One of the biggest obstacles to healthy living and weight loss is food addiction. Sugar lights up the same area of the brain as cocaine, and the fats and carbs in fast foods can be just as addictive. Some people can change their diet and stop eating addictive foods without much difficulty, but for others, food can be as powerful and dangerous as alcohol, nicotine, and narcotics.
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Much like other addictions, if you think you have a problem with compulsive eating, overeating, or binge-eating, one of the first things you can do is attend a 12-Step Meeting. Overeaters Anonymous has meetings all over the world, and you can find a meeting at oa.org. Below is the checklist that OA uses to help people determine if they might have an issue with compulsive eating. This is not a medical diagnostic tool; this is a way to establish a baseline for yourself. If you answer yes to several of these questions, and you feel like your eating habits are making you unhappy or interfering with your life, then you may way to attend an OA meeting or seek counseling from a therapist specializing in addiction treatment.
- Do I eat when I’m not hungry, or not eat when my body needs nourishment?
- Do I go on eating binges for no apparent reason, sometimes eating until I’m stuffed or even feel sick?
- Do I have feelings of guilt, shame, or embarrassment about my weight or the way I eat?
- Do I eat sensibly in front of others and then make up for it when I am alone?
- Is my eating affecting my health or the way I live my life?
- When my emotions are intense — whether positive or negative — do I find myself reaching for food?
- Do my eating behaviors make me or others unhappy?
- Have I ever used laxatives, vomiting, diuretics, excessive exercise, diet pills, shots or other medical interventions (including surgery) to try to control my weight?
- Do I fast or severely restrict my food intake to control my weight?
- Do I fantasize about how much better life would be if I were a different size or weight?
- Do I need to chew or have something in my mouth all the time: food, gum, mints, candies or beverages?
- Have I ever eaten food that is burned, frozen or spoiled; from containers in the grocery store; or out of the garbage?
- Are there certain foods I can’t stop eating after having the first bite?
- Have I lost weight with a diet or “period of control” only to be followed by bouts of uncontrolled eating and/or weight gain?
- Do I spend too much time thinking about food, arguing with myself about whether or what to eat, planning the next diet or exercise cure, or counting calories?