"Food addict" sounds dramatic, doesn't it? But when I look at how I use food, that's what it seems like: an addiction. When I'm tired or frustrated, I think to myself, "I deserve this candy." When I want to have a good time with people, I suggest going out to eat, not just because it's a good place to sit around and talk, but because I associate closeness with food. There are tons of examples like this.
I read online about food addiction and they talked about how eating creates a "high" for some people. The mere act of eating-- not digesting the food, just going through the motions of tasting and chewing-- increases serotonin or something in the brain. This clicked for me. When I'm exceptionally tired and stressed, just starting to eat makes me relax. Sometimes even sitting down with the food, before even taking one bite, and I feel better.
So... how would one go about changing their way of thinking about food so that it's not an addiction, but merely "fueling up"? Well, if the folks at Food Addicts Anonymous know what they're talking about, you have to treat it like any addiction and go through the 12 steps. I'm not convinced I'm quite in that boat. I have strange thought patterns about food, but I don't think I've ever hurt anyone because of it (other than myself).
But they do have some good ideas. One is to just take it one day at a time. There's no need for me to worry about my birthday (do I eat cake or no?), I just have to face what's in front of me today. Today, I can control what I put into my body. Another "mantra" I found interesting was "Today, I have a choice." I am not controlled by food or my cravings. I control what I do.
My personal tactic is to focus on my thinking. Why do I crave the ranch biscuits from Red Lobster right now? Am I hungry for bread or am I tired/sad/stressed out and need an outlet? A while ago (a couple years now, I guess) I read Dr. Phil's weight loss book (I know, I know). He talks about slowing down your thinking to see what the trail was that got you to where you're at. He says that once we get a habit or pattern established, our thoughts move so quickly from cause to reaction that we don't even notice anymore. I eat when I'm sad without actually thinking the thoughts, "This ice cream will make me happier." I just eat.
So, putting all of it together, once upon a time, I connected eating with relief of some kind (relaxation, happiness) and now that connection is part of my thinking. Now, when I'm tired/sad/stressed I eat and I feel an immediate relief (probably because of the emotional association) and then a later physical reaction as my body digests the food. Usually, it's food with a high sugar content, so I get a sugar high. Then I crash when the sugar wears off and my problem has not gone away. Add in the fact that I now feel bad/stupid for eating poorly. So I do it again to make myself feel better.
The long and short of it (well, too late for it to really be short, isn't it?) is that I believe it starts in the mind. "As a man thinketh, so is he," right? I want to change the way I think so I can deal with my emotions in a healthy way rather than smother them with deep fried denial.
But that's a rant for another time.