Last updated: 11/15/2018
Author: Addictions.com Medical Review
Reading Time: 3 minutes
Like sex, drug and gambling addictions, a person’s obsession with food can soon take on a life of its own over time. As with any type of obsession, mental and physical cravings easily overpower any force of will a person can muster. After so many diet attempts and exercise routines, the question “how to break food addiction” becomes “what’s driving this addiction.”
Food addictions, like most addictions, become a means for coping with everyday life stressors. According to the US National Library of Medicine, it’s not just food but emotions and brain chemical processes all working together to provide a means of escape and enjoyment. Knowing how to break food addiction means identifying emotional eating patterns while developing new ways of coping with everyday life stressors.
Food as a Coping Mechanism
People develop coping mechanisms in order to deal with and manage uncomfortable feelings, events or situations. When used repeatedly, coping mechanisms become ingrained habits that tend to take on a life of their own. In turn, food can be used to cope with life in the same way an addict uses drugs to escape from life as they know it. When asking how to break food addiction, consider the role eating plays within your everyday life.
As food addictions often center around certain kinds of foods, such as pastries, pastas and salty snack treats packed with MSGs, certain types of foods can trigger chemical reactions in the brain. A food addiction develops out of the combined effects of stress, food and brain chemical secretions. Over time, a coping mechanism can turn into a physical craving that soon evolves into a mental craving or need. At this point, the question “how to break food addiction” becomes a matter of dealing with the emotions and behaviors that keep it going.
Understanding how a food addiction works can make it that much easier to know how to break food addiction. While both physical and psychological cravings work together to drive the urge to eat, eliminating, or at least reducing physical cravings can make it that much easier to deal with the psychological component of addiction.
Rather than cut back on all types of foods, focusing in on the ones that trigger cravings for more of the same enables brain chemical functions to return to normal. Much like the withdrawal effects drug addicts experience when going “cold turkey,” a person will likely experience withdrawal effects when eliminating certain favorite foods from the diet. Making it passed the withdrawal period is half the battle when learning how to break food addiction.
Along with managing physical cravings, learning how to break food addiction involves avoiding the temptations and triggers that set cravings in motion. Managing temptations starts at the grocery store. It’s a lot easier to not eat a trigger food when it’s not in the house. Likewise, driving past favorite burger joints and pastry shops can also challenge a person’s resolve. Changes in daily routines can go a long way towards keeping temptations at bay.