Are you tired of being overweight and/or food addicted? Do you find yourself unable to stop using food to fill your emptiness or assuage your anxiety and loneliness? Are you addicted to self-medicating with food? Have you tried unsuccessfully to heal a sugar addiction? Food addiction is challenging because you can’t just abstain for long. Discover underlying causes of food addiction and how to begin healing.
Hi everyone. Dr. Margaret Paul here with the Inner Bonding Podcast. Today I’m addressing the issue of food addiction, which is obviously a very common addiction.
Pamela wrote me this question during my masterclass:
“I am a 22-yr old female weighing 220 lbs with a height of 5.9″. I am very much over-weight and I know this. However the motivation to get fit is not there. I usually tell myself that I will get up early in the morning and work out and then eat healthy food, but that never seems to work out. I see most of my friends modeling and doing things that I would feel too ashamed to do at my size but want to. I really want to get back down to size but don’t know where to start. Can you help me please?”
Here is what I said to Pamela: “Pamela, what you need to ask yourself is what is more important to you than losing weight?
“Is it more important to you to use food to avoid your painful feelings of anxiety, depression, loneliness, or heartache? Eating addictively is a form of self-abandonment. You are using food to fill the emptiness within that can only be filled with love – love for yourself. Until you want to learn to love yourself, you will not be motivated to lose weight and get fit.
“When you say that you tell yourself ‘I will get up early in the morning and work out,’ what part of you is telling yourself this? It sounds to me like it is your wounded self who wants to control your weight, rather than your loving adult self who truly wants to learn about what is loving to you. Then another part goes into resistance to being controlled, so, as you said ‘ that never seems to work out.’ As long as you are trying to have control over food and exercise, you will likely trigger this resistance.
“Instead, you need to compassionately open to learning about how you are abandoning yourself that is creating the inner emptiness and resistance. You cannot force yourself to get fit. When you learn to love and value who you are in your essence, then you will be motivated to take loving care of your body.”
Angie wrote this question:
“I am addicted to food, and I know it’s for comfort and fills an empty hole in me. But I equate food with Mother Love as my Mom could never be there for us emotionally, but she fed us instead. The trouble is I eat when I’m bored, sad, fed up – any reason. I don’t even give myself time to stop and think before I put something in my mouth and its usually biscuits and sweet stuff. I’m fifty and I REALLY want to break this pattern. It’s almost as if food is my friend – isn’t that terrible!”
What I said to Angie is, “First, I hope you take the judgment off food being your friend. Your little girl inside needs food as her friend as long as you are treating yourself the way your mother treated you. Your mother was not there for you emotionally, and you have learned to abandon yourself emotionally as well. Food is love because you are not loving yourself. You are using food to comfort your little girl’s feelings that often result from you judging yourself and ignoring your feelings. You are using food to fill the emptiness created by your self-abandonment, rather than learning to fill the emptiness and aloneness with love from your higher self.
“The other issue may be that the gut flora in your digestive system is out of balance. This leads to craving carbs and sweet things, which feeds the bad flora and creates the very problem that leads to craving sweets and starchy foods. You might want to do some reading about what creates a healthy gut to understand how to heal this. What goes on in your gut affects your brain and your frequency, so it might be very difficult for you to access the love that is here for you unless you also heal your body.”
Food addiction is a symptom of deeper issues of both emotional and physical self-abandonment.
You might want to ask yourself what food means to you.
- Is it a way to nourish and support your body in excellent health?
- Is it a way to satisfy your physical hunger?
- Is it an experience that you relish and enjoy?
- Is it a way to fill your emotional emptiness, to numb out and suppress your feelings?
If you identify with the latter – if you use food to avoid responsibility for your feelings, then you are self-medicating with food. You are using food addictively – as someone else might use a drug or alcohol.
It is easy to self-medicate with food because it is so available for most people. The chances are that if you are listening to this podcast, you have enough money to buy food. You don’t need a prescription for it, and it is not illegal. Therefore, it is readily available.
And you are devoted to self-medicating when you are NOT devoted to learning to take responsibility for your feelings.
When your primary intention is to avoid feeling your feelings, then you will likely find numerous addictive ways of doing this – from blaming others and feeling like a victim, to numbing out with substance and process addictions. The bottom line is that until you decide that you want to learn to take responsibility for your own feelings, you will continue to self-medicate.
