By Dr Bunmi Aboaba, a Recovery Coach specialising in Food Addiction
We all need to eat. However, with the fast pace of modern life, we don’t always have time to work out what’s good and what’s not. It’s quicker and easier to pick up a ready meal or order in.
It can be easy to acquire bad habits through no fault of our own. It’s hard to be objective about what and how much we are eating. Emotions come into play, there are rationalizations and denial. There are also no hard and fast boundaries. What’s healthy for one person could be more than enough for another.
Take some time to examine your behaviours around food, to better understand your relationship with it. Here are seven signs you may be addicted to food:
1. Cravings after a full meal
After eating a satisfying meal, one that contains all the good stuff and plenty of it, is there a voice in your head saying ‘but what would really finish the meal off is…’? You’re full, your body knows it’s full, but there is that nagging feeling of wanting more. This is a sign that your brain has got used to the dopamine rush that some foods give. The level which used to mean ‘enough’ has now gone up.
2. Thinking about food too much
Is food a major subject in your internal dialogue? Are you often thinking ‘how long until lunch / snack break / dinner?’ It may not be the food itself, it may be the idea of the food. The buying, the unwrapping or preparing. The thought of buying something nice, just for you, that no one else knows about.
Maybe it’s the amount – have I got enough chocolate in case I wake up in the middle of the night and feel hungry? Better buy some more just in case…
3. Making excuses not rules
Do any of these sound familiar… ‘It’s just one more slice…’; ‘If I skip lunch tomorrow, I can have extra dessert tonight…’ (but of course, lunch still happens as usual). Do you set yourself targets, and then when you fail those targets, make an excuse for yourself? ‘I watched a sad film’, ‘Look at the state of the world!’, ‘Someone said something mean to me’…
When you make a plan, buy the groceries, and know when you are going to cook and eat, then – something happens. A friend has a break up. Someone in the family is ill. Do those plans go out the window, just so you can be the hero and go save someone?
4. Physical changes become noticeable
If you continue to eat badly, the weight will start to pile on. Maybe you are young, in your twenties, and it seems that no matter how much you eat, you can stay thin. As you get to your thirties, this is no longer the case. The middle starts to spread. If you are eating unhealthy things, that can also show up in acne, bad breath or dental problems. You might be out of breath more often.
At the more extreme end, this can go into diabetes, heart problems, liver problems. Because these changes happen gradually, it can be a shock to wake up one morning and no longer have that body that worked so well 10 years ago.
5. Other areas of life are suffering
Has your performance slowed down? Are you still able to put in the hours, get work finished on time? Or are you feeling tired, both mentally and physically? Do you skimp on family time, work time, just to have more alone time with food? Do you put off doing exercise, because you know that it will hurt first before getting better? Are other people starting to pick up the slack?
6. Denial, guilt, low self-esteem – the unholy trinity
Eating, denying that you have eaten, feeling guilty, low self-esteem, and then eating to get rid of those feelings. This can turn into a never-ending cycle. Addiction is all about mental health. If your mental health is suffering, it might be time to make some changes.
7. Not telling the truth about how much you eat, or hiding what you do eat
Have you ever bought extra food, then eaten it before getting home, so that no one would see? Do you eat in the car to avoid a confrontation about food? Is there a stash in the house, perhaps biscuits hidden away? Do you say to yourself ‘I have to hide some food away or someone else will eat it first!’
Have you stopped off at a café or a burger joint to have an extra meal, to warm up the stomach muscles before dinner?
If you are hiding, concealing or not admitting the truth to others, it suggests you already know that it is a problem. How much are you hiding from yourself?
If you have three or more of these signs, it could be a warning that it is time to do something. Consult a doctor, see a nutritionist or other health professional. It can often be much easier to go to a qualified stranger than to talk to friends. There will be no judgement; as they will have seen it all before.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr Bunmi Aboaba is a Recovery Coach specialising in Food Addiction, helping clients to achieve a healthy relationship with food to meet long-term health goals. Dr Bunmi’s work covers the full spectrum of disordered eating, including overeating, compulsive eating, emotional eating, addicted eating and other associated patterns. Dr Bunmi is also creator of the first Certified Food Addiction Certification to support nutritionists, personal trainers, dieticians and clinicians to help their clients achieve long-lasting results.
Thank you to Dr Bunmi for this wonderful article.