Articles like this one tell you to avoid food addiction. The first step is to avoid trigger foods and places where trigger foods are served. However, this is a perfect example of conventional wisdom that doesn’t work.
If you’ve been struggling with how to overcome food addiction for a while, you might have already realized that telling yourself that you CANNOT eat X food is a recipe for a stronger addiction to it.
It’s true that if you entirely wipe out certain foods from your diet for a while, your craving for it will eventually decrease. However, most people I know cannot sustain it long enough to reach that place. And, it’s definitely not their fault because this addiction has so much to do with the brain. Neurotransmitters cause cravings, which trigger your addiction. When they intensify a number of times in an afternoon, every single day, things are out of control.
So what will really help you move the needle?
How To Overcome Food Addiction
There are 4 principles needed to make the permanent shift happen — painlessly. Below, I’ll speak about my personal experience of being totally food addiction free. Then I’ll share my experience of helping my clients gain the same results.
1. Don’t turn food into forbidden fruits.
Yes, I’m saying DO NOT ban that food from your list. Even better, don’t make a food taboo list at all. The truth is: you can eat ANYTHING. And as mentioned above, it’s thinking you can’t have it that makes you want it more than ever, hence solidifying the food addiction.
I think I know your doubt quite well:
“I have to ban food because if I don’t, I will get out of control eating it.”
The reason why you are addicted to food isn’t a lack of willpower. Instead, there are psychological and physiological drivers. To put this simply, if your body keeps generating the hormonal triggers that make you want chocolate, and your mind keeps responding to the trigger by turning that thought into a craving, you won’t be able to control it because you can’t fight physical and psychological hardwiring every single time.
Your goal isn’t controlling yourself like controlling a prisoner. If you do, practicing that every day will keep you in the psychological and physical pathways of sustaining addiction. (Our brain learns and primes our behavior by recognizing our current patterns). You will soon forget how to live like a healthy person.
Therefore, your goal is to develop the ability to ignore the cravings. I’ll teach you how to do this below.
Now just remember, if you turn food into forbidden fruit, it’ll only make you want it more because it is human nature to want what we can’t have. It’s just that simple.
2. Treat your worst addiction by expanding pleasure.
If you are addicted to certain types of food, for example, soda, that could be because at the back of your mind, you think it gives you real comfort and pleasure. Your brain craves the dopamine and the thought of joy that comes with it. And once you have the vision of drinking it with enormous joy in mind, you can’t help but fulfill it to sustain that dopamine level.
There’s also a scarcity mindset at work — the more you believe that soda is the thing giving you the greatest joy, and that few other foods can give you the same, the more you are addicted to soda.
In summary, this belief, combined with the chemical reaction that it fuels in your brain, causes your addiction to soda. It’s a reciprocal dynamic.
To end this addiction, you need to end that belief and its chaining effect.
I suggest you venture to experience more delicious food. This is because when you realize there are way more satisfying options (especially the satisfying meals made with healthy ingredients), the belief that only Food X is your secret sauce for pleasure is over.
The more options you have, the less needy and more neutral you’ll feel about your old addiction. An analogy can be that you can easily forget your ex who you were so emotionally invested in when you have better, sexier, taller, caring, and more successful partners.
It’s the abundance mindset that gets you out of the single-mindedness and obsession with one person or one food.
And if I tell you to delete your ex’s number, block him or her from social media, and burn all pictures you’ve taken together before your infatuation toward them has faded away, it would be too painful for you. And, it would make you want them even more.
But now, since you are surrounded by greater men/women and greater joy from them, you might not even think for a second before deleting your ex’s information.
Cleaning food addiction is a very similar psychological journey, and this is why I made it very clear in the opening paragraph that avoiding your ‘craving triggers’ and foods won’t help you at all.
What you really need is an organic process that helps you evolve vs. shrink. You don’t fight your addiction, you simply forget it by letting spontaneous changes unfold.
I think I’ve made this distinction clear enough. Now, one more quick thing:
Remember we said there’s a bio-chemistry effect that created your food addiction? To heal it, there’s also a bio-chemistry solution.
Healthy ingredients, especially when matched with careful consideration, will help you remove a lot of the craving triggers. This is because these foods have a positive impact on your brain chemistry. For instance, we have plenty of studies showing that over-indulgence in sugar leads to stress, worries, and depression. And these negative feelings are the main causes of over-eating for many, which reinforces food addiction.
This is why you should start discovering the great joy and satisfaction that healthy foods can bring you — not only for lessening your reliance on unhealthy processed food, but also to help yourself (your brain) heal faster from food addiction.
Gain absolute independence from thoughts.
You’ve probably realized your food addiction is at least as much of a psychological issue as a chemical and hormonal issue as we’ve discussed above.
A big part of it is how you are wired to respond to the food triggers. Let me break the process down for you a bit more:
Here’s usually how you fall for a craving:
Step 1. You have an external/internal experience that triggers the craving (say, passing the candy aisle at the grocery store)
Step 2. The experience triggers a thought (say, buying candies).
Step 3. You respond to the thought, by either:
A. deciding to buy candies after serious thought (calculation of calories, looking at nutritional labels, gauging quantity, hesitating if you buy it or not);
B. resisting it by affirming it’s a craving, not a need.
You see, we all have cravings and experience Step 1 and 2 even though the extent of them are different due to our physical environment. However, it’s Step 3 that truly sets the healthy, free people apart from the heavily addicted ones.
