Is food addiction harder to overcome than other addictions?
Saturday, April 24, 2021
I know that many people say that food addiction is harder to overcome than an addiction to drugs or alcohol or cigarettes. This because 'we have to still eat'.
My thought used to be that hey, we may still have to eat but we don't have to eat junkfood and sweets, so what's the problem?
However now that I am looking at my problems with overeating from the angle of food addiction, my insights are changing.
Thinking about my experience with quitting smoking I can see the following differences, and I guess they apply to addictions to booze and / or drugs as well:
With regard to alcohol, cigarettes and harddrugs:
* It is possible to ban the substance pretty much from our lives. For example we can
- Avoid people who use, or at least only be around them when they do not use.
- They are usually seen as addictive, there is no controversy about these things causing addiction and society has created rules around them. You can't purchase them with the same ease with which you can get junkfood and sweets.
- It is possible to avoid buying those things or at least be reminded of the harmful effects that they have. You can simply avoid the liquor store (at least here, it is forbidden to sell booze in the supermarket, and cigarettes are only available at the counter in a usually separate area that can be closed off).
- It is possible to simply ban the products from your life and never be reminded of them. You can at some point 'forget' the (so-called) 'pleasure' these things bring.
- Is everywhere - no longer just in the store but on the coworker's desk, in the library and at the gas station - and it is offered to us very frequently. We also are bombarded with ads urging us to buy and eat luxury / addictive products.
- Is not recognzed by the majority of society as addictive
- It is impossible or very hard to avoid all get-togethers with other people where food is involved.
- Also if you refuse to have the foods offered to you at social occasions you still need to eat, later on / at home. If someone offers you a drink or a cigarette you can refuse and not need to perform a similar action later on or at home. You can refuse and be done with it.
- You cannot erase the experience of pleasure caused by food. You can't ban that from your life. Also if you cut out all addictive foods and eat only 3 times per day (or even 2 times) you still have to eat and you can and probably will still experience pleasure from eating. This is how nature intended it to be: it created our brains to long for experiences and behaviors that ensure our survival (eating, sex). I read that there are theories that assume that addictions to substances like harddrugs and alcohol could only develop because these substances 'hijack' the system in the brain originally meant to get us to eat and procreate.
- It is well possible to stop eating addictive foods and stick to rules such as no grazing and portion control - but we could then still be focused on / obsessed with food and eating on those moments when you DO eat (to fuel your body).
If we stop using a drug or alcohol we can simply forget that substance and the 'pleasure' it brought. But having to eat means that even if we abstain from addictive foods, we are still confronted with a desire to at least eat more, or eat more often, than we intend. It is easier to be overly focused on the meals once we do have to have them, longing for them, not wanting them to be over, longing for MORE, compared to other addictive substances.
There are of course other addictions that are similar to food, in the sense that they involve behaviors that nature intended us to perform in order to support our survival (sex addiction), or they are not seen as addictive per se and society has not set rules and restrictions with regard to these behaviors (shopping, gaming - it is interesting that gambling IS seen as potentially addictive).
So, thinking about these things and realizing I do want to heal from my problems with food and overeating helps me to understand my position better. It's good to be aware of the (extra) challenges involved in overcoming food addiction. I am also reminded of comments by Susan Peirce Thompson about how it is extra important to get lots of support given that those who try to overcome food addiction (cutting out addictive foods, limiting the amount of eating moments, limiting the amounts of food to eat) is uncommon in our society. So it means doing things differently from the majority of the people we deal with. That's why it's extra important to be in touch with others who are doing the same thing and holding the same views.
In the meantime I am looking for ways that may help me to find food less 'interesting' and attractive and diminish it's 'magic hold' on me so that my meals and my food become less of an (unhealthy) focuspoint for me.