An important question to ask yourself is why do you want to avoid feeling your feelings and learning how to take responsibility for them?
What is so scary about feeling your feelings and taking responsibility for them? Why will you do almost anything to avoid this responsibility, including ending up sick or obese from self-medicating with food? What do you tell yourself will happen if you take responsibility for your feelings?
Do you tell yourself:
- That you can’t learn to manage your painful feelings and learn from them?
- That you can never fill yourself as much as someone or something else can and if you take responsibility for your own feelings that you will never get what you really want?
- That there is too much pain to manage – that you have to numb it out to survive?
- That you don’t deserve to take responsibility for your feelings?
- That it is selfish to take care of your own feelings – that a caring person takes care of others’ feelings?
- That it’s too much work and you don’t have the time?
- That if you open to your feelings and to taking responsibility for them, you will become too vulnerable and end up being controlled and taken advantage of by others?
- That your inner child is too needy and demanding and you can’t possibly meet your needs?
- That if you take responsibility for yourself you will end up alone – that others will be upset by your self-care and leave, and you will be more unhappy than you are now?
- That if you take loving care of yourself, then you will outgrow your relationship or not want to be in this relationship?
- That you are taking care of your feelings and you don’t understand why you have a food issue, or that eating the way you eat IS taking care of your feelings?
What else do you tell yourself?
The things you might be telling yourself are coming from your wounded self and are lies that are programmed into your wounded self.
You might want to take a moment to look inside and see what else you might be telling yourself that causes you to self-medicate rather than take responsibility for your feelings.
Are you sugar addicted? If you are, you are not alone!
I used to be intensely sugar addicted. I craved it all the time, and it seems like the more I ate, the more I wanted. The fact that it made me feel terrible didn’t seem to faze me. First I’d feel the high and then I’d crash and feel spaced out. I wanted my sugar. Just before I started to clean up my diet in my early 20s, I lived with my aunt, and I used to sneak frozen cake from her freezer – little pieces at a time, hoping she wouldn’t notice!
Then I started to read about nutrition and realized how toxic sugar is for our bodies. I used a lot of willpower to stop eating sugar, and I mostly succeeded, but the craving didn’t go away. One time many years ago, I went off sugar completely for two years. After a few months, the cravings lessened, but then after two years I made the mistake of thinking I was cured. A bite of sugar and all the craving returned.
Along with the sugar addiction, I struggled on and off with weight issues.
Everything changed when I discovered what the underlying emotional issue was and how to deal with it. Now I know that a sugar and carb addiction can be healed by taking care of both physical and emotional issues.
As I’ve said the emotional cause of food and sugar addiction is SELF-ABANODNMENT.
When we abandon ourselves by being unloving to ourselves – with self-judgment, ignoring our feelings, numbing them out with various addictions or making others responsible for us – we create a big empty hole inside. What this hole really wants is love – our love – but since we are abandoning ourselves, we are far from loving ourselves. The empty hole is very painful, and food – especially sugar and starches – works for the moment to fill the inner emptiness.
It is unrealistic to expect a sugar and food addiction to go away without learning how to fill that inner emptiness with love – the love that is always available to us from our spiritual source. So learning how to love yourself is vital to healing a sugar and food addiction, as well as other addictions.
The physical cause of a sugar addiction is what I said to Angie. It’s about what is going on in your digestive system. If you have more beneficial intestinal flora than harmful flora, then you have a healthy gut and likely don’t crave sugar. Unfortunately, there are many things in our modern society that destroy the healthy bacteria, leaving us vulnerable to the proliferation of unhealthy bacteria.
Processed foods are exactly what the term implies – they are not natural. Because they have been refined, many of the nutrients the body needs are destroyed, and unhealthy food-like products have been added, such as sugar, GMO-grown foods, industrial seed oils which are extremely toxic for our bodies, such as canola, corn, sunflower, safflower, and so on; preservatives, colors, and may other chemical with names you can’t pronounce. All of these destroy beneficial flora.
