I am a food addict, and this has to stop.
Photo by Anthony Espinosa on Unsplash
“One should eat to live, not live to eat.” — Moliere
If you feel hurt by a remark, it probably has some truth in it. It was late afternoon. My girlfriend and I were walking towards the city center, to have a drink and dinner with one of our friends.
“I feel like eating whatever I want tonight!” I said cheerfully. My mind was full of tasty beers, followed by a great chicken burger with homemade fried or why not a delicious Neapolitan pizza topped with a basil leaf
I can’t remember exactly what I said next. Probably something about the need to work out the following day, or calories. The fact is that my girlfriend stopped in the middle of the street and, annoyed, she exclaimed, “Stop being so obsessed with food!
I denied it. Me, obsessed? Of course not! I just love to eat, like everyone else.
Yet her remark had been a real slap in the face. She had just put words on the truth.
I am obsessed with food. I think hours ahead of time about my next meal. I see food as an event. But I feel bad when I have several days of “bad” food in a row. Sometimes I feel a little stressed before a social event where I know there will be unhealthy food, and I think of ways to avoid it, or rather, ways to enjoy it while dealing with my guilt. I am constantly trying to eat less or better. And I always look forward to eating, even if I’m not hungry yet.
It’s a passion. Food is amazing: there are so many options, so many tastes! How can you choose between sushis, a delicious mixed salad, French specialties, pizza? Food is an event. A way to meet your loved ones, or to spend an evening out. A reason to travel. I could take a road trip through Italy to taste all the delicious specialties.
This is what food addiction is all about
“Maybe thoughts about food fill up your head all day long? Rather than thinking about the piece of work you’re doing or the weekend get together, you’re contemplating your next meal or snack, the next opportunity to eat, or you’re chastising yourself for food you wish you hadn’t eaten earlier today.”
— Counselling Directory
According to a very instructive blog post written by Katherine Kimber, a Registered Dietitian, and Certified Intuitive Eating Counsellor, here are the forms that food obsession can take:
- Always thinking about, talking about, and planning your next meal;
- Only allowing yourself to eat certain foods and labeling them “good” and “bad”;
- Not being able to concentrate on tasks, especially if you know the “bad” foods are in the house — basically, always thinking about food and wondering how to distract yourself from eating;
- Not enjoying social occasions if there are “bad” foods present;
- Declining those social occasions in the future, because of the stress of not knowing what you can eat;
- Constantly thinking about how you can train yourself to eat less;
Have you acknowledged your behavior on one or more of these points? Congratulations, you’re a food addict!
Apparently, we’re not alone:
“If I have one addiction in life, it’s probably food.” — Liam Hemsworth
“One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating.” — Luciano Pavarotti
“I think about food literally all day every day. It’s a thing.” — Taylor Swift
Some of the moments I enjoy most in my life are those when I eat. It doesn’t even have to be special. I can enjoy myself sipping a pre-made soup, sitting in front of my favorite reality show.
It’s consuming and exhausting. I’d like to start thinking about food only when I get hungry. That would be healthy. But I can’t. I love the whole package. The sharing. The event. The break it induces.
The latter is the most problematic. For as long as I can remember, I have always considered food as a reward and a break from work.
Mealtime is the time when I can rest.
This stems from a restriction, rules that have been placed on food.
“Placing a moralistic value on foods can interfere with our relationship to food in a negative way.” — Katherine Kimber
“Obsessing with food can occur if we have rules around our eating (which can be subtle and subconscious), whether these are self-inflicted rules that we’ve picked up over the years, or from an external source (e.g. a diet/pursuit of weight loss),” explains Katherine Kimber.
She goes on to distinguish between two types of restrictions:
- Physical restriction: not eating lunch before noon, not eating carbohydrates, or limiting the number of calories;
- Psychological restriction: when certain foods are labeled as good or bad, they cause guilt and anxiety about eating them.
I have been restricting my diet for six years now. As a teenager, I used to eat something like 3,500 calories a day. Then I discovered the diet culture, fitness, calories, and the “rules” related to food.
I have lost touch with my body. With my hunger. I am constantly torn between the desire to enjoy life’s pleasures and the need to maintain a good relationship with my body and the image I have of it.
I might have found a solution. It’s called intuitive eating.
Intuitive eating + a few other tips
“Food is not rational. Food is culture, habit, craving and identity.” — Jonathan Safran Foer
Intuitive eating consists of letting go of the grip we have on food. Trusting our body, our feelings. Listening to our appetite, our feeling of satiety, and consuming the food our body asks for, without classifying it as “good” or “bad”. Making food a simple and natural thing again.
Intuitive eating has always appealed to me. Except that I am afraid of gaining weight.
I’m afraid I’m going to lose control.
“The biggest fear is that we will just eat ‘junk food’ all the time if we eat our ‘forbidden food’. Whilst it may feel that is the case in the short term, this dissipates as time moves on. This process is called habituation — it’s a scientifically proven thing!” — Katherine Kimber
Apparently, I can trust my body. So can you. It knows what’s good for us. What we need, physically but also emotionally. The key is to pay attention to its signals and to eat mindfully.
“If you are hungry, do a little self-assessment about what your body is asking for — and feed it.” — Fit Woman
I have tried the above. I was hungry. I went to the kitchen and let my body speak. Like dowsers, I just followed what my body told me. It worked. After the meal, I felt full and emotionally satisfied.
Intuitive eating should ease the burden. The over-thinking.
Besides, Katherine Kimber proposes several other solutions:
- Permit yourself to eat the food you want, without guilt;
- Consider food as neutral: neither “good” nor “bad”;
- Ask yourself questions: “Am I hungry?” “Do I want it?”
The solution also lies in finding sources of happiness and rest other than food. Food is an easy access to joy. We are supposed to eat several times a day, and each time it triggers endorphin release in the brain.
“Food is the most primitive form of comfort.” — Sheila Graham
I’ve decided to give it a month-long trial with intuitive eating. This will be an opportunity for me to reconnect with my body and see if I can trust it.
I’ll let you know what happens in a month.
“Cakes are healthy too, you just eat a small slice.” — Mary Berry