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You Can't Heal Food Addiction by Treating Emotional Eating
Not everyone with a compulsive or emotional eating disorder is a food addict. There are many people who can heal their emotional issues with food without ever having to acknowledge or give up an unhealthy relationship with a specific food or type of food.
And for others, those foods can be as problematic as alcohol is to the alcoholic. Even one bite can set off a chain of physical, biochemical reactions in the brain and body.
While a food addict may have as many unresolved emotional issues to work through as theemotional eater, a food addict also has to deal with the physical dependence. Though some people (including professionals) are unsure or uninformed about the theory of food addiction, research has shown that some foods, including sugar, can be just as addictive and harmful as other serious drugs.
Dr. Mark Gold, head of psychiatry at University of Florida in Gainsville, has done a lot of work in food addiction research, along with many others.
It's not as simple of identifying yourself as either an emotional eater or a food addict. In some cases, you might not know the food addiction is there until you start to unravel the emotional problems. As a first step, you might review this self-assessment created at Yale University:
Another challenge is that while most therapists are equipped to deal with emotional eating, very few therapists have the training and understanding to treat food addiction. That is a specialty here at the White Picket Fence Counseling Center, and we take a highly individualized approach to support people through the process of identifying the true nature of their food issues.
We are also beginning to train our interns in this area, as well as enlightening other students and therapists with our seminars and presentations.
It's not easy to face addiction – once you "put the food down" (stop eating the food you're addicted to), more emotions can come up and you may even feel a sense of loss from giving them up (you can contact us for more details about our "Grief, Loss and Food" workshop). It is actually more of a "letting go" process.
On the other hand, it can be validating to realize that your compulsion around food is not due to a lack of willpower; it's a chemical reaction that's the same as gluten or lactose intolerance. And that can be a real relief after struggling for so long.
More about this soon...
Sandee S. Nebel, MS
Licensed Mental Health Counselor
Qualified Supervisor for Mental Health Counselor Interns