I struggled with unhealthy binge eating for years before I realised that it was not just a bad habit, but a full-blown food addiction. When we think of addicts, we think of drug addicts, alcoholics, smokers, or sex addicts, and when we think of food addicts, only the obese come to mind. I have never been obese, and by all standards, I am considered to be a healthy weight, but still, I am a food addict.
While I am not completely free of my addiction, and I always turn to healthy food when overeating or bingeing, I have learned a lot about addictions and addictive behaviours, where to start when trying to overcome them, and what factors can contribute to them.
Perhaps you also want to become as healthy as possible, but are struggling to give up an unhealthy or addictive behaviour, such as drinking, smoking, loading up on energy drinks to get through the day, or eating unhealthy foods or in excess.
You are allowed to enjoy something, and you should fill your life with things that bring you pleasure, but as soon as the desire controls you, problems arise.
Here are a few things I have learned about addiction. While addiction is a far more complicated subject, and it is not as simple as the information in this blog post, this article purely aims to deepen your understanding around addiction when trying to improve your health and wellbeing.
Identify What Triggers the Addictive Behaviour
We usually turn to our vices as a response to certain triggers. It can be feelings of loneliness, a stressful situation, or a frustrating event. Until you learn to change your response to the triggers, you cannot manage the habit. Our bad habits are merely conditioned behaviours, which means that in order to stop, you need to recondition yourself in a positive and healthy way. This happens over time, and requires that you try every day, even if you fail. When you give in to your desires, do not judge yourself, but rather remind yourself that it will take time to reprogram your response.
Remember that you are stronger than any vice. You have to believe that you can be better and that you are not stuck in your ways. You have more control than you think. Believing something and acting accordingly can have a profound effect.
What fuels addictions is the body’s natural response to seeing things that have made you feel good. Even just seeing an image of something you like, such as food, triggers the release of dopamine in your brain and the reward centres in your brain get eager. Your physiology is working against you in the battle against your demons, but you are still in control. It will just take some conditioning. Eventually, your body stops responding to certain triggers.
Addiction Due to a Lack of Connection
We recognise the addicts in each other, and often connect with those who have similar addictions and then we enable each other. Giving up an addiction sometimes means losing people, as you lose the thing that made you connect. If you have a friend who you always ate junk food with and indulged in unhealthy behaviour around food with, the friendship could end when you decide to work on your sugar addiction, as your friend can start to feel left behind or judged.
Remember that you have to put your wellbeing first and the people who support you and want you to live the best life you possibly can will stand by you in your journey.
Our addictions also often come from a longing for connection. When we crave connection with others or want love, but for some reason cannot, we use our vices as substitutes. If we cannot connect with people, then we connect with things.
Social media is also addictive. You can feel as if you are really connected with another person, or even thousands of them. But in reality, however, it is not sustainable. Feeling connected to others plays a huge role in our sense of wellbeing. Mindfully engaging with others is just as good as a workout.
Without connection, we become miserable. The more we become detached from other people, the more we can become attached to things that do not serve us. This brings me to our next point:
Addiction as a Result of Attachment
For a lot of people, anxiety is a trigger for some sort of addiction or bad habit, a coping mechanism. For some, it might be food, smoking, or alcohol, while others turn to shopping or even drugs. A lot of us are addicted to something, something we struggle to give up. Some choose alcohol, others choose sugar, social media, or even work. We form attachments to things that help us cope and self soothe in a world full of chaos. One of the keys to recovering from the addiction is to let go of your attachment to it. This can be very difficult, but as long as you are still attached, you will never be free.
What are You Really Craving?
Whenever you are faced with temptation, ask yourself what it is that you really want. Often, when we think about something we desperately want, but cannot have or have to wait for, we turn to our vices as a form of instant gratification. This only provides momentary satisfaction, but actually ends up getting in the way of what you really want.
If you end up binge eating because you are frustrated about not seeing results in terms of fat loss, what you really want is to lose fat, improve your health, and not eat unnecessarily. Keep your true desires and goals in mind, as this will help when faced with temptation.
If your addiction is out of control, perhaps it is best to seek professional help, but the information in this blog post should be enough to help you start a journey of introspection and self-discovery to help you overcome the addiction/addictive behaviour that is getting in your way of optimal health.