Sugar destroys beneficial bacteria and feeds the toxic bacteria. This is why the more sugar we eat, the more we want it. As the toxic bacteria proliferate, they demand more and more sugar to flourish. The more they flourish, the more they create toxins that affect our organs and our brain, causing diabetes, cancer, heart disease and autoimmune diseases, as well as anxiety, depression, autism, ADD, ADHD, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and other mental disorders.
Antibiotics not only destroy the harmful bacteria – they kill all bacteria, which leaves the gut vulnerable to harmful bacteria unless the beneficial bacteria are replaced with probiotics. Most other drugs also destroy beneficial bacteria.
Factory-farmed meats and dairy products contain the antibiotics and hormones that are given to the cows. The grain fed to cows to fatten them up before slaughter alter their fat in a way that makes it unhealthy. Both factory farmed cows and chickens contain the pesticides that are in their food. All of this destroys beneficial bacteria.
Factory-farmed produce can contain Roundup, which also destroys the beneficial bacteria, and the soil this produce is grown on is depleted and contains little nutrients.
Chlorinated water and many household cleaning products and cosmetics contain toxins that destroy the beneficial bacteria. So can polluted air.
I hope you can see why most people are suffering from a grave imbalance in their gut flora. If you want to heal a carb and sugar addiction, you need to do healing work to restore the natural balance. I encourage all of you who want to heal a sugar or food addiction and attain health to do some reading on healing your gut.
My client, Hannah, was distressed that, with all the inner work she had done on herself, she still found herself binge eating.
“There are times when I just can’t stop eating,” she said to me. “I feel awful after, but at the time I just want another cookie and another until they are all gone. Or I’ll intend to take a few bites of ice cream out of the carton and find myself unable to stop until the whole carton is empty. I just don’t get why I’m still doing this! And it seems worse since I married Roger, even though I really love him. I just can’t figure this out!”
I asked Hannah to tune in to the addicted part of herself and allow that part to speak about why she needs to fill up with food.
“Well,” she said, “sometimes I just feel so empty and alone inside. I just can’t stand it. The food makes me feel so much better. I don’t feel so lonely when I’m eating and filled up. But I don’t get why I feel this way. I’m not alone. I have Roger and he loves me.”
“It sounds like you want to eat when you feel alone inside, when your inner child – which is your feeling self – feels alone and abandoned inside,” I said to her.
“Yes,” answered Hannah. “That’s exactly what I feel, but I have no idea how to fill that emptiness and aloneness without food. And why do I feel alone inside when I’m not alone outside?”
The problem is that most people think that the empty alone feeling is caused by something outside themselves – such as not having a partner, feeling rejected by someone, being unhappy at a job or not having enough money. Yet that is never what causes inner emptiness and inner aloneness. It is caused by one thing – not taking loving care of yourself – abandoning yourself by ignoring your feelings, or by judging yourself or by making someone else responsible for your feelings, and then further numbing them out by turning to addictions.
We cannot heal addictions alone. We cannot take loving care of our feelings without having a spiritual source to turn to for love, comfort, wisdom, guidance, and strength.
A spiritual source can be whatever works for you – your concept of God, a higher power, a guardian angel, an inner mentor or teacher, a beloved relative who has died, or your own higher self – an older, wiser aspect of yourself. We all need a source of guidance to turn to, rather than other people or our own mind. Your mind is limited to your storehouse of beliefs, many of which are false or no longer supportive of who are now are. Your mind cannot guide you in what is truly loving to yourself. It cannot advise you in what actions support your highest good. So unless you have a source of wisdom to turn to, you may not know what to do to take loving care of yourself.
You may not open to this Source until your deep desire is to take loving care of yourself. As long as you believe it is someone else’s job to fill you up, or that you will get filled up from work, money, food and so on, you may not take the loving actions you need to take on your own behalf to take care of your inner child and fill yourself with love.
The first thing I did with Hannah was to help her create, in her imagination, a spiritual source for her to turn to. When I asked her to do this, she immediately imagined her grandfather whom she had dearly loved as a child and who had died when she was five. She said she had often felt her grandfather around her but had never thought to turn to him for help. Now, as she imagined him holding her and loving her, she began to cry with the joy of feeling his love for her.
“Hannah,” I said, “while he is holding you, imagine the child part of you that wants to overeat. Imagine that you are holding her while your grandfather is holding you. Ask her how you are treating her that causes her to feel so empty and alone.”
