of addiction does not contradict the models to which i referred. When you added the further distinction that you would not hold up a convenience store as if that is why you don't consider yourself addicted, that's perfectly fine but does not reflect an understanding of addiction by any definition ~ perhaps a distancing from the stigma associated with a stereotype.

That's how I interpreted your remarks and did not mean to offend in any way, just carry on a lively discussion about something that interests me, and apparently a lot of others. Over and out.

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Old 06-07-2014, 06:13 PM   #73
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I get that you don't like the term addict applied to yourself & I certainly honor that. When you draw the disctinction between addiction and bad habits I'm confused since this view of addiction does not contradict the models to which i referred. When you added the further distinction that you would not hold up a convenience store as if that is why you don't consider yourself addicted, that's perfectly fine but does not reflect an understanding of addiction by any definition but perhaps a distancing, from the stigma associated with a stereotype.

That's how I interpreted your remarks and did not mean to offend in any way, just carry on a lively discussion about something that interests me, and apparently a lot of others. Over and out.

If I seemed to indicate that I believe that you can't be an addict unless you hold up a convenience store, then my bad.

But obviously there is a great deal of debate about the meaning of the word addiction when it is applied to drugs and alcohol. The water is even murkier pertaining to food.

http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate...t-is-addiction

I don't use the addict label for myself because it is not a useful construct for me. I used to think that I simply couldn't control myself around food. At that time, I weighed over 300lbs and thought that there was nothing I could do about it. Since 2009, I've managed to hold onto at least a 10% loss of my initial loss, but I've had my ups and downs... obviously. I do not have it all figured out, but I do have it figured out that approaching it as a bad habit helps me more than thinking of it as an addiction.

Maybe someone else would find it helpful to consider their own struggles with food as an addiction, and maybe their own struggles with food are an addiction. In any case, it's an interesting subject.
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Old 06-07-2014, 08:53 PM   #74
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Food-related abstinence is difficult to accept and embrace, especially with the mainstream view that it isn't even possible (or isn't physiologically or mentally healthy).
Boy am i finding this out, not really on this forum but another forum with an emphasis more on fitness and exercise.

A lot of them will rail against people posting on abstaining or moderating certain foods saying that that mindset pretty much equals an eating disorder. I stay out of those discussions. If i choose to eat very healthy, very portion controlled meals 6 days a week and go "whole hog" so to speak on the 7th and it works for me and they feel that equals an eating disorder, so be it then. I suppose i can sit down and REALLY make it into a disorder if i ponder it into oblivion enough whether what i'm doing is mentally and emotionally healthy but i choose not to saddle myself with that guilt, ironically enough...
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Old 06-08-2014, 12:00 AM   #75
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I would say that twenty years ago the jury was out on food and behavior addictions, but I would argue that the jury really is starting to come in, especially with the brain scan data that finds the same area of the brain being involved with eating disorders, substance and behavioral impusle control issues.

I don't think the day is too far off that eating disorders will be at least partially diagnosed by brain scan.

If we could change the focus from disease/disorder treatment to prevention, I suspect that abstinence might never be an issue because we would stop the snowballing addiction cycle in earlier and earlier stages. I strongly believe that the earlier the intervention, the more likely that moderation is feasible.

That's just a guess, not even a scientific hypothesis, reallt. Though there's certainly evidence that earlier intervention does tend to be more successful.

A strong support system is also a huge component. And that's were overeating disorders fall flat. There are a lot of mixed messages with food. Food pushing is everywhere, along with pressure to be thin. Somehow you're supposed to eat a lot of crap and somehow magically be thin.

This isn't always true, but it does happen a lot. Try to eat healthy, even at 300 lbs, and you're often encouraged to "splurge a little" or even straight-up ridiculed for it.
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