You’ve probably experienced an uncontrollable craving for a particular food (chocolate or chips, perhaps). But what happens when those cravings start to take over your every thought — even after you’ve indulged your craving? Dayna Macy, author of “Ravenous: A Food Lover’s Journey from Obsession to Freedom,” fills us in.
Q: At their worst, what did your food issues look like?
A: The worst was when I lost control of what I ate. If I saw a chocolate bar, I ate a chocolate bar; if I had a bag of cookies placed in front of me, I would eat the bag.
Q: How did your food issues develop?
A: I started overeating in childhood to comfort myself (when things were going wrong or when I was in a bad mood). It became a long-standing habit. In my book, I take a look at my “trigger foods” like chocolate, cheese and olives. (Everyone has their own go-to-for-comfort foods.)
I used food to check out of life. It comforted me. It helped me escape my problems. It helped take my mind off of what was happening around me.
Many people with food obsessions are simply “eating away pain.” They use food to avoid confronting their issues.
Q: What do you do now to manage your food obsessions and overeating?
A: Today, I measure my food. I weigh it then record what I eat in a journal. This helps me understand what I’m putting into my body and whether I’m eating too much. Keeping a journal has also helped me learn about portion size and the amount of food I need to be nourished (instead of to feel comforted). This isn’t a diet — it’s a way of living.
Q: Are there signs a person may be addicted to eating?
A: One of the main signs is if you can’t stop thinking about a certain food — even when you’re not hungry. Another sign is binging on a particular item when it’s placed in front of you.
Q: How can someone with a food obsession cope?
A: First, realize you’re not alone. Many people have issues with food (just look at how obesity has skyrocketed). Find a friend, a therapist or a community of people who understand what you’re going through and how you’re feeling. Talking to them will give you the support you need to overcome your obsession.
Treatment plans often focus on learning to deal with “emotions” and the underlying issues that are driving you to your fridge (whether that’s feeling unloved, alone or depressed). They also focus on weight loss — many people with food obsessions overeat and gain weight (it’s less about obtaining a specific number on a scale and more about building a happy, healthy life).