Food addiction and mental health

When I first came into recovery my motivation for seeking help was for two reasons. Firstly, I was gaining weight rapidly because my binge eating had progressed to about 4  times a week of all-day binges. My ability to starve myself for the remaining 3 days of the week was diminishing. I was losing control.

The second reason that drove me into recovery was that my mental health was deteriorating rapidly. I was feeling increasingly panicked, anxious, worried, fearful, depressed and ashamed about my situation. I had a really unclear, racy and panicked mind and couldn’t concentrate on anything. It felt like the only way to get myself out of that anxious state was to eat! And this lead to more desperation, despair, fogginess and anxiety. I thought I was going to lose my mind.

My story has certainly been a story of weight gain and loss. But I was never obese. What ultimately drove me to stick with recovery was the mental obsession, the desperation of not being able to switch my head off, to have a mind racing full with food thoughts, trying to answer to the conflicting voices in my head telling me to eat, and not to eat, to take laxatives, to go to the gym, to go and see the doctor, to go on a diet, to buy the food, to not buy the food. It was relentless.

In the peer-groups for food addiction we often say ‘I came for the vanity and stayed for the sanity’. While people usually ‘just want to lose weight’ they stay in recovery because they get so much mental relief once they let go of addictive eating and their sanity is restored.

What keeps me in recovery is without a doubt the fact that I cherish my mental clarity and sanity so much that I can’t, under any circumstances, imagine, to pick up the food again. I actually literally believe I will go insane.

Other food addicts have shared about this fear of insanity from all the obsessive thinking and the anxiety and depression. What’s interesting though is that even in the ‘mainstream’ world it’s now accepted that what we eat hugely affects not only our physical but our mental health. For example, it’s now shown that a poor diet can interact with the immune system and gut microbiota, and also with important functions of the brain.

As Deakin University’s Food and Mood Centre says: ‘A diet high in saturated fats and refined sugars has a very potent negative impact on brain proteins that we know are important in depression: proteins called neurotrophins, which protect the brain against oxidative stress and promote the growth of new brain cells…There also seems to be an impact of saturated fat on the stress response system, which is also important in both depression and anxiety.’

The Centre also says that: ‘It may well be that a dietitian will soon become part of every multidisciplinary psychiatric team and that, in the future, referrals to dietitians will be common for people with mental disorders.’ What a novel idea, yet so obvious to those of us who are experiencing the connection between food and mental health on a daily basis.

Phil Werdell, a food addiction counsellor who has worked with thousands of food addicts in the United States says that many people who undergo detox from their binge foods will feel their depression lifting after only a few days. Are you willing to try it for 30 days? Contact me to get started.

2018-08-30T05:14:40+00:00