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Treatments of food addiction

Food Addiction - Treatments

The main goal of treatment is not only to change one's behavior, but also attitude towards body shape, weight, and food in general.


There are many treatments for this condition. One that is very frequently used and accepted in psychology is called cognitive behavior therapy (CBT). What is it actually? It’s a highly acclaimed treatment that is used by psychiatrists and psychologists, which has been demonstrated to be most effective in treating binge eating disorder. How does it work? Cognitive behavioral therapy primarily deals with what goes on in our mind – the way we think and what we think about. These are major factors that determine our quality of life. Striving to improve those thought processes makes dealing with mental health issues much easier. CBT makes the person aware of their thoughts, and how much they’re burdening themselves with them. Afterwards, it aids the person in eliminating these thought processes and adopting more realistic and healthier ones.


CBT also has an impact on behavior because our thoughts manifest as our behavior and lead to a certain outcome, positive or negative. CBT works to structure behavior so that we minimize negative and maximize positive results. Using CBT would allow you to become aware of your behavior, as you feel more and more prepared to overcome your insecurity, and behave in a more positive manner. The main goal of treatment is not only to change one's behavior, but also attitude towards body shape, weight, and food in general.


''It helps in disengaging from self-criticism, rumination, and dysphoric mood that can arise in reaction to negative thinking patterns''


Another approach to food addiction treatment is called mindfulness-based cognitive therapy or MBCT. It's a psychological therapy method which uses traditional cognitive behavioral therapy methods with some new strategies, such as mindfulness and meditation. Cognitive methods include educating the participant about binge eating disorder, mindfulness, mindful meditation, and maintaining focus on becoming aware of all incoming thoughts and feelings, and accepting them, but not reacting or becoming attached to them. This process is known as “decentering". It helps in disengaging from self-criticism, rumination, and dysphoric mood that can arise in reaction to negative thinking patterns. Current theories about the cause and maintenance of binge-eating suggest that mindfulness training might be helpful for this problem.


Kristeller and Wolever, famous american researchers, in their paper review the conceptual foundation of mindfulness-based eating awareness training. MB-EAT includes exercising mindfulness meditation, and practices that strike at basic problems regarding BED: the capability the individual has to influence responses to emotional states; developing self-acceptance; increasing the ability to consciously choose what food they eat; becoming aware of food-related cues. So far, it seems that this approach is successful in soothing depressive symptoms, curbing binge eating, and bolstering self-control.


A few tips from CBT and mindfulness


Here are some tips from CBT and mindfulness that could be useful. While you eat, you shouldn’t engage in other activities like watching TV, playing games or working. You should be concentrated on the food and trying to enjoy it. Restrict the amount of food that is available. Furthermore, avoid boxed foods because there is a higher chance that you will eat the whole box, rather than two or three of anything that you put on a plate. It’s also positive if you’re able to leave some food on the plate. If you've had enough of the meal, then you don’t have to eat the rest; there’s no obligation. You can always save the rest for later. Also, find something fun and entertaining to alleviate cravings. Perhaps it’s a sport, hanging around with friends or taking a bath. When you eat – taste the food, smell it. Try to enjoy every single bite. Ask yourself “why am I eating just now?”. Am I actually hungry or is it because I just saw some food? Am I eating because I am sad or because I’m hungry? However, don’t be hard on yourself. Be kind and honest – it will help you. Try not to categorize food as bad and good. Consciously choose your food based on facts, not feelings.


When talking about pharmacotherapy (treatment with medication), it's a part of history for obesity, and an unhappy attempt at a solution for food addiction. After the development of some drugs, they were withdrawn from the market because of poor safety and relatively poor efficacy. Even tough some medications can temporarily help, they also have long lists of side effects and contraindications. Finally, it has been shown that pharmacotherapy is significantly less effective than CBT in treating binge eating disorder.