One of the most difficult challenges we face on the weight loss journey is our relationship with food. When you are feeling stressed, excited, or sad, do you reach for food that is fat, salty, or sweet? Research has shown that while these foods may make you feel good initially, they can become addicting over time. If you eat processed foods regularly, you may find that you experience withdrawal symptoms when you do not have them.

The foods that you feel unable to control your intake of are known as trigger foods, and can vary from person to person. Some people find that they eat compulsively on a regular basis, no matter what the food is, or how full they feel.

11 signs you are addicted to food

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Food addiction is complex, because you cannot eliminate food from your life. However, you can learn how to interact with it in healthier ways. The following steps provide actions you can take to feel more empowered:

1. If you don’t eat the same diet everyday, you fear that your default behavior will be to eat whatever you crave.

Experiment with healthy ingredients and learn what you enjoy. Create nourishing meals that you look forward to. Try doing an internet search for recipes with the ingredients you have on hand.

2. When you are in a social situation and food is available, you use it as an excuse to eat everything you wouldn’t normally have.

Mentally prepare for situations where you have to be exposed to trigger foods. Think about what you will need to be successful. Practice eating before you go, bringing food you can eat, or deciding what you will order ahead of time.

3. You don’t have a plan. When you get hungry, you eat, and eat, and eat….

Plan your meals in advance, then evaluate how you respond. If you are reaching for cupcakes after breakfast, this plan isn’t working for you. Be honest so that you can recalibrate and give yourself what you need.

4. If you eat something you aren’t supposed to, you feel like giving up (and enjoying yourself along the way).

Obstacles and setbacks are inevitable. Rather than trying to avoid them, focus on recovering. Have compassion for yourself and get back on track. You don’t have to do this perfectly.

5. You won’t let anyone help you. Your struggle with food is a secret. You hide it from others, and hope that no one will notice.

Work with someone you trust, who has similar goals and helps keep you motivated. If you believe you are a compulsive overeater, you can also attend twelve-step groups such as CEA-HOW and Overeaters Anonymous, which help support their members through recovery.

6. You skip one or two meals during the day, and find yourself eating without abandon at night, or when no one else is watching.

Eat regularly. Don’t skip meals. You can set a timer to go off regularly if you forget to eat. When you are out, be sure to keep snacks in your purse, desk, or car.

signs you are addicted to food  - bowl with dried fruit

7. An unexpected life event, such as the loss of a loved one, a job, or a relationship, sends you running to food for comfort.

Recognize when you are losing your motivation or desire. If an event has triggered this, take time to understand how it is affecting you, and what support you need to cope.

8. You expect yourself to stop desiring trigger foods overnight.

Maintain your resolve. Developing a healthy relationship with food is a daily practice, with plenty of room for adjustment. Learn from your journey as you go.

9. You want to change the way you eat, but you don’t want to have to put in work.

Effort is necessary on this journey. If you don’t value yourself, you will give up the moment you smell a trigger food. Take small steps to build your confidence.

10. You don’t want to have a portion-controlled serving of your favorite food. You want to eat as much of it as you can.

Negotiate in the tough times. There are days where you will go weak in the knees for a certain food. If you don’t feel comfortable stopping when you are full, you may need to replace this food with a healthier item.

11. Your feelings dictate what you eat.

Thoughts come and go. Validate them by checking in with yourself. Are you eating because you are hungry, angry, lonely, tired, or bored? If so, food will not resolve the real issue.

You can refer back to these action steps for tips when you are having a hard time. Have faith in yourself, and embrace yourself right where you are on this journey. You are worth it!

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