First of all, it is important to identify what the reasons of the problem could be. Following are some of the most common causes of cravings and food addiction:
- Compensation for an emotional or psychological problem: loneliness, lack of love, grieving, boredom, separation or divorce, lack of self-esteem, depression, anxiety, annoyance, etc.
- Compensation for a physiological problem: tiredness, stress, nervousness, lack of sexual pleasure, sleeping problems, etc.
In these previous cases, the person tries to evade from the problems of life by eating some kind of comfort food, which produces a high in neurotransmitters or endorphins which leads to a state of pleasure. The problem is that in order to get the same pleasure the person needs to consume a higher amount every time, creating an addiction to the substance contained in that food, such as sugar, fat, salt, monosodium glutamate, chocolate, coffee, tea, gluten, dairy, etc.
- Food is used as a reward for having been a “good girl/boy”. This is a habit that may have been set in someone’s childhood. Unfortunately, a lot of parents and teachers use candies and sweets as reward when a child behaves well.
- Food is used as punishment for having been a “bad girl/boy”. In this case, food is used as an auto-destructive way of punishment, like a kind of slow suicide, for having done something wrong. It is usual in the case of people with very low self-esteem or with depressive tendencies.
- Food takes a person back to his/her childhood. Some food, such as milk or sugar, calls on the souvenir of childhood and maternal love. It happens to people with the “Peter Pan syndrome”, who can’t face the problems of adulthood.
- A person was educated to having to finish the whole dish in his/her childhood, or eating a lot in order to grow and be strong, or a person was given many candies, cakes or junk food.
- A person suffered a traumatic experience, such as rape. So this person builds a cuirass to protect himself/herself from being abused again. The body unconsciously decides to be “ugly” so it feels protected.
- Lack of nutrients. Unhealthy dietary habits may lead to cell starvation, which sends messages to the brain asking for more food. Even if the person eats a big amount of food, if this food is void of nutrients, it is like the person is not eating at all (in fact the effect on health of eating food void of nutrients is even worse than eating nothing).
- Hypoglycaemia. A high intake of products that are very rich in refined sugar or refined flour makes a quick rise in the insuline levels followed by a quick decrease below the normal level, which creates a hypoglycaemic state. Then, if the person eats these kind of products again, a cycle of insuline peaks is created, with the associated effects on mood and health in general.
- Leptin resistance. These refined products also lead to leptin resistance, which is the hormone that indicates that someone is full and can stop eating. When a person has leptin resistance, he/she can’t stop eating because he/she never feels full.
- Candidosis. Some bad bacteria and fungi overgrow in the gut when they are fed on sugars and carbohydrates that can’t be digested by the digestive system of a person. These microorganisms release some neurotoxins which get to the brain and kidnap the person to ensure the survival of the microorganisms, convincing the person to eat more food to feed them, that is, more sugar or refined products.
Once the problem is identified, we can address the solutions. Some of them are:
- Writing down one’s feelings at the moment of the craving. If a strong emotion is present it should be addressed with other therapies.
- Find replacements for that addictive food: fruits instead of sugar, carob instead of chocolate, chicory instead of coffee, etc.
- Practice an alternative activity instead of eating when the craving appears: sport, relaxation, music, reading, resting, etc.
- Avoid risky situations: passing by bakeries, going inside a tea room, etc.
- Posting little messages in the kitchen encouraging positive messages: “ I will eat healthily”, “I will only eat my main meals”, “I will eat the right amount”, etc.
- Make a shopping list before going to the grocery store or supermarket, planning your meals for the whole week.
- Thinking about the negative consequences of the craving: “I will feel sick”, “I will gain weight”, etc.
- Practice conscious eating
- Therapies that can help to reprogram the subconscious and overcome past trauma, bad habits and wrong education: hypnose, EFT, psychotherapy, visualization/meditation/prayer, PSYCH-K, PNL, coaching, etc. The Gabriel Method is also one of the best.
- Identify possible food intolerances that lead to a bacterial or fungi overgrowth.