While the simple equation “energy in should equal energy out” makes perfect sense when it comes to weight management, it doesn’t always work in cases where emotions determine a person’s dietary intake. According to the University of North Carolina, this type of traditional weight management philosophy has an 80 percent failure rate in terms of keeping weight off for the long-term.
Food addictions often take the form of sweets, salty foods and fatty foods. Like any other type of addiction, these cravings have as much to do with the food as with the person. Learning how to stop food addiction is not that much different than stopping any other kind of addiction. Much of the work involved with how to stop food addiction centers on eliminating the underlying motivations and triggers that keep the addiction alive.
Weight Management Misnomers
When left unchecked, a food addiction inevitably leads to growing weight problems. Once a weight problem develops, it’s not uncommon for the focus to shift from how to stop food addiction to how to lose excess weight. Behavioral modification approaches emphasize managing daily food intake and increasing exercise activities, leaving many people to deal with incessant food cravings on their own.
While these principles do work when applied, a person’s personal relationship with food will prevail in the face of common sense logic. When it comes to food addiction, the logic lies inside the emotional triggers that drive a person to eat. Ultimately, how to stop food addiction has more to do with the addiction itself rather than the food a person eats.
Managing Stress & Emotions
Over time, a food addiction evolves into a relationship between a person’s emotions and the effects of food on the brain. Much like a cocaine addiction, combining certain emotions with certain types of foods triggers dopamine neurotransmitter secretions in the brain. The more a person eats the stronger this relationship (between food and emotions) gets.
Learning how to stop food addiction starts with identifying the emotional triggers that prompt certain food cravings. Likewise, everyday stressors can also set the food addiction cycle in motion. If a person is most likely to indulge in sweets after a hard day at work, engaging in another enjoyable activity can help stop this pattern in its tracks. For the long-term, having a strategy in place to counteract stress and emotional triggers can go a long way towards stopping food addiction patterns on a daily basis.
Tips on How to Stop Food Addiction
- Find other outlets for relieving stress and coping with difficult situations (journaling, taking a walk, socializing).
- Exercise can create the same brain chemical reactions as favorite foods. Replacing a food habit with an exercise habit offers huge returns on a 30-minute-a-day investment.
- Write out a plan on how to stop food addiction. List your trigger foods and the emotions that drive your cravings. Include strategies for overcoming cravings. Post your plan where it can be easily seen.
- Make it a point to only eat when you’re hungry as opposed to eating when cravings hit.