What are you addicted to right now?

I also struggle with this. I am also a therapist who works a lot with those who “over use.” Could be food, internet, work, sex, gaming. It’s incredibly tricky and challenging. So in general, there is something to the mindset around eating. Typically, outside of the neurochemical reinforcement and anticipation rewards in the brain, the more addictive component of something like over-eating is the emotional response. Most of us struggle with body image at some point, even if it is fleeting.

For example, if I think “I need to lose weight. I hate how I look. I got winded going up those stairs, good lord what is wrong with me?” I am operating out of a fear-based and shame-based place.

So I decide, “okay, no more fast food.” Sometimes without any proper planning; maybe I don’t know healthier but satisfying recipes or appropriate workout routines. Or maybe I over plan; I spend time and money researching diets and exercise to do. The point is: rigidity. The “I can’t have that” mentality. Very quickly, this turns into deprivation. This deprivation could be literal (caloric) or emotional. We tend not to do well with deprivation. Think of the beginning of the pandemic and toilet paper.

So then we crash and “relapse” or “binge.” We “lose control” and indulge. It’s usually disconnected and numbing in some way. Then we come back online mentally, and shame ourselves. “Why did I do that? I am so weak. I hate myself.”

Sound familiar? It’s the beginning of the cycle all over again or we go deeper into the emotional eating. And the thing about shame is it is emotionally threatening to our brain. So when activated, we tend to go into survival mode. It’s one of the reasons we avoid shame so much. When we are in survival mode, the logic center of the brain goes offline. So to say “use logic” or “you know what to do” is difficult because that part of the brain can be difficult to access when we are in survival mode. So we seek to escape (enter food or our self-soothing behavior of choice).

So if shame and rigidity is the way (at least partially) to the problem, shame and rigidity is not the way out.

In general, focus on self-compassion, giving self-permission to have food, being mindful when hungry and what you are hungry for, being intentional and aware of while we are eating, being radically honest with ourselves about our feelings and messages around eating, and holding ourselves accountable are all helpful things here.

Also Anna Lembke’s “Dopamine Nation” and Judson Brewer’s “Unwinding Anxiety” are incredible resources for working with habits.

Sorry for the long post; just something I’m passionate about and their are some good resources out there.

Also, this does not constitute any sort of therapeutic “advice” or intervention. Just some knowledge I’ve learned along my career.

/r/AskReddit Thread Parent