Are You Addicted to Food?
Annette Nay, Ph.D.
Copyright © 1999
How do you deal with stress, despair, anger, boredom, sadness, or
procrastination? Many people duck dealing with these things. Instead they choose
others things to cover or comfort them so they don't have to deal with them at
The trouble with this is that problems keep getting swept under the preverbal
rug until there are mountains of unresolved problems continually tripping the
person up. At this point it is difficult for the person to carry on a normal
The item that they have chosen for comfort to cover up life's problems
usually becomes a problem too, because it is being used to an excess.
Anything done in excess, to the exclusion of friends, family,
God, and community, is an addiction, Whether it is:
THREE STAGES OF FOOD ADDICTION
There are three basic stages in any addictive process. First, there is a
change in the thought process. Second, there is a change in how people deal with
life's ups and downs and relationships with others. Third, their lives and their
physical and mental well-being erodes to the point where there is no control. As
a result suicide may become a viable way out of their problems (Sheppard, 1993;
Understanding The Addictive Cycle
- First: The person feels the need to eat because of physical hunger, but it
is usually excessive.
- Then: The person feels better for a time, but then...
- Then: The person feels pain and guilt for eating.
- Finally: The whole process begins again because the person seeks relief
from the pain and guilt by eating.
First Stage of Addiction
Change in the Thought Process
- The individual finds that food makes them feel good.
- They substitute food instead of dealing with their problems.
- The addictive cycle begins
- The addictive self takes over.
- He/She substitutes addictive logic to explain illogical actions.
- When the normal self tries to point out flaws in the addictive logic, the
addictive self points out the pleasurable aspects of the addiction.
Second Stage of Addiction
Change in Dealing with Life and Others
Third and Final Stage of Addiction
- Questions about the addict's logic is perceived as an attack on the
- The addict practices objectification and can't understand why others get
- The addict to feels righteous indignation and withdrawals further from
- The normal self watches as loved ones are hurt and pushed away.
- The normal self feels ashamed. To cope, he/she blames others.
- The addicted person is labeled as a problem and becomes the scapegoat for
most of the problems which takes place.
- The more the addict acts out the more isolated s/he becomes.
- The addict gains a tolerance to the chemicals now controlling mood. It
takes more food to get the same high get or to be normal in mood otherwise
s/he is depressed.
- The addict acts out more frequently and dangerously, such as bingeing
- Due to shame and denial of one's loss of control, the addict's becomes
- The addictive self would rather tell a lie than the truth, even when there
is no reason to lie.
Physical and Mental Breakdown
Small Steps Cause Great Differences
- The pain from loneliness, shame, and anger are almost continual.
- Overeating doesn't cover the pain, any more, it only adds more pain.
- When eating no longer eases the pain, the addictive logic breaks down.
- The pressure of stored feelings mounts up. It causes emotional and/or
- The normal self dreads each new day.
- Stopping the addictive cycle causes physical withdrawal and a grieving
process for the lost relationship with food.
- There are only two ways out of this stage of the addiction - intervention
- Most addicts are stopped though intervention of help from friends or loved
- The chances of recovery are good even though it requires total commitment
by the addict and a complete lifestyle change.
- Without intervention, the tormented normal self decides to put a stop to
it all and commits suicide.
There are minute but distinct differences between the food abuser and the
food addicted person. These differences take place in steps. First, emotionally,
then psychologically, and finally, physiologically. The food abuser binges (eats
excessive amounts of food in a short period of time) on food because of the love
of food itself. This is not good for two reasons. Overeating causes people to be
overweight or obese. It sets the stage for the abuser to slip into emotional
addiction (Nay, 1996).
- Emotionally, the food abuser becomes an emotional food addict when s/he
chooses to use food to control mood, stress, and or loss. Psychologically,
the emotional food addicted person becomes a psychologically addicted when
s/he falls in to the addictive cycle. This is where the addicted person
abuses food to control his or her life or emotions. S/He feels shame or
guilty because of the abuse, and abuses food again to cover up the shame and
guilt (Nay, 1996).
- Physiologically, the psychologically addicted individual continues in the
cycle, downing mega-doses of carbohydrates and sugar which gives the brain a
chemical high. The psychologically addicted person does this so often that
the body gains a tolerance to the chemicals in those foods. This then causes
the addict to eat more and more to feel normal in his or her mood. It is at
this point the psychologically addicted person becomes a physiological one
(Nay, 1996; Sheppard, 1993).
- The physiologically addicted person cannot stop the addictive cycle. S/He
is chemically bound to continue it or go through chemical withdrawal and
depression. Depression may continue indefinitely depending on whether the
bodies regular chemical sites, which have shut down, will restart after the
abuse has stopped (Sheppard, 1993; Nakken, 1988).
THE ONLY PERMANENT WAY OUT OF AN ADDICTION IS TO:
1. Admit you need help from your Heavenly Father and ask for His help.
2. Do your part to succeed.
- This may mean you will need the advice or care of a professional.
- You may need the help of a support group.
3. Realize changes take time to made.
If you are willing
to work and ask for help,
the Lord will help you change,
and you will succeed!
Nakken, C. (1988). The Addictive Personality. Hazelden
Nay, A (1996) A Wholistic Approach to the Control of Obesity.
Sheppard, K. (1989). Food Addiction. Heath Communication, Inc.:
Annette Nay, Ph.D.