Last updated: 09/18/2018
Author: Addictions.com Medical Review
Reading Time: 5 minutes
While many individuals become addicted to drugs, alcohol, and other substances, food addiction is also an extremely problematic condition that often goes largely unnoticed and untreated. Many people become addicted to food for similar reasons to those who abuse other substances, and eventually, it becomes compulsive and the individual is unable to stop.
Fortunately, there are several options for food addiction treatment, among them, counseling. Individual or group counseling as a treatment for food addiction can help you learn to manage what you eat and to get healthy again.
Why Should Someone Receive Treatment for Food Addiction?
Food addiction can be very dangerous both physically and mentally for anyone who is unable to stop themselves from eating. Sometimes, people eat when they are bored, angry, sad, or affected by another emotion they feel they can’t control. Over time, eating becomes compulsive and food seems to be the only thing that can make the individual feel better, for a little while at least.
Also, according to the VA, “Recent studies have shown that eating foods made with large amounts of sugar, salt, and flour, also cause large increases in the amount of dopamine in the brain,” just like many addictive drugs do. Depression often occurs along with food addiction. As stated by the NLM, this not only causes harmful changes in the brain, but consuming too much fatty and unhealthy food can also cause physical issues like:
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Pain in joints
- Menstrual problems
- High cholesterol
- Type 2 diabetes
- Gallbladder disease
Food addiction can cause someone to become extremely unhealthy and they will likely get worse the longer it goes untreated. But with food addiction counseling, you can get healthy again while also fighting your cravings for food.
What is Food Addiction Counseling?
Food addiction counseling is either a one-on-one or group therapy session with an addiction counselor who helps patients learn better strategies for coping with their stresses as well as their cravings for food. In food addiction counseling, you will learn many ways to get and stay healthy as well as how to manage your life in a way that you will feel proud of. Food addiction counselors can be found in many places, from rehab centers to outreach facilities to mental health centers.
Food Addiction Counseling vs. A Self-Imposed Diet
There are many ways food addiction counseling will help you get healthy. For one, many individuals have issues with their food addictions because, when they attempt to stop and go on a self-imposed diet, they often try to cut everything they enjoy out of what they eat, making them miserable. This is not necessary and will be one of the first things patients learn in food addiction counseling. The VA states, “Group and individual counseling… are very helpful treatment options and do not require strict food restrictions.” This makes many individuals feel that they can still enjoy themselves by knowing how to do so with mindfulness.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a concept taught in food addiction counseling and other types of addiction treatments. It is the idea that a person should always be aware of themselves and know what they are feeling in the present moment. With mindfulness, you can avoid doing things like eating too much, eating to cover up an unwanted emotion, or eating when you are not hungry. Mindfulness forces a person to pay attention to what is really going on instead of using unhealthy coping methods.
Food addiction counseling will teach you how to be more mindful of yourself and your needs. Some of the questions you might be prompted to ask yourself during a mindfulness test are:
- Am I hungry?
- Am I actually just bored?
- What am I feeling right now?
- Have I eaten my fill?
- What have I eaten today and could I be more healthy in my eating habits?
- How much food will I actually want to eat verses how much do I think I want?
This concept allows individuals to take a step back from their unhealthy eating habits and question them which leads to much healthier habits in the long run.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Food Addiction
According to a study from the NCBI, “Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which is the best-established treatment for binge eating disorder, effectively targets aspects of binge-eating disorder in a manner similar to how CBT targets aspects of substance dependence.”
The study states, because of this, “the relationship between binge-eating disorder and food addiction may have many important clinical implications.” For food addiction, CBT can often be used just as effectively, and many counselors use this method. It is similar to mindfulness while also teaching patients:
- A new way to look at their addiction to food
- Coping strategies for when they want to eat but know they aren’t hungry
- How to anticipate problematic feelings or behaviors before they occur
- “Exploring the positive and negative consequences” of their food addictions and continued unhealthy eating patterns (NIDA)
Cognitive behavioral therapy has been especially effective with the treatment of many substance use disorders as well as eating disorders, anxiety disorders, and depression. If you work with your counselor to learn the strategies involved in CBT treatment, you will find yourself feeling more in control of your food intake which will make you mentally and physically healthier.
How Else Can Food Addiction Counseling Get You Healthy?
Over time, counseling helps individuals with food addiction issues learn how to eat better and feel better about themselves. And, in addition, many individuals who begin to eat unhealthy foods and become addicted to them do so because of other mental disorders like depression or anxiety disorders. Counseling can not only help with your food addiction but with any other psychological issues you are struggling with as well.
Food addiction counseling will help get you psychologically more healthy which will, in turn, lead to physical health. You will likely also be given exercise or movement tips as well to help encourage your physical health.