Imagine walking into a therapist’s office to discuss a dysfunctional relationship with someone you love very much. The therapist listens to your story and offers you a couple of suggestions, lays out a simple relationship improvement plan and recommends you follow up in 3 months.
You think to yourself, that’s it? Just follow these steps and my relationship will be better forever?
The reality of this answer would probably be no. People spend years in therapy uncovering and healing from dysfunctional relationships.
Now you walk into a dietitian’s office to discuss your extensive history of unsuccessful diet plans and current medical conditions. The dietitian listens to your story and provides you with a few suggestions and a simple menu plan that should cure your dysfunctional relationship with food.
Is this possible? The answer is usually NO. Yet this is the current system that most dietitians are practicing within. At the current time continual nutritional care is not well understood by clients and physicians. A visit to the dietitian is still only equivalent to getting a meal plan.
After practicing nutrition and lifestyle change as a Registered Dietitian, Certified Diabetic Educator and Eating Disorder Specialist, I have observed that people eat for many reasons other than physical nourishment. Food has always been their best friend, lover, and healer to most of their life’s woes.
They ask me why all of the programs they have previously been on have failed. I sadly have to tell them that they have a dysfunctional relationship with food or even a “food addiction”. It is not simple knowing which foods are healthier, or what portions sizes are more appropriate. It is a combination of intellectual know how and a self understanding about this unhealthy relationship.
Addiction is defined as any drug that continuously stimulates the reward circuit center of the brain. Rewarding experiences trigger the release of dopamine, telling the brain to do it again. According to a 2007 issue of the Harvard Mental Health Letter, reports show that new research on the brain is showing that addiction is a matter of memories, and recovery is a slow process in which the influence of those memories is diminished.
Dysfunctional relationships with food lead to far more diseases than obesity. This addiction is wreaking havoc on all of our bodily processes from our heads to our toes. In my professional opinion it is usually the root cause of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, IBS, anorexia and bulimia, binge eating disorder, nighttime eating syndrome, constipation and many more.
Until our society begins to educate the public about the topic of “food addiction", we are never going to successfully treat a large percentage of our population. This condition will continue to be passed down from generation to generation.
Treatment is a slow process. Insurance companies continue to view the Registered Dietitian as simply a menu planner, providing very limited visits a year. Many insurance companies refuse to cover medical nutrition therapy at all. The Registered Dietitian is uniquely qualified to work with individuals struggling to improve their relationship with food.
Clients require weekly or biweekly appointments to understand this condition. They must discover for themselves how their addiction to food is preventing them from living a healthier lifestyle. In our practice, we help you understand what purpose food is playing in your life other than physical nourishment. This can often take several months.
Food addiction is a psychological condition for many people. We must often combine medical nutrition therapy and recommend a psychotherapist who can assist you in improving your relationships with yourself and others.
As long as dopamine continues to reward our bodies with pleasure every time we eat, most people will remain perplexed as to why dieting doesn’t work long term. Our bodies become addicted to the rush of dopamine entering our brains. It becomes too difficult to live without. It begins early in life when we realize that food makes us feel good at times when we are struggling to find peace. We must deprogram and desensitize those memories that continuously promote this addiction. This is a lengthy process and one not fixed with a simple menu plan. What makes this condition so appealing is that we can drive, work, socialize, and operate machinery while denying the fact that we are addicted to a drug that may eventually kill us.