When Food Is Your Drug of Choice

Bag of groceriesWhen we think of addiction, we often automatically think of drugs. Due to the illicit nature of various street drugs, one must go and surreptitiously seek out the substance. However, binge eating is a type of addiction that we may not associate as one of the major addictions. For binge eaters, there are diets that could help them lose weight and help them learn to modify their food intake.

Some people feel that overeaters can control their behavior and “just stop eating.” What most individuals do not understand is that a person with food addiction has the same physical and mental response as one has when craving cocaine or other illicit substances. We may forget how hard it is to overcome a food addiction.

One who suffers from food addiction suffers from the hardest addiction of all, because we need food to survive. We cannot go without food, and we cannot live without eating. If we were to cut food out altogether, then we would be faced with anorexia, which is another type of mental disorder. If we were to binge and then make ourselves purge, we would be faced with bulimia. These are the types of mental health disorders that are associated with food addiction, and both can be detrimental to one’s health. So when a person is trying to refrain from overeating, that person is faced with many different obstacles. These individuals are often confronted with their addiction right in front of them every day, at least three times a day. When people addicted to drugs are trying to stop taking them, they are forced to stay away from drugs altogether, whether that avoidance is achieved through detox, staying away from their suppliers, or taking medication. They even have the opportunity to stay away from people, places, and things that would cause them to use their drug of choice. They are faced with many options that can help them control their behavior. Unfortunately, food addicts do not have such a luxury.

While one who is surviving a food addiction has the option of a diet or nutritional plan, they are still dealing with similar behaviors that a drug addict will display. They are still considered to be an addict, even though they are addicted to food. Examples are as follows:

Justification Many people who are trying to cut their habit will justify that their drug use is acceptable. They will rationalize that using drugs is better than not using at all. They may even blame people around them for their use.

Loss of control This is the most common trait of addiction. You cannot just stop at one drug or food source. You just keep using uncontrollably. There is no stopping until you feel sick, black out, or have completely lost control of bodily functions.

Loss of coping skills Many addicts, whether it is to drugs or food, do not have coping skills. They will use their choice of drug as a gateway to control their emotions instead of dealing with their emotions in a healthy manner.

Lying There is no telling when an addict is telling the truth. Many will lie to the people around them and to themselves and will deny using at all. Sometimes they lie so much they convince themselves that they did not use.

Whether you are suffering from a food addiction or drug addiction, there is hope, and you can overcome it . Knowing your triggers and developing a plan to keep away from your triggers is the best way to tackle any type of addiction. Once you are able to identify the addiction and change your behavior, it becomes easier to overcome your addictive behaviors.

Related articles:
Treating Eating Problems: Looking Beyond Addiction
Binge Eating Disorder and Health at Every Size
What Is Recovery?

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The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • Leave a Comment
  • candycane


    April 30th, 2012 at 3:25 PM

    I did not want to use my real name here because I am so afraid someone would know me. I know I am addicted to food, I gorge until I almost make myself sick. And even then I will sometimes force myself to keep on eating until I almost feel numb and pass out.
    It is so gross and I can’t even say that I know when it began other than I have always been troubled with weight issues and have somehow nveer found a way to get past them.
    I know that both of my parents struggled with their own food demons and luckily (haha) they passed those on to me too. I think they both ate themselves to death if you want to know the truth of the matter.
    In some ways I want help but I love the food so much that I am afraid I will never have this kind of love in my life again if I let this one go.
    That must sound crazy to any of you who do not have this same kid of relationship with food, but even when no one else is there, it is.

  • Nancy M

    Nancy M

    August 4th, 2016 at 6:16 AM

    May I recommend what is working for me and thousands of others who are desperate to be free of a life of obsession with food. Please visit here: foodaddicts.org/ There is a workable answer for you.

  • Chris


    April 30th, 2012 at 11:26 PM

    Wow I just realized the various problems of food addiction after reading this.Its pretty tough for all the food addicts out there.And the issues that they face seem to be bigger than those faced by other addicts as you have described.Seems like a group that needs targeted help directed to them.

  • JLipackCounseling


    May 1st, 2012 at 3:43 PM

    CandyCane – It sounds like you feel isolated and you feel that the only thing you have there for you is food. Food doesnt judge you and it does not make you feel bad. However, food doesnt hold emotions, it does not talk to you and certainly does not provide you with the same comfort level that a person would. It sounds like you need to explore what people out there you can count on, trust and even love. It may take some time. However, when you are able to identify that you are making food your primary relationship in your life, you will recognize how it can be damaging to yourself, along with your self esteem. Unfort, for the amount of time you feel good with your relationship with food, you feel worse even longer. I would recommend if you can seeking counseling so that they can explore with you further how to develop healthy relationships.

    Chris- Alot of people are unaware of how food addicts struggle and how it is a common struggle. unfortunately not only do they struggle with a food addiction, they struggle with being judged by society.

  • candycane


    May 2nd, 2012 at 4:29 PM

    Thanks JLipackCounseling. It has kind of always been my only solace, the only thing that has never really let me down. How do I conquer that? It feels like a hill that I might never make it over.

  • JLipackCounseling


    May 4th, 2012 at 8:26 AM

    You have to learn to gain a trust and love in something else. Therapy will help you conquer that.

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