Updated on October 04, 2007
What Are Food Obsessions
Addiction is physical. An addiction to something, like caffeine, makes you physically ill if you don't have it. Obsessions are mental. You feel bad mentally if you don't have the item you are obsessing about (like your favorite pizza, only found at the local pizza shop, that you've been thinking about all day, and have bought every day for the last month, suddenly becomes unavailable because the pizza shop closed down, and now you feel disappointed and even depressed). Keep in mind that you can become obsessed about an addiction, so even when your body isn't physically addicted to the substance, you may still obsess about it.
When it comes to food, obsession can take many forms, but they all have some characteristics in common. You love it when you see it. It's hard to say "no" to it. You get anxious or depressed if you can't have it or fear that you can't have it. You think about it a lot (whether or not your are conscious about the fact that you think about it a lot). What you get obsessed about can vary.
Some people are obsessed with a certain food or type of food. (This would fit the favorite pizza scenario.)
Some people are obsessed with eating food in general. A person obsessed with food might nibble on something all the time and not even realize it. Some people who are obsessed with food consciously think about food and even fantasize about it. Such obsessions may involve binging, which can be spontaneous or planned. (When coupled with body-image issues they can lead to bulimia or anorexia.)
Why Do We Have Obsessions
Some obsessions are simple, such as "I just love the taste of chili fries!"
Some obsessions are more complex. Perhaps you always felt controlled, and food is the one thing you feel you have control over, so you eat what you want, when you want, and how much you want (dammit!), or perhaps you refuse to eat at all. Perhaps you are worried that you may unexpectedly be stuck in a situation in which you'll be hungry or even starving to death, so you try to eat what you can whenever you can get it.
Some obsessions are just habitual. These are the ones that we do without even thinking about them. Eating when you're bored or eating when your hands or mouth are idle are common habitual food obsessions. Most people don't even remember eating after such constant nibbling, and they don't realize that they have an obsession until the food isn't available when they would normally eat it, and suddenly they can't stop thinking about food.
Habitual obsessions are easy to overcome if we just slowly find something else to replace the unhealthy habit. (For example, I took up knitting to keep my hands from being idle, so I'm less likely to nibble while watching television or when I'm a passenger in a vehicle.)
Other food obsessions require psychological changes. In such cases, it may be time to break out the self-help books at the library or start meeting with a psychotherapist. (No you're not crazy. Therapy is a good. Everybody should do it at least one time in their life.)
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