Weight Loss Wednesday: Coming to Terms With Your Inner Food Addict

Coming To Terms With Your Inner Food Addict

By Lauren Barnak MS, RDN


Food, and the consumption of it have deep emotional ties. Food has the power to bring people together, to elicit a feeling of togetherness and to provide a level of visceral comfort that not many other things can. As such, if we are not careful, eating can easily morph from nourishing to numbing if we let it- becoming an escapist departure from reality. Although, as addictions go, food might seem less likely to get you killed than, say, meth or heroin, if viewed through the lens of chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease and cancer, the dangers of food addiction become a little more threatening and a whole lot scarier, as obesity has been proven to be a factor in the development of all of these potentially fatal conditions. You can, literally, eat yourself to death. But how are we to know if we are eating for nourishment, pleasure or emotional numbing? How are we to incorporate mindfulness into something that is often automatic, like eating? The answer is the food journal.



Now I know what you’re thinking, and I am not asking you to become one of “those people” that measure their food to the gram and 1/8 tsp. Even if it isn’t horribly precise, the food journal can be a magnificent tool for creating awareness of hidden patterns of eating and can help you pinpoint your trouble zones. For example, I was recently asked to keep a three-day food journal as part of a strength program I am completing. Friday night rolls around and I was feeling awesome. I had eaten well all day, and was within my goal range for calories, fat, protein and carbs (Go, ME!).


popcorn scandal.jpg

 Then, my roommate put on a movie. I went for the popcorn and remembered that I had to write it down if I ate the whole bag and put it back. I immediately felt myself becoming increasingly anxious and thought, “What am I going to do if I can’t have my popcorn and wine in front of my Friday movie?” The weird part was that I wasn’t even hungry, and I knew it. I was just upset that my Friday night food ritual was out in the open, and that feeling brought on a sense of shame and the single-handed demolition of not one, but two bags of popcorn and several glasses of wine. Not one of my proudest moments, but it proved to be a valuable learning experience. I was behaving like a food addict. I was eating to numb myself! Me, a nutrition professional! Further reflection on this fact made me realize how oblivious all of us can be to the fact that we have an inner “food addict” that turns to food for emotionally driven reasons- hence this blog.


 My final advice to you is: take three days and write it all down. Even if you do nothing else than review it by yourself, the act of food journaling can be useful, not only as a means of holding yourself accountable, but also for discovering eating patterns and triggers you didn’t know you had. Ready to try it? Well, just in case you are, I am going to leave this food journal template for you. Happy journaling.