Food addiction is hard to break, especially with how widely available junk food and advertisements for it are. And it’s even harder to maintain your good habits long term. First, you need to find out if you have a problem, then make a plan of action, and gradually try to fix the underlying issue. Let’s go through these steps.
Are you an addict?
The following statements describe common symptoms of addiction. They apply to an addiction of any kind. Go through them and honestly answer for yourself which apply to you.
- I have withdrawal symptoms. You eat junk food, not for the taste but to avoid being depressed, tired, or anxious.
- I use more over time. You frequently get cravings for certain foods, despite feeling full and having just finished a nutritious meal.
- I use more than I plan to. You open a package of chips but end up reaching for a second or a third and continue to eat until excessively ‘stuffed’.
- I have tried to cut back. If you cut down or stop eating certain foods, you make excuses in your head about why you can eat something that you are craving and relapse.
- I spend a lot of time using and recovering from it. You spend a lot of time shopping and resting or sleeping to recover from overeating because you’re unwell.
- I miss important activities because of my use. You come home, overeat, and then you’re too full to exercise or socialize. You hide your consumption from others.
- I eat despite knowing the consequences. You continue to eat in spite of weight gain, pains, acid reflux, high blood pressure, or generally feeling miserable.
If you identify with 4 – 5 of these statements, then you probably do have a problem with food. If you can relate to 6 – 7 then you are most likely a food addict. Now, let’s look at how to approach getting rid of this kind of addiction.
Make preparations before you quit
Having a plan of action helps you avoid the usual pitfalls. Make sure to spend some time on these three steps before you actually quit and you will not only prevent many potential relapses but also make it more likely you always get back on track if they happen.
Write down the pros and cons
First, you need to know why you’re quitting. Make a list of pros and cons and put it on your fridge. The pros might include things like: I’ll lose weight, I’ll be healthier, I’ll have more energy, I’ll be able to enjoy sports again. The cons might be something like: I will really miss my favourite treats. I will need to explain my new food choices to people. I won’t be able to participate in some traditional meals. You have to make sure the pros outweigh the cons in your mind before you proceed.
Get rid of trigger foods
You know exactly the foods that make you overeat. It’s time to write them down and put them on a blacklist of foods that can never enter your household. If you have any at home throw them away on the day you quit. The temptation of having them nearby would be too much to handle.
Make a list of things to eat instead
When making dietary changes you always have to think about what you’re going to eat instead of the foods you cut out. Look up at least 5 decent meals you like and stock up on supplies to be able to make them after you quit. Also, fill your pantry and fridge with healthier snacks for when you get cravings. Don’t go on a strict diet though. Quitting a food that has been a big part of your life is hard enough. Don’t make yourself hungry or live under a lot of food rules. Keep it simple.
Now you’re ready to quit cold turkey and never look back. There are a few lifestyle habits that could help you become more resilient to cravings and temptation. And it’s also important to address the underlying cause of addiction. Both of those topics will be the focus of the rest of this series.