Last updated: 05/8/2018
Author: Addictions.com Medical Review
Reading Time: 5 minutes
There tends to be considerable debate over what food addiction actually is and how to approach it. Those who suffer from food addiction will all agree that there is a significant need for effective food addiction treatment that will work to help people overcome compulsively poor eating habits. Food addiction treatment tends to focus on providing quality, effective counseling and therapy in an environment that helps the individual heal on both a physical and a psychological level.
Recognizing food addiction is the first step to getting help but it’s also one of the most difficult steps. People need to eat and it can be difficult to determine whether an individual’s poor or compulsive eating habits are the result of an actual addiction to food or the result of some other problem such as gluttony, chemical dependency or another diagnosis. Upon recognizing that an individual is actually addicted to food, various steps of treatment can be taken to lead to a lifetime of recovery.
Principles of Food Addiction Treatment
According to the US National Library of Medicine, typically, people who are addicted to food will feel depressed, anxious or otherwise unhappy if they do not have their food of choice. They may overeat regularly despite the known problems that their eating causes such as weight gain, increased cholesterol, high blood pressure or other health effects. The principles of food addiction treatment involve a need for the treatment professional to understand that:
- Food addicts must abstain from triggers such as the foods that they are addicted to in order to actually eliminate the addiction. These foods must be completely eliminated from the diet in order to heal from the addiction—similar to the way that alcohol must be eliminated from an alcoholic’s diet in order for him or her to heal from alcohol addiction.
- Food addicts must accept that they have lost control of their eating habits and need professional help.
- Food addicts will go through withdrawal when they stop eating the food or foods that they are addicted to. Many of the symptoms of withdrawal will resemble symptoms that are felt when an individual goes through withdrawal as a result of various types of drug addiction.
- Food addicts must challenge their food addiction and break their eating habits in various ways.
- Food addicts will require varied levels of support and treatment.
Types of Food Addiction Treatment
There are varied levels of treatment for those who suffer from food addiction. The most common types of food addiction treatment include:
- Inpatient food addiction treatment which takes place in a residential setting where there is no risk of the addict eating the foods that he or she is addicted to because meals are prepared and severed in a residential setting.
- Outpatient food addiction treatment which takes place in an outpatient setting where the individual will receive counseling and therapy on a daily or semi-weekly basis while abstaining from trigger foods on their own at home.
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy which focuses on the thoughts that a food addict has surrounding certain foods and the misconceptions or beliefs that the individual has about the foods they crave and then works to chance these thoughts and the subsequent behaviors that come with such thoughts into positive outcomes.
- Support groups for food addicts provide peer guidance and support in recovery which is vital to the successful healing from food addiction.
How Food Addiction Treatment Works
Typically, food addiction treatment will take place over a period of many weeks or months in order to effectively help an addict stop their addictive behaviors and replace such behaviors with healthy activities. Food addiction treatment works by providing the patient with a foundation for which he or she can build upon for ultimate recovery. There are various steps of food addiction treatment which include:
- Food detox during which the food addict will not eat the foods that he or she is addicted to.
- Food addiction counseling during which the food addict will receive professional help from a counselor or therapist who specializes in food addiction treatment.
- Identification of trigger foods. This is the process of getting to know which foods that individual is addicted to and cannot seem to get enough of.
- Reducing or tapering trigger foods off to help ease the addiction. This process involves either eliminating or reducing the trigger foods from the diet while adopting better or healthier eating habits.
- Incorporating exercise into the mix to promote healthy living post food addiction. Exercise also boosts adrenaline and other stimulants in the body that may have previously been activated with certain foods.
Finding a Professional for Effective Food Addiction Treatment
If you or someone you love is addicted to certain foods such as salty foods or sugary snacks, finding the right professional who can help you is vital to a successful outcome in treatment. Food addiction treatment professionals are typically counselors or therapists who have a background in behavioral therapies such as CBT. You may want to ask the following questions before you make a decision on which food addiction treatment professional is going to be right for you:
- Do you understand food addiction and the differences between food addiction and obesity or other eating disorders?
- Do you understand chemical dependency and the way that food can cause a chemical dependency situation for some people?
- Do you provide assessment for the various stages of food addiction and provide treatment based on the different stages of addiction?
- Do you treat food addiction similar to the way that other addicts are treated in that the individual must become completely abstinent from the trigger foods the same way that an alcoholic would be required to become completely abstinent from alcohol?
- Do you utilize 12-step recovery programs in your food addiction treatment program?
- Do you provide education for the addict and for the family members or loved ones so that they can better understand food addiction and the treatment that is to be received?
- Do you have a particular strategy that is used to confront denial in food addiction cases and has it been proven effective?
- What type of success rates have you had in treating food addiction?
Remember, food addiction treatment is a delicate subject that is not to be taken lightly. Finding the right treatment can mean that you or your loved one gets the right help and can make a full recovery; but finding treatment that is ineffective can be discouraging and dangerous. Food addiction is already devastating and scary but treatment for food addiction doesn’t have to be!