Dr Bunmi Aboaba is a Recovery Coach specialising in Food Addiction.
2. Thinking about food too much
Has food become a major subject in your internal dialogue? Are you often thinking ‘how long until lunch / snack break / dinner?’ It may not be the food itself, it may be the idea of the food. The buying, the unwrapping or preparing. The thought of buying something nice, just for you, that no one else knows about.
Maybe it’s the amount – have I got enough chocolate in case I wake up in the middle of the night and feel hungry? Better buy some more just in case…
3. Physical effects
If you continue to eat badly, the weight will start to pile on. Maybe you are young, in your twenties, and it seems that no matter how much you eat, you can stay thin. As you get to your thirties, this is no longer the case. The middle starts to spread. If you are eating unhealthy things, that can also show up in acne, bad breath or dental problems. You might be out of breath more often.
At the more extreme end, this can go into diabetes, heart problems, liver problems. Because these changes happen gradually, and we get used to them, it can be a shock to wake up one morning and no longer have that body that worked so well 10 years ago.
4. Excuses, excuses
‘It’s just one more slice…’ Does that sound familiar? ‘If I skip lunch tomorrow, I can have extra dessert tonight…’ – but of course, lunch still happens as usual…Do you set yourself targets, and then when you fail those targets, make an excuse for yourself? ‘Someone was mean to me at work’, ‘I watched a sad film’, ‘Look at the state of the world!’
When you make a plan, buy the groceries, and know when you are going to cook and eat, then – something happens. Do those plans go out the window?
5. Other areas of life are suffering
Has your performance slowed down? Are you still able to put in the hours, get work finished on time? Or are you feeling tired, both mentally and physically? Do you skimp on family time, work time, just to have more alone time with food? Do you put off doing exercise, because you know that it will hurt first before getting better? Are other people starting to pick up the slack?
6. The unholy trinity
Addiction is all about mental health. Eating, denying that you have eaten, feeling guilty, low self-esteem, and then eating to get rid of those feelings. This can turn into a never-ending cycle. If your mental health is suffering, it might be time to make some changes.
7. Post-meal cravings
After eating a satisfying meal, one that contains all the good stuff and plenty of it, is there a voice in your head saying ‘but what would really finish the meal off is…’? You are full, your body knows it is full, but there is that nagging feeling of wanting more. This is a sign that your brain has got used to the dopamine rush that some foods give. The level which used to mean ‘enough’ has now gone up.
Three or more of these signs could be a warning that it’s time to do something. Consult a doctor, see a nutritionist or other health professional. It can often be much easier to go to a qualified stranger than to talk to friends. There will be no judgement; as they will have seen it all before.
Dr Bunmi Aboaba is a Recovery Coach specialising in Food Addiction, helping clients to achieve a healthy relationship with food to meet long-term health goals. Dr Bunmi’s work covers the full spectrum of disordered eating, including overeating, compulsive eating, emotional eating, addicted eating and other associated patterns. Dr Bunmi is also creator of the first Certified Food Addiction Certification to support nutritionists, personal trainers, dieticians and clinicians to help their clients achieve long-lasting results.