Functional Food Obsession?

We are in the midst of an overwhelming increase in the number of people that are obsessed with food. Eating disorders are rampant and 65% of North Americans are classified as overweight or obese. But what if this so called “problem” is really a wake up call? Like the canary in the coal mine, letting us know that something in our environment, that we can’t see, is killing us.

Despite a multimillion dollar diet and fitness industry – things are still getting worse. But what if there is a deeper purpose and reason for these problems? What if there is a useful function to this entire obsession with food? What if we approached this issue differently, just for a moment considering it as a gift or a source of guidance towards a new way of being in the world?

Research done in the early days of Alcoholic Anonymous revealed that as a group they were immature, self centered and grandiose. They were appalled, but agreed! These characteristics had to be dealt with to be able to achieve any lasting and comfortable sobriety.

Food addicts find similar deficiencies confronting them. The obsession with food is not lifted until they explore, address and eventually transform these same issues, the lack of impulse control, the enlightenment, and the high expectations of ourselves. These very things drive food addictions and eating disorders alike.

I am not saying there are not many diverse and complex factors contributing to the creations of these traits. There are. From the genes that make us vulnerable to addiction to the food services practices that promote problematic substances, there are many things to address.

Addressing complex issues is an ability of the mature person. There is a deep wisdom within each of us that can and will tell us how and what to do to set a course for evolving wellness. But living in a society that promotes quick, easy and painless symptom relief discourages the process. And so we just keep feeding the obsession whether it is food or any other form of relief.

And when the negative effects of the “relief” pile up we resort to even more extreme cures. But pills and operations don’t get to the root of the problem and often create more problems themselves. While we concern ourselves with finding ways to continue living the way we are without suffering the consequences, we can’t possibly commit ourselves to the exploration and evolution of what we could become.

But perhaps we can use the very obsession we struggle with to set us free. The compulsion to eat is not an immoral or illogical urge. It is woven of biological, emotional, psychological and soulful threads. What if we simply came to it with a respectful curiosity? What if we simply asked that urge what it was trying to tell us or do for us?

I have found in my personal and professional experience that there is always a reason. Brain chemical issues, repressed trauma, learned behavior from the family or society, addiction, a stress reaction or hundreds of combinations of these. It doesn’t always make sense.

Actually in the beginning it often doesn’t make sense. Why in the world would we feel like we would die if we didn’t get another piece of cheese cake? The panic response to considering not eating is there under every compulsion regardless of its origin. So we must sit through the panic to listen and learn the deeper stories of our souls.

Can you imagine 65% of people sitting with themselves until their destructive impulses passed and they gained deeper connection with themselves and the world around them? This doesn’t sound like a bad thing. Addiction has always encouraged evolution, both of the individual and the society.

People can mistake the treatment of addiction for the cessation of use of some substance or behavior. That is only the beginning. The cessation of the addictive practice to provides the space and time to make an inward journey releasing all the unnecessary emotional and mental clutter that prevents real life.

Maybe, the function of this entire obsession with food and weight could be the impetus for a radical change in each individual that would create a dynamic change in our society. Imagine a society where individuals listened to their bodies to discover what they should eat, think and do.

We would not have to outlaw hydrogenated oil; people would simply not choose it. It takes time and patience to develop this kind of self connection and knowing. But the rewards are tremendous and far beyond peace with the body and the food. Clients have told me they finally feel able to grow up and be themselves in the world.

So next time you have a craving or compulsion around food, perhaps you could explore what message you are being given. What is it you really want? Do you want French fries or do you want to feel good? Do you want chocolate or do you want connection? Do you want to lose physical weight or self hate?

Whether you explore it before, during or after the fact of eating, your food obsession is waiting to show you the way home.

Author's Bio: 

Nancy Anderson Dolan has beat the odds. She is one of the 5% of people that lost significant weight, 150lbs in fact, and has kept it off for over a decade. Being a food addict, a counsellor and a business person for larger sizes, has given her a unique viewpoint on problem eating.

From her obsession with food that started at 2 years old, that was an inherited vulnerability to addictive patterns, fed by trauma and cultural influences, to her rock bottom 29 years later suicidally depressed, diagnosed with fybromyagial, chronic fatigue and high blood pressure she hit many of the highlights or perhaps low lights of a food addicts typical career.

At the end Nancy had to carry food in her pockets at all times and was gaining a pound a day, all this despite a degree in psychology and a career in counseling. No diet, no doctor, no therapist or exercise program ever helped for long. The insane eating just kept going on and on and on, no matter what.

And then Anderson Dolan learned the idea of addiction and the light finally went on. From that time in 1989 things just kept getting better and better. It wasn’t quick and it wasn’t simple. Obesity and food addiction is a complex issue requiring long view interventions.

Today she works tirelessly educating and treating people with compulsive or addictive eating problems. From her work with the International Eating Disorders Association of Professionals helping diverse countries to share their growing knowledge, to the free seminars available to public and professionals Anderson Dolan is striving to help people understand this phenomenon. .

Freedom from the food fix is what she wants for people. Not just thin bodies or nice looking diet plans, but bone deep release of the need to use the food to cope with life.
Working both within the addictions and eating disorders communities, Anderson Dolan hopes to unite the two in looking at chronic eating issues with a new perspective.

Embarking on research and investigating all that is out there, on subjects from brain chemistry to food marketing informs her trainings and intensive treatment programs.
Anderson Dolan is committed to doing what it takes to help people find their answers and gain mastery of their weight and eating issues.

Whether she is developing new intervention tools, writing, speaking, researching or counseling Anderson Dolan is sure to mention these things; that there is a way out of addictive eating patterns and no one should try to find it alone. It is an issue of information and orientation not willpower.

Special Affiliate – Canadian Psychological Association
Canadian Physiological Association – Addictions Committee
International Association of Eating Disorder Professionals – International Committee
Calgary Eating Disorder Network
Canadian Obesity Network