Any addiction is surrounded by particular ways of thinking. So much gets said about biochemistry – that overeating is driven by physical imbalances such as insulin, leptin, dopamine, etc, etc. I don’t doubt they’re involved, but it’s best to address the ways you are thinking – your beliefs – that support the addiction first. Then you get to change the behaviour – what you’re eating – and the rest can sort itself out as a result of you making better food choices.
The thinking that supports addiction is a defence, and addiction defends itself because the brain is being tricked into responding as if survival is at stake. The brain acts as if you really might die if you don’t eat that cake or smoke that cigarette. So you get an automatic thought process that encourages consumption – and it’s always appropriate to each individual and to each circumstance.
These beliefs show up in a wide variety of ways. There could be a kind of “it won’t happen to me” denial, alternating with its opposite, “it’s in my genes no matter what I do”. Then “I’m too busy to think about this right now” keeps it going until unmistakable, unavoidable illness delivers a shock to the whole system. Then it can be a case of, “it’s too late to do anything about it now” and “it’s not possible to change – I’ll always fail.”
None of any of that is true; these are nothing more than examples of the addiction supporting itself. When it comes to food addiction (overeating), there are two main difficulties even in seeing this in the first place.
One is that the addictive overeating is so easily confused with the food you need, either in terms of the quantity or the quality of food. They can be literally mixed together on your plate – and often are!
The other and perhaps more problematic difficulty is that the overwhelming majority in our culture today are buying into these ways of thinking. So not only does each individual perpetuate their overeating with these attitudes, but also the people they come into contact with. This includes friends and family, and it includes the media, food producers, advertisers, restaurants, supermarkets, the dieting industry… I could of course go on.