War of the whirl: Beating the cycle of food addiction

An eating addiction turns daily existence into a war against food and self.

The battle is all-consuming. Fighting the enemy and losing excess weight becomes a full-time occupation. Ultimately, desperation sets in, leading to the use of crash diets, food-binging and self-hatred.

The realm of eating is an area that may careen out of control into a spinning cycle of psychological distress and weight gain. Some individuals eat as a coping mechanism or defensive tactic for dealing with uncomfortable feelings. Eating may temporarily relieve the stress and emotional discomfort of depression and distress, but eating is a short-term fix that leads to feelings of guilt and shame. The guilt and shame circles back to depression and distress as the cycle repeats itself.

Many people speak of excessive food consumption as a way to “numb out” or “escape.” Food is the drug of choice. Overeating, binging and starvation diets cause dissatisfaction with our weight, physical appearance and body image. The result of overeating is low self-esteem and self-confidence dwindling to an all time low.

Unlike alcoholics, overeaters can’t avoid or abstain from the focus of their addiction. We are barraged daily by commercials and advertisements displaying delectable food and snack items. And, we all need food for survival.

The body requires nutrients from a daily source of calories and food consumption. Food provides the sustenance of life, but too much food overwhelms the body with excessive toxins and calories.

Food cravings are not unlike the cravings that drug addiction creates. One way to silence the unhappiness from within is to pursue the rush and instant gratification received from food.

The rush is a moment of intensity, clarity and self-satisfaction that food delivers to addicts. However, these moments are fleeting. This leaves the food addict feeling lower and requires more consumption later to achieve the original rush. Food is used as the drug –– a deadly drug that can cause dire health complications such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease.

Regardless of etiology, overeaters should receive treatment. But don’t fall prey to another sales gimmick or crash diet, because there is no panacea or miracle cure. Rather, find solutions for that unresolved pain and discover what drives the behavior causing the addiction.

Eating addictions involve a vicious, self-destructive cycle that wreaks havoc on the lives of the people we love and care about. Underneath the compulsive behavior and addictive pattern is unresolved emotional pain that has gone unrecognized.

An eating addiction is a war against food and self. In war, there are no winners. The battle continually rages on, and hopefully one’s will to gain control shall prevail over the desire for food.

Jennifer L. Gray, Ph.D., is a private-practice psychotherapist in individual, couples and family counseling. She can be reached at 653-0168 or Psychotherapy Associates, Parklane Executive Center, 31620 23rd Ave. S., Suite 318, Federal Way, WA 98003.

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