In a recent Huffington Post article, Johann Hari relays research about addiction that I have known for some time. I’m glad the research is finally catching up! Addiction is about disconnection. The article is discussing alcohol and drugs, but I believe food is no different. When we don’t have our basic needs met (safety, food, shelter, love) met, we seek out something to fill the void. For many of us, this pattern is established so early in life, we don’t know anything different and this is why recovery from food addiction is so difficult. The other difficulty is that we may not realize why our battle with food addiction began in the first place. Sure, if you were abused or lived in poverty, you may be able to readily acknowledge the source of your relationship with food. However, for many people, their void is caused from what didn’t happen in their lives, not necessarily from the things that did happen. Often, the void comes in the form of emotional neglect. I recently read a book on this topic called Running On Empty by Jonice Webb. She discusses the impact of childhood emotional neglect and the long term effect on us in adulthood. She specifically discusses the relationship of emotional neglect and our relationship with food. While she doesn’t specifically mention food addiction, I see it play out in my practice every day. Not having our basic emotional needs met as children, food becomes one of the easiest and most accessible ways to comfort ourselves. We literally try to fill the void with food. The chemicals released in our brains do make us feel good….temporarily. Fast forward to adulthood and we are still using this technique. The issue is that in adulthood, our eating patterns tend to create more consequences than when we were kids. We gain weight, we develop patterns of self-loathing, it can cause problems in our finances, and the biggest issue of all, we become more and more disconnected in our relationships. In any addiction, our primary relationship is with our “drug of choice”. In food addiction, the preoccupation we feel with what and when we will eat next does not allow us to be present in our lives. The more disconnected we become, the more we fuel our addiction to feel a sense of connection. It becomes a vicious cycle. I would like to say the solution is simple. It is and it isn’t. The simple solution is to address the root cause of the addiction by working through the trauma that created it, but it is very hard work and depending on the depth of the trauma, it can be a long road. When you are ready, we are here to help you on your journey!
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