In Part Two of this series, Dr. Frank Sabatino discusses the specifics of food addiction and offers lifestyle choices that may help to heal addiction.
Resolving the Pain and Process of Food Addiction
Food is a unique addiction because it is so directly involved with your survival needs. You don’t really need to shoot heroin, but you typically need to eat several times per day. So, you have to confront that monkey, meal in and meal out.
Eating is directly and intimately involved with nurturing ourselves on every level. From an awareness/cognitive standpoint, it is essential to deeply understand and become more mindful and aware of the context of your food use as well as the content of what you’re eating.
Growing up in an ethnic household the way I did, from the earliest moments of my life, I was urged to use food for comfort and distraction rather than deal with traumatic stressful events in a more direct and resolute way. Therefore, it can be so important to address the questions:
- What are you using food for?
- What are you really hungry for?
- Are you attempting to satisfy all your physical, emotional, and spiritual needs with food?
As good as food can be, it was not designed for that purpose. What can you do individually, and perhaps even with counseling and group support, to become more aware of any deeper issues or traumas that may be driving your compulsive food use? How can you develop physical, emotional, and spiritual tools to address and resolve these issues, create more balance in your life, and nurture yourself without compulsive, obsessive food use? As you do this much-needed personal introspective work, you will understand the importance of your own mindfulness and the need for ongoing supportive lifestyle measures.
It is imperative to understand what is at the heart and core of your craving, need, and desire. For some short period of time, keep a journal of the things that are going on when your craving is at its worst. Look more closely at the kinds of foods that are of greatest interest.
Whenever you can, delay your responses and examine how the routine events of your life make you feel in the moments that you are experiencing them. Examine the pattern of your lifestyle activities; work, exercise, sleep, family, and outside stress, etc. around the time that you find yourself losing your way and going off track.
If your eating pattern is truly a repeat pattern of addiction with abnormal negative health consequences, I urge you to get involved with an addiction support program where you have a sponsor, group interaction, and support. These programs also offer a fellowship to resolve your isolation and self-centeredness and even work a 12-Step program that encourages you to seek outside help, to trust in some thing or process bigger than yourself, to clean house, and help others.
Remember, things are not just happening to you. You are the actor. You write the script of your own life.
Stress is not just in the events of your life, it is in your perception of these events. If you have the same problems with food over and over again, or if you have been on the same rollercoaster of weight loss and reactive weight gain over years of your life, I can guarantee you one thing: food is not your only problem. Your brain is the problem.
Yes, there is no doubt that many things like dairy products, refined carbs, and salty, oily processed foods all have an addictive quality and can act as triggers, the more you use them, to drive and reinforce your food addiction. But food craving is the symptom, addiction is the dis-ease.
Until that is addressed, you will not get any closer to resolving your addictive or compulsive food use. You will not get any closer to the healing that needs to be done.
Keep in mind that attaining health and balance is not always comfortable. It is not a straight stairway to heaven, simply because the symptoms and actions of recovery can be downright painful. But it is just so rewarding when you get to the heart of your own desire and experience the sublime freedom, autonomy, and pleasure of recovery that comes from confronting and unraveling the drives, triggers, and blockages that are promoting your repeated rounds of failure, dysfunction, and addiction.
Avoid the deceptive level of simplicity; blaming your problems on the food that you’re eating, or the substances or behaviors, or even people you’re involved with. Avoid sidestepping the causes and conditions in your own personal life and history that need to be resolved. No matter how difficult it is and no matter how many times you may have tried and failed, try again. Accept and love who you are, embracing all your light and accepting all of your perceived shadow and darkness. This is a huge piece of recovery and the long-term weight loss story.
Lifestyle Factors for Healing Addiction
There are many lifestyle factors that heal the problems of RDS and promote the balance of brain chemistry and function necessary for healing addiction. Whole food, plant-based eating (without the triggers of salt, oil, and sugar), consistent activity, stress management (including meditation and breathing techniques, and adequate sleep), will promote the health of the body in general, and the balance and function of the brain, in particular.
In addition, because of the extensive imbalance of brain chemistry — or even genetic defect — in both short- and long- term addictions, additional supportive therapeutic approaches have been remarkably helpful in promoting addiction recovery. These include specific Chiropractic care, water-only fasting, electrical stimulation of specific reflex points in the ear, and the specific nutrient supplementation program mentioned previously. This combination of care has been shown to help people enhance the chemistry of brain reward and reduce the craving, depression, and withdrawal associated with the RDS. In my experience, water-only fasting has been a remarkable tool for dealing with the pain of withdrawal and relapse while fostering the introspective and mindful awareness so critical for healing the dis-ease of addiction.
Just keep in mind that there is no quick fix for addiction. But there is every reason for hope. You can heal and resolve the dis-ease of addiction. With patience, personal resolve, and a more consistent commitment to positive lifestyle choices, combined with emotional and spiritual support, you can free yourself from the shackles of addiction and regain the autonomy and health freedom that is your legacy.
- Holder JM. American College of Addictionology and Compulsive Disorders, Certified Addiction Professional (CAP) Training Program, Module 1.
- Blum K, Kozlewski GP. Ethanol and Neuromodulators Interaction: A Cascade Model of Reward. In Alcohol and Behavior, Ollat H, Parvez S, Parvez H (Eds) (Utrecht, the Netherlands VSP Press, 1990).
- Blum K et al. Reward Deficiency Syndrome (RDS): a biogenic model for diagnosis and treatment of impulsive, addictive and compulsive disorders. J Psychiatric Drugs 2000 Nov: Vol 32 Supplement.
- Holder JM. Beating Addiction: from bondage to freedom. Alternative Medicine 1999 May:37-40.
- Miller M, Miller D. Staying Clean and Sober (Orem, UT, Woodland Publishing 2005).
This is Part Two of a two-part series. Find Part One here.