Think taking the addiction approach to food is best? Think again.

I am so sad to hear of yet another book toting overeating or binge eating as food addiction. In the brief adaptation I read recently in Macleans magazine, I find it interesting that everything the author is describing as addiction can also be considered binge eating. More specifically, the trap of the binge eating and restrictive eating cycle. I am flabbergasted that people continue to chose the “addiction” route versus the mindful eating approach to dealing with a skewed relationship with food. It astounds me because the way in which they are treated are quite different- one being very harsh and relying on “discipline” and the other a more flexible, kinder, realistic way to live. 

Many feelings and thoughts written in the adaptation sound familiar- many of my clients have told me the same things. However, not one of them was able to fully adapt the addiction method without cycling between food restriction and binging. Also, every one of them have found that although addiction is an easier way to think about food, understanding how their emotions and body shame lead them to overeat or binge has helped more in the reduction of binges and cravings for binges. Here is a short summary of the difference between both treatments:


Sure, there may be aspects of the addiction model for treatment that can work for people, but in my experience, clients need way more than this approach to heal relationships with food and their bodies. Cravings are a normal part of life, how we deal with them depends on how we see ourselves (i.e. our weight and shape) and our relationship with food. People who eat intuitively may eat the food they crave, listen to their hunger to determine how much of it that they want and continue to eat according to their hunger for the rest of the day. This may mean they will eat a lighter dinner because they are less hungry. In fact, people who are intuitive eaters get more pleasure and comfort from food than people who eat mindlessly. 
People who do not eat intuitively and eat due to emotions, tend to get less comfort from food and end up cycling between eating for comfort, not being comforted and then eating more because they are ashamed of caving into a craving (which is a negative emotions that can start the cycle all over again). 

If you are looking for more information on binge eating or how to decrease over eating, these books take a more gentle and effective approach :

Eat what you love, love what you eat for binge eating by Dr. Michelle May
Overcoming binge eating by Dr. Christopher Fairburn
Eating Mindfully by Dr. Susan Albers (there is also a companion workbook called Eat, drink and be mindful)

If you are a dietitian looking for more information on the CBT and mindful eating approach to treating binge eating disorder, try these books (of course those mentioned above are a good read too):
A clinician’s guide to binge eating disorder by June Alexander, Andrea GOldschmidt and Daniel Le Grange
Nutrition Counseling in the treatment of eating disorders by Marcia Herrin and Maria Larkin
Cognitive behavioral therapy and eating disorders by Dr. CHristopher Fairburn

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