At this step, whether you do A or B, it’s overkill because of all the overthinking, hesitation, and resistance you experience. Food is a big deal to you, that’s why these inner thought processes and struggles happen.
The ideal relationship with food — the one you have when you are food addiction free — is the one where you either buy the candies or leave them without thinking much. No worries, no stress, no guilt, no thought processes even. After all, they are just candies.
Why is something you give attention to ending up controlling you? As you’ve experienced so far, the thoughts of food can easily get out of control. They can end up submitting you to its rule.
And It’s not only at the time of purchasing those candies, but also often hours and days after when negative emotions linger, build up, and form the rampage that controls your emotional momentum which leads you to the same experience over and over again.
Why do thoughts have such huge power over you? What makes it so difficult for you to let go of your cravings and addiction?
This is because you haven’t grown your independence, which helps you draw a boundary between you and — not food, but your thoughts.
This part of the story is really not about your relationship with food. Instead, it’s about your relationship with your thoughts. What happens right now is: a thought happens to you, and as soon as it does, it starts impacting your decisions and behaviors. You are completely vulnerable and at its mercy.
Where is the boundary?
How do you set it up?
And when can you stop feeling “I’m craving chocolate” when all that has happened is a thought of chocolate occurred to you?
Let me try to inspire you by introducing a different scenario here so that the issue becomes more obvious through a different lens:
Let me ask you: when someone hands you something, would you think that’s yours immediately? Or would you decide that you really want it first before deciding to keep it?
There is an important Acceptance Step that happens without you being aware of it most of the time.
An unwanted gift may be tossed, returned, or donated at any time. Regardless of what you do with it, you won’t feel obligated to keep and maintain it or find the best spot for it in your home. You just won’t overthink it.
And emotionally you are detached and independent from it. In fact, you may well forget about it minutes after it’s handed to you.
It’s this “Acceptance Step” that sets the boundary and determines your relationship with the gift. This resembles the thoughts you have with food. And it’s what’s missing here.
A thought about the candies happens, and you completely take it in. As soon as you acknowledge your bond and ownership of the thought, you feel responsible for fulfilling it with a sense of urgency. Especially when it comes to our food cravings (because this feeling of urgency is heightened by the scarcity mindset caused by #1 above.)
What makes it worse is that you immediately say to yourself that you are craving that candy. Half a second ago it was JUST A THOUGHT — it could just go. But since you associated it with you, it now becomes YOUR IDEA. When you call it a craving (you often do because you know you can’t have it), it now becomes a CRAVING — not because it’s a real craving but because it was amplified into a craving by you acknowledging it is the forbidden fruit. When we know we can’t have something, we want it even more, remember?
I hope I’m not going through it too fast. Surely the underlying reaction process is intricate and fleeting — because it’s a hardwired pattern that operates on its own.
To gain independence, you need to see this first.
And more importantly, you need to start realizing you are not responsible for the thought that happens to you.
I said ‘the thought that happens to you’ vs “your thought” to once again proclaim that you don’t need to associate them with you. They are just thoughts, you experience more than 6,000 of them every day. A thought about that chocolate is just like any stranger you come across on the street. You don’t need to invite him to your home and you can feel free to move past him.
That’s the independence muscle I want you to acquire. When you have it, you won’t need to resist thoughts of having the cake or soda anymore because these thoughts will have no power to be intrusive or addictive to you.
Understand the biggest secret about weight: food doesn’t directly control it.
I promise you, you don’t need a food restriction diet to manage your weight or lose it sustainably.
And I promise you, you can eat ANYTHING you want with unlimited freedom and overflowing satisfaction while watching your body lose weight like clockwork.
I’m promising you this with such great certainty and resolve because none of my clients needed food restrictions to see the change they wanted in their bodies.
Earlier, I did a training called the Spiritually Liberating Way To Get A Head-Turning Body. (You should watch it now. It’s free.) The first major component of stress-free eating and weight loss I introduced was this grand concept.
Think about where your food addiction came from. Probably from the LACK of this knowledge, and the rabbit hole of restrictive diets you’ve done and are doing because of this.
I know what you might be thinking:
It’s hard to believe the concept of eating freely while losing weight. I get it. I used to be where you are. And most of my clients, before joining me and seeing the real results unfolding, couldn’t relate to the concept.
But here let me share with you the video footage of one of my coaching sessions with a client who used to have an overwhelming food obsession and weight loss barriers. It was her first weigh-in after 4 weeks in. We didn’t plan her weigh-in at all. I basically just asked her, “Are you curious to see the changes?” She answered, “Yes,” and this is what she found.
You’ll see me sharing this video in a few places because it’s fascinating to have readers that are like you who don’t believe this concept see how things happen in the real world. Besides the amazing, effortless weight loss you see in the video, I’m happy to say that this client is now completely free from food addiction.
You might be wondering how my clients are able to lose weight without restricting themselves from food. There are a few articles I’ve written which will answer this question, such as An Unexpected Talk On The Secret To Lose Weight, and What Is Mindful Eating.
I help ambitious, smart, and hardworking men and women end food addiction and lose weight sustainably so that they can start living life fiercely and fearlessly. If that’s what you want too, I invite you to book a free Clarity Call with me.