What is Refined Food Addiction

Refined Food cereal isleHow do addictive food substances compare to other addictive chemicals? Addictive food substances are forms of plant life which have been refined or processed in order to be ingested by drinking, eating, inhaling or injecting.

The refinement process facilitates quick absorption of substances into the blood stream which effectively alters brain chemistry and changes mood by flooding the brain with the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine.

Food addicts seek this mood change by eating refined and processed calorie-dense foods which result in short-term highs. But what goes up, must come down, and the high is followed by a long period of depressed feelings (withdrawals). In order to avoid withdrawal, the addict eats more. The food addict eats to feel better and always feels worse due to this flooding and depleting of neurotransmitters.

As with all addictions, treatment and recovery are based upon abstinence from all addictive trigger substances. The need to abstain from addictive substances is common to both alcoholics and food addicts. Treatment of food addiction begins by introducing the concept of abstinence from addictive food substances. Abstinence is the foundation of recovery.

Progression rather than Perfection

Creating a “Want more – Want less” list.


“Perfectionism is a self-destructive and addictive belief system that fuels this primary thought: If I look perfect, and do everything perfectly, I can avoid or minimize the painful feelings of shame, judgment, and blame.” 
Brené Brown – The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are.

Growing up, during our formative years, we interpret messages we get from our parents as “not enough.” Not being good enough, smart enough, thin enough, productive enough. Simply take the phrase “Not…enough” and you can easily fill in the blank many times over and own being “not good enough.” When trying to meet our parents’ expectations, we become programmed to believe that we’re only enough if we’re perfect.

As food addicts, our major coping mechanism is the tendency to eat over our emotions. It means that if we are not in recovery, the shame, judgment, and blame will eventually lead to uncontrolled eating. Feeling not good enough creates stress, and stress is unhealthy and dangerous for our recovery. Striving for Progression rather than Perfection helps us be more loving towards ourselves and support our recovery.

One of the simplest ways to practice Progression rather than Perfection is by creating a “Want more – Want less” list.

Instead of thinking or saying what you want to stop doing and what you want to start doing, think or say: I want more… I want less…

For example, I recently experienced some worry and fear, which is normal for me when it comes to being a mother. I know in my head that my children are mature and responsible enough to find their way in life, but when they face a challenge my first automatic reaction is fear and worry. I’ve learned over the years that to expect myself to have no fear or worry is unrealistic and leads only to being hard on myself and beating myself up. My new mantra when I experience these emotions is “I want more peace and less worry. I want more serenity and less fear.”

When catching yourself trying to be perfect, make a list of things you want more of and things you want less of in life. Create new mantras.

By the way – the only aspect of recovery where I don’t practice Progression rather than Perfection is the food. We are blessed to have a weighed and measured food plan that keeps us healthy, joyous, and free. I choose to eat exactly what’s on the food plan and I allow myself to strive for perfectionism with the food. In this one distinct area, abstinence is the foundation of my recovery.

Three Characteristics of Food Addiction

Understanding the characteristics of food addiction

Understanding the characteristics of food addiction is an important part of recovery. We want to increase our awareness of the dynamics of our addiction and to realize the pain of holding on to it.

Physical Craving – The phenomena of physical craving is triggered by the ingestion of addictive food substances.  This craving is unique to “real food addicts”.  Craving is physiological.  It is the physical response to an addictive trigger.  Abstinence is based on the elimination of addictive foods that trigger those cravings.  Describe how you experienced physical cravings.  .

Mental Obsession – We become preoccupied with our addictive food substances.  Obsession is continual thinking about the positive effects of binge food.  We think constantly about those foods that give us a high. Obsession is mental in nature.  Food addicts obsess about weight too.  How did your thoughts feed your addiction?

Compulsive Behavior – Compulsion is loss of control or inability to stop eating.  Compulsion is behavioral. With every failed attempt to control eating behavior, we feel even more hopeless, useless, and worthless. The greatest damage to self-esteem comes from repeated failures at trying to change addictive behavior.  There are different types of binge eating behaviors.  Some food addicts are grazers, eating all day long.  Others are bingers who eat a large amount of food in a short period of time.  Whichever pattern, the food addict eats compulsively and is unable to control eating behavior.  What is it like to lose control over eating and food?

Change begins with abstinence.  When we eliminate addictive trigger foods, cravings subside.  Then we can use the tools of recovery to manage our thoughts and change our behavior.  Seeking our Higher Power through the Twelve Steps, meetings, support of a sponsor, recovery literature and phone calls are the power tools that help us change our thinking and our actions.

Food addiction recovery is all about choices

Food addiction recovery is all about choices.  We choose this and surrender that  on a daily basis.  The words “choice” is a very important addition to our recovery vocabulary.  The concept of choosing involves deciding which one we want.  The emphasis is on “want”.  Having a choice between one thing and another is freeing.  Instead of thinking I have to do this, I am elevated by thinking I choose to do this.

The first choice we make as we start our recovery is abstinence from addictive trigger foods.  We continue to make that decision as we go forward in recovery.  All progress depends on that basic daily choice.   When it comes to food management, there are many daily choices to be made: adhering to a food plan, weighing and measuring, scheduling meals, and making nutritious choices.

Although abstinence is the beginning, as we go forward we will surrender much more of our old way of life.  This involves giving up addiction-oriented beliefs and behaviors.  We do this by creating and maintaining a program that will establish healthy growth and change.  On this basis, we can look at this as making major choices and daily choices.

Major Choice: We choose a sponsor who is someone we want to take our food commitment and guide us through recovery and the twelve steps. We look for someone we trust who has what we want: lives in the solution, has a sponsor, emphasizes the steps and traditions, has worked the steps, is available for phone calls and personal meetings (if geographically possible), talks about the spiritual way of life, and we usually look for someone of the same gender.

We make daily choices when we decide to pick up the phone to speak with our sponsor, report our food plan, review our inventory, complete assignments and  continue to do step work.

Question:  What can I do to strengthen my relationship with my sponsor?

Major choice: We choose a group where we feel comfortable, probably one which our sponsor attends.  It is important to be committed.  When we join a group we go to meetings regularly.  We go to as many meetings as we need to stabilize and maintain abstinence.  A word of caution, one meeting a week is not enough.  Attending and sharing at meetings are ways of giving service to the group.  We can take service positions too.  For those with limited face-to-face meeting opportunities, there are strong phone and online meetings available.

One of our daily and weekly choices is whether to attend or not attend meetings.  Sometimes we choose a meeting and surrender a tv show we might have watched.  We watch for excuses to miss meetings.  That is relapse at work.

Question: What can I do to better serve my group?

Major choice: We choose the Twelve Step way of lifeWe learn the Twelve Steps which are a course of action that guide us in our recovery.  First we study the steps, then we do the work of the steps and finally we incorporate them into our lives.

On a daily basis, we maintain conscious recovery that keeps us on the path of growth and change as we apply the principles of recovery which are embodied in the twelve steps.

Question:  Which steps am I applying to my life today?

Small actions lead to major changes.   When we are able to identify just what it is that is bothering us, we can make some quick choices.  I call them “flash affirmations”.   I flip a toxic condition into a positive thought and enjoy an immediate change.   Here are some that work for daily life challenges.

When irritated: I choose patience.

When tempted: I choose abstinence.

When tense: I choose calmness.

When critical: I choose tolerance.

When defiant: I choose surrender.

When ungrateful: I choose gratitude.

When unkind: I choose compassion.