Last updated: 02/20/2019
Author: Addictions.com Medical Review
Reading Time: 3 minutes
While food will forever be an essential life-sustaining material, as with most everything in life moderation is key. Not unlike alcohol, gambling and drugs, addictions to food can take over a person’s life when left unchecked. The direct effect of food on health also leaves a person wide open for any number of medical problems down the road.
Food addiction treatment works in similar ways to any other type of addiction treatment. Comparison-wise, the food addict faces way more opportunities for temptation than other types of addicts in that he or she has to eat every day. What food addiction treatment does is teach people to understand the physical and mental motivations behind the addiction and help them replace poor food choices with health ones.
To date, the term “food addiction” has yet to become an official diagnosis or category within the addiction field, though ongoing research into food’s effects on the brain may soon change things. Researchers in a Harvard Medical School study observed the effects of high-glycemic-type foods, also known as bad carbohydrates on different regions of the brain using brain imaging scans.
The results of the study showed bad carbohydrates stimulate brain regions that regulate pleasure centers of the brain in the same ways as drugs and alcohol do. As positive and negative reinforcement patterns originate in the brain’s pleasure centers, this self-reinforcing process makes it possible to become addicted to certain kinds of food in much the same way as drug addictions form. This type of ongoing research explains why food addiction treatment programs follow many of the methods used in drug treatment.
As food becomes the drug of choice in food addiction treatment, methods used to help people break unhealthy eating patterns address both the physical and psychological aspects of addiction. Nutritional counseling works to educate participants on how addiction works and how different types of foods interact with brain and body processes.
The overall goals of nutritional counseling within a food addiction treatment program include:
- Reaching a stable and healthy body weight
- Promoting healthy eating patterns
- Education on how certain foods affect the brain’s reward system
Participants learn how to create their own customized diet plans that replace unhealthy foods with healthy ones. Nutritional counselors also help participants develop fitness goals as part of a long-term, healthy living plan.
Individual & Group Therapy
Thought patterns, emotions and behaviors form the basis for most all types of addictions. For this reason food addiction treatment programs use individual and group therapy work as ways to help people break destructive thinking processes regarding food. Individual therapy helps a person identify and understand any underlying emotional ties he or she has towards food and the role food plays in daily life.
Group therapy sessions offer a place where people can gain support from one another as they share their experiences with food. Group therapy also helps participants learn healthy coping behaviors as part of the food addiction treatment process. Overall, therapy work helps individuals change their attitudes, belief systems and self/body image regarding food’s role in everyday life.