Little Hannah had a lot to say, but it didn’t come out all at once. This is a summary of what her inner child eventually said to adult Hannah. “The thing you ALWAYS do that I just hate is you just go along with everything that Roger wants. What he wants and needs and feels is always more important to you than I am. You don’t speak up for me. Ever since we got married, it’s like Roger is supposed to make me happy instead of you making me happy. I need you to make me happy by taking care of me instead of taking care of Roger so that Roger will love us. I need you to love me.”
Hannah devoted herself to the practice of Inner Bonding, learning to turn to her grandfather for love and guidance, and to take care of herself instead of giving herself up to Roger. Through her Inner Bonding practice, she eventually healed her aloneness and her binge eating gradually vanished.
Sometimes people have difficulty making the choice to dialogue when an addiction is involved. It seems so much easier and more satisfying in the moment to grab the food, or the alcohol, drug, or cigarette than to take the time to find out what your inner child is feeling and needing from you. With addictions, the wounded self is so much in control that it takes a deep desire to be loving to yourself to start the process of developing a loving adult to heal addiction.
If you had a loving adult in charge of food, your loving adult:
- Would never shame you for your food challenges.
- Would hold you and dialogue with you when you’re feeling alone, anxious, or depressed, rather than numb you with food.
- Would tune into your body signals, feeding you when you are hungry and stopping when you are full, neither overfeeding nor underfeeding you.
- Would put only healthy food in your body – fresh, clean, preferably organic, avoiding factory farmed meats and dairy, pesticide-laden fruits and vegetables, and sugar-filled processed foods.
- Would place limits on the amount of junk food, sugar, caffeine, and chemicals you consume, allowing these only occasionally. Your adult would care enough about you to not indulge you.
- Would make sure you never consume things to which you have severe reactions and be disciplined enough and care enough about your wellbeing to follow through on this.
- Would make sure that you get to eat foods you love, except for foods that hurt you, so that you don’t end up feeling deprived.
- Would read about nutrition and make healthy choices for you rather than leaving this up to others.
- Would move into the Inner Bonding process when your wounded self wants to eat too much, too little, wants to purge, or wants unhealthy foods, exploring the feelings and beliefs that are leading to the addictive behavior and taking loving action to meet your needs in healthy ways.
- Would decide what weight is normal and healthy for you and attempt to maintain that weight through good nutrition and exercise.
- Would not allow your wounded self to make the decision regarding your healthy weight, since the view of your wounded self may be very distorted.
As I previously stated, food is a difficult addiction to deal with because, unlike other substance addictions such as nicotine, caffeine, alcohol, sugar and drugs, you cannot go into abstinence. One of the major ways of breaking an addiction is to stop doing it, and you can do this with other substances and with many process addictions, such as TV and sex. But you cannot stop eating for very long, and it is not healthy to do so.
Another reason it is a very difficult addiction to break is that it works so well to fill the emptiness that comes from not loving yourself. Food, especially some foods such as chocolate and muffins, feel very nurturing, so it may feel as if you are loving and nurturing yourself when you indulge in these foods. Until you are nurturing yourself in the way you need, being a loving adult to your inner child, this may be the only form of nurturing you have. You may not be able to give it up until the need for love and nurturing is being met from your own loving adult.
Taking responsibility for your feelings means that you are devoted to the practice of Inner Bonding – that instead of self-medicating you are doing Inner Bonding whenever there are distressing feelings.
You will know the joy and fulfillment of taking responsibility for your own feelings only when you do it. Start today with practicing staying present in your body in Step One, and doing Inner Bonding anytime you feel anything other than peace and fullness within.
I invite you to join me for my 30-Day at-home Course: “Love Yourself: An Inner Bonding Experience to Heal Anxiety, Depression, Shame, Addictions and Relationships.”
And you can learn so much about loving yourself and creating loving relationships from my recent books:
- And, How to Become Strong Enough to Love: Creating Loving Relationships Through the Six-Step Pathway of Inner Bonding
And we have so much to offer you at our website at https://www.innerbonding.com.
And, if you enjoyed this podcast, I would really appreciate it if you tell your friends about it, and if you give it a review wherever you heard it.
I’m sending you my love and my blessings.