Food addiction: its causes and remedies
There are many things that can make you feel hungry. Of course, first of all it is the sight and smell of food. Very often, when we see someone eating with appetite, we want to join. We all traveled on long-distance trains, and therefore we know perfectly well: as soon as one passenger starts eating, his neighbors immediately take out their supplies and join this process. In this case, the appetite appears regardless of whether the person was hungry before or not (“appetite comes with eating.”) Recently, more and more love for a delicious dinner turns into dependence on food, when food becomes a real drug.
Ideas of tasty food have a similar effect: imaginary food seems extraordinarily tasty. We start to “salivate” when we come across a colorful description of a dish in a piece of art or see delicious food on the TV screen. Even TV ads can stimulate hunger, and this temptation lies in wait for us every day: you do not have time to turn on the TV, and now the chips are crunching, caramel is dancing, beer is pouring, sneakers – “ate and order.” There are a lot of groceries in the store – you want to try everything, and then advertising spurs you on: as many impressions as possible, be at your best, take everything from life. What is the result? On the trains, on the streets, in the subway, we see girls and boys, “aunts and uncles” chewing endlessly. Was it possible that they were overwhelmed by an acute feeling of hunger on the road? Maybe the question is about life and death, and the count is kept for minutes? And the thirst, probably, completely overcame: every second walker, driving through the city, has a bottle or can of beer in his hands. Of course, on the surface there is a tribute to fashion, the desire to be “like everyone else.” But the disaster is that people do not look beyond this sign. Food addiction: where does it come from, what are its signs, do children suffer from it?
Taste preferences, cravings for different types of food are built on the basis of personal experience. The formation of a person’s taste is based on the impressions of the food that is preferred in the country where he lives, and in particular in his family.
Some national cuisines are based on meat, others – seafood, still others – cereals, vegetables, fruits. And we are talking about Chinese, Japanese, French, Georgian, Uzbek, Kazakh and other cuisines (and each national cuisine has regional differences). Acquaintance with the cuisines of other nations is of interest, but in general people remain adherents of the range of products and dishes to which they are accustomed. “There is no dispute about tastes,” says the proverb, and this is the true truth, since habits are established from childhood, and everyone has their own. In the strict medical sense, where the word “taste” means the sensation of sweet, salty, sour, bitter, spicy. All people have the same taste sensations – that of a German, that of a Chinese, that of an Indian. But when asked what is better to eat for breakfast – sausage, salad, rice, or just drink a cup of cocoa, representatives of these peoples will answer in different ways. The question addressed to the saleswoman in the grocery store: “What cheese is the tastiest?” Is rather strange, and there can be only one answer: “I love (for example) Kostroma”. But this does not mean at all that the buyer will like Kostroma cheese. There is no objective, “correct” answer to this question.
People’s dependence on food at different ages
Memories (especially childhood memories) greatly influence food choices. And the point here is not only in the taste sensations caused by this or that dish or product, but in the circumstances surrounding the meal.
One young provincial woman was in St. Petersburg for the first time. When asked where she would like to go to start, she replied: “At McDonald’s. There is simply divine food. ” Indeed, when she arrived in one of the most beautiful cities in the world, the first thing she did was to visit McDonald’s. “Maybe she was hungry?” – you ask. No, the point is quite different. As a teenager, she was with her mother in Moscow. At that time, the first McDonald’s opened, and they stood in line for a long time to get there. Everything she saw and tasted there made a strong impression on her, and the idea of a hamburger as a divine food was fixed in her mind for a long time.
Who among us does not like to eat deliciously? Moreover, in a pleasant company, or in the fresh air, or in front of the TV (especially when the heroes of the film also eat something tasty). There are many situations in which the desire to eat becomes so natural that it does not even occur to us to resist it. Where, I wonder, is the line beyond which we cease to control ourselves and no longer find the strength to resist this desire? At what point do we become slaves to our stomachs?
Food dependence on food, like alcoholic dependence, arises gradually, as either regular use of moderate doses or frequent intake of high doses of alcohol. At first, alcohol intake de-inhibits, gives a good mood, improves appetite. After some time, good health appears only after drinking alcohol. In the case of prolonged abstinence from alcoholic beverages, irritability, bad mood, a feeling of discomfort, vegetative manifestations (pressure drops, palpitations or compression in the region of the heart, dyspeptic complaints, etc.), anxiety, desire to drink appear. Much the same thing happens with food addiction.
A person suffering from food addiction, with a decrease in the contents in the stomach, feels anxiety, discomfort, he is pursued by persistent thoughts about food. He experiences an “inner trembling”, feels on the verge of fainting and is in anticipation of a catastrophe, despite the fact that an hour ago he ate a lot, and his body should not require food in any way. As soon as he eats something, and a lot, comes calm for a short time.
Food addiction to food does not occur immediately. Among the starting reasons, many can be named: attitudes towards food and style of eating behavior, perceived from childhood; treatment with hormones, vitamins, food supplements; enhanced nutrition without proper boundaries after illnesses, etc.
Psychological food addiction
There are also purely psychological reasons: dissatisfaction with family relationships; inability to cope with difficulties; wrong self-esteem; feeling lonely; deep neurotic problems and many others. It takes a certain amount of courage to recognize and overcome personality problems, and therefore very often people take the easier path – the path of replacement. The trap snaps into place imperceptibly, and people realize this only when their life is closed around food, the weight is growing relentlessly and it is no longer possible to reduce it.
In the book of the famous psychotherapist I. Yalom “Treatment for Love” there is a description of the psychotherapeutic treatment of a patient with obesity. The author’s attention in this work is mainly devoted to the problems of transference and countertransference that arise in the course of treatment. We decided to focus on the psychological problems arising in the process of psychotherapeutic treatment of obesity, as well as on the relationship between the process of psychotherapy and other methods of treatment. In this example, let’s look at what food addiction is.
