Food Addiction Treatment: The Life Process Program Approach
When we consider drug addiction and alcoholism, we understand that no one needs to use these substances. But how can someone be addicted to a life essential, like the food we eat?
An addiction exists when something fills an essential role in life, a role crucial to the person’s emotional well-being.
But, in addiction, that role is more negative than positive. It can even be life destroying.
Consider, for instance, a woman who refuses to leave a man who beats her severely, she says because she “loves” him. In this case, a feeling crucial for our emotional well-being, love, is distorted to form an addiction.
Food is essential to both our physical and our emotional health. Playing such a crucial role in life, it can become addictive in many ways.
Food addictions come in different types. The most obvious are binge eating and overeating. Other variations are anorexia or bulimia, in which people strive to control their weight by regurgitating or exercising compulsively. But, in doing these things, they may medically endanger themselves or damage other areas of their lives.
Anorexia, bulimia, and compulsive exercise as ways for people to meet their ideal, often unrealistic, desired weight represent a form of perfectionism.
The following is a case of a woman one of our coaches worked with that involved this kind of perfectionism around food and exercise, and how our coach offered food addiction treatment using the Life Process Program approach. (All critical indentifying information has been disguised.)
M began going to the gym to keep in shape, and was soon going twice or even more times a day, often ignoring her family in the process. M was exercising so ardently out of a concern for her weight — she had a history of binge eating (and telling herself “I am addicted to food”). Her husband and children had started to complain about her absences from the family.
In coming to LPP, she wanted to change her relationship to food, as well as addressing her training to the point of exhaustion and depletion.
M contacted LPP right after she cut back her exercise schedule because she was worried she would put on weight when she exercised less. She was also experiencing mood swings. As often is true in addictions, M had a co-occurring history of depression/anxiety, which she medicated for a time with antidepressants. But she never found the medication effective. In any case, she wanted to be drug-free (a decision that we at LPP support).
M and her LPP coach together explored natural and herbal remedies for anxiety. Since her exercise was not necessarily in itself unhealthy, and since it produced good mood outcomes for M, she instituted a regular routine that was less demanding, and didn’t take her away from the home.
In a sense, M became a “controlled user” of her former addiction—exercise. She purchased an exercise bike that she could use in her basement. She also started a yoga course, which allowed her to relax through using her body, but which wasn’t as exhausting and as distracting as her exercising had become.
M also made time to work in her garden. It was there, she found, that she sometimes experienced her greatest moments of contentment, focusing on the sky, the plants, the birds, and the insects. M said this was, for her, a “natural high.”
Overall, M developed a new way of exercising, of being, that was less debilitating but provided the main satisfactions that she used to obtain through compulsively exercising, and before that, by binge eating, and sometimes inducing vomiting afterwards. Her lifestyle changes are ones that she can manage on her own, within a contented home and family life.
Underlying many of M’s problems was a kind of perfectionism that demanded that she be the ideal mother and wife, one who kept a perfect home. It was this desire for perfection that led to her harmful eating and excessive exercise. In this case, her coach told her to relax when doing the modules in LPP—that there was no need to do them “perfectly.”
Her coach, in this case a woman, was highly sympathetic to M’s predicament. She recognized many of the elements that drove M as ones that many women experience, and that she herself was familiar with. Putting herself in M’s shoes allowed the coach to be sympathetic and nonjudgmental with her client.
M also needed to watch for her triggers, the things that caused her anxiety and eating binges—times when she felt out of control. These triggers often involved her mother, a woman who seemingly was the perfect mother and housewife that M longed to be. M told her mother about her involvement in LPP. This led M to communicate more fully with her mother about issues between them that sometimes provoked her addictive behaviors.
M likewise enlisted her children and husband in her efforts to change, explaining when she was feeling stressed, and needed a time out, when she asked them for more help around the house. She practiced how to express these needs to her family with her coach, working on developing her communication skills.
At a deeper level, M considered that she needed to appreciate the person she was, to love herself, without creating an idealized image of what a lovable woman had to be.
In terms of her eating habits, she concentrated on enjoying eating, only eating when hungry and when she could enjoy the food, rather than controlling her weight by counting calories.
In terms of mood adjustment, M used the cognitive behavioral technique of reducing her negative “self talk” and other techniques she discussed with her coach.
By the end of her time in LPP, M felt that she had met her primary goal of forming a more natural and less restrictive relationship with food and eating, along with her exercising moderately. This enabled her to stop food binges. She was able to ease up in other areas where she has previously felt driven to perfectionism, and to find natural means of relaxation.
M represents the comprehensive approach that we at LPP take with clients to provide food addiction treatment. We don’t tell people that they have a life-long disease, one that they can never escape. Rather, our coaches help people to recognize emotional triggers and to develop emotional and life skills to handle the demands that they face. Our focus is on practical decision-making, environmental adjustments, mood improvement, and self-acceptance and maturity.
All of this takes place within a framework of the person’s own values and life goals. In other words, our coaches understand the primary thing about addiction and recovery—that it is within everyone’s grasp, and that the success people achieve will be due to their own efforts. Clients like M become responsible for their own life paths. In this way, LPP helps people to discover their purpose—their own personal meaning.
And, no, they don’t have a disease.
If you feel that you could benefit for similar food addition treatment, or find yourself thinking ‘I am addicted to food’, then try our custom designed Life Process Program – as we like to say, with our money back guarantee, you have nothing to loose but your addiction!