So, Betty is a lonely young woman, very obese (110 kg), in shapeless baggy dresses. She is 27 years old, single, works in the public relations department. She grew up in a poor family where she was an only child. Father died when Betty was 12 years old. She always suffered from overweight – she began to gain noticeably from the end of her adolescence. Since the age of 21, her weight has ranged from 87 to 110 kg (with the exception of two or three short periods during which, thanks to a strict diet, she lost about 20 kg). She worked 60 hours a week, had no friends, no personal life, no interesting activities. Betty was concerned that her career was far less successful than that of her classmates. Work, food and the expectation of a promotion – that was, in fact, all that made up the meaning of her life. She spent all weekend watching TV absorbing candy. I tried to be treated by a psychiatrist with antidepressants, but this was of little use. In three months she gained another 10 kg. She started having headaches, and her blood pressure sometimes reached 200/100.
At the first appointment with Dr. Yalom, Betty said that everything was bad for her, that she could not pull herself together and begin to control her nutrition. She talked about herself as if she were talking about someone else – quite cheerfully and naturally. For several sessions, the conversation with the therapist remained at a superficial level – Betty did not allow to penetrate deeper. “When I’m so depressed, food is the only thing that keeps me going,” she said. She was sure that depression is an adequate response to her life situation. Betty believed that, like any obese woman, it was difficult for her to make friends, but she rejected all advice on creating a circle of friends in advance.
Thus, the patient did not feel any responsibility for her problems: the circumstances of her life, the absence of events, the arrogance of those around her, the contemptuous attitude of society towards fat people were to blame. On an intellectual (verbal) level, she was ready to admit that if she stopped eating and lost weight, the world would treat her differently. However, this path seemed to her too long and troublesome, and besides, she did not believe that she could cope with gluttony.
It turned out to be almost impossible to convince the patient at this stage of psychotherapy that she is responsible for her appearance – any attempts by the therapist to find simplified solutions for her, direct recommendations related to lifestyle, diet, etc., did not achieve the goal.
In the course of treatment, it turned out that her weight problems began in her adolescence, when she faced a dramatic moment in her life – her father was dying of cancer. At the same time, from a very complete person, he turned into a skeleton covered with skin. The idea that losing weight would make her more susceptible to cancer was entrenched in her childhood consciousness.
Gradually she realized the magical nature of her thinking and was able to take a different, “adult” position. Betty felt that the barriers to weight loss had been successfully removed. She outlined and began to carry out activities for weight loss: she underwent treatment for eating disorders in the clinic, enrolled in a dance class and a bowling club, bought an exercise bike and set it up in front of the TV, said: “Goodbye!” her old friends – potato chips, cakes, donuts – and chose a diet, which she then adhered to. So nutritional control began.
The first months of weight loss were more noticeable than the next few. The strict routine of life, the ubiquitous smells of food, temptations – it seemed that nothing in life brings pleasure. Most of the members of the weight loss group dropped out of the program, but Betty held on firmly. Individual and group psychotherapy continued. At times she became discouraged and aggressive. Interestingly, when she lost about 40 kg, the thought occurred to her that “she had lost a whole body,” and she even began to suffer from nightmares.
Having reached a weight of 70 kg, she realized that she was afraid of sex, and underwent therapy sessions dedicated to these issues. After some time, Betty felt that her life was filled with a completely different meaning. She overcame the barrier of fear to experience deep feelings, to be responsible for her life. Betty realized that she could live differently, that she no longer needed to “seize up her anxiety and emptiness,” that she became active, attractive and attractive and that life, despite all kinds of difficulties, is interesting to her. She began to relate to people in a new way and felt that they too had changed their attitude towards her.
Here’s what I would like to emphasize on the example of Betty: external influences, control of the quality of nutrition, training, medications, become effective only together with a deep study of psychological problems.
In this case, a person can come to lasting positive results (maintaining the ideal weight and inner peace of mind).
Each person is obliged to be responsible for his life and health, and the popular expression “Everyone does this” indicates that a person does not have an independent judgment and that he shifts responsibility to a very vague concept of “everything”. However, sooner or later, such behavior will lead to overweight and various diseases, and here “all” will not help.
Did you pay attention, when you read the stories and stories of the 19th century, that in noble and landowner families sweets were always closed in the buffet, and they were given them to children only at tea. What is this, stinginess? Lack of funds? Not at all. It’s just that Christian upbringing presupposed the upbringing of an attitude towards food. The family gathered at certain times for breakfast, lunch, tea, etc. No one chewed between these hours. People knew how to control themselves, even when they felt hungry, and they had the patience to wait for the appointed hour. In peasant families, food intake was also treated with dignity. Observance of fasts was a rule, because fasting is not only a restriction in high-calorie food, but also fostering will and inner discipline, the ability to focus on spiritual life. During the fast, a person learned to control his body and live in harmony with his soul.
A person should consciously choose food and set the time of its intake, based on the actual (real) needs of the body, and not succumbing to all kinds of temptations. Continuing to eat “for the company” and trying for the sake of interest everything that advertising offers, you can cause significant harm to your health.
Taste preferences are formed from childhood. They are based on the experience of the food that the family prefers. As a result, childhood memories can influence food choices throughout a person’s life.
Food addiction to food – it can also be based on deep neurotic problems; dissatisfaction with family relationships; inability to cope with difficulties; wrong self-esteem; feeling of loneliness, etc.
All external influences (diet, gymnastics, drug therapy) become effective only together with a conscious study of psychological problems.