The Role of a Dietitian in Food Addiction Recovery

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Contributor: Crystal Karges, MS, RDN, IBCLC Special Projects Coordinator at Eating Disorder Hope/Addiction Hope

When it comes to addiction, many people may automatically think about substance abuse or alcohol. However, a person can become addicted to anything that is used in extreme or for purposes other than what is originally intended. This may include anything from clothes to shopping, gambling, sex, and even food.

Food is Required for Living

While food is something that is required and necessary for living, a person can easily use food for the wrong purposes and become addicted to the experience of eating or the feelings that are created by eating certain foods.

Unlike a person who may be addicted to drugs or alcohol, a person addicted to food cannot simply be abstinent from their drug of choice, as eating is an obvious necessity for living.

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Because of the complexities involved with food intake and eating, comprehensive care and treatment is often needed to address the many underlying issues that may be associated with a food addiction.

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For example, an individual who frequently turns to food for comfort or as a means of escaping may have an underlying mental health issue that has never been addressed properly, such as anxiety or depression. Similarly, a person who turns to food as a method of dealing with overwhelming circumstances or emotions may have poor coping skills.

The factors that can influence the development of a food addiction are varied and may include:

  • Genetic predisposition
  • Family history
  • Environmental issues
  • Experience of traumatic circumstances
  • Social choices, and more

For these reasons, it is important to seek out professional treatment for a food addiction, just as a drug addict or alcoholic would need intervention for recovery and healing.

Dietitian’s Role

A professional that should be included in food addiction recovery is a registered dietitian, or specialist who understands nutrition therapy and interventions. Working with a registered dietitian can be a helpful part of recovering from a food addiction.

man sitting on overlook with back to cameraMany individuals who are addicted to food typically have a chaotic relationship with both food and their body.

They may be unsure about what to eat, how much to eat, and so on, as these choices are often influenced by emotion rather than by physical cues.

A dietitian can help guide an individual with a specifically designed meal plan that may outline recommendations for meal times, serving sizes and portions, and more.

Working within a framework or guide can be helpful for a food addict who has lost all sense of normalization when it comes to food and eating.

A registered dietitian can also be helpful in terms of education and nutrition counseling. Learning how to differentiate between physical and emotional hunger and fullness can be challenging, confusing, and overwhelming, and a dietitian can offer expertise and guidance in this area as well.

The collaboration between a registered dietitian and therapist can be invaluable for food addiction recovery, as underlying emotional issues may be discerned during nutrition counseling that should be fully processed with a therapist.

Many recovering food addicts may also feel concerned about their weight, and this may be something that is addressed with a dietitian as well. However, focusing on weight or weight loss in recovery from a food addiction can be a distraction from the deeper issues at hand and is more like treating the symptoms and not the problem itself.

man on trailA registered dietitian can help you better understand what might be appropriate weight goals for yourself while keeping your recovery from a food addition as the priority.

If you or someone you care for has been struggling with a food addiction, it is important to take the step towards seeking out professional help.

There may be shame and guilt preventing you from talking with someone about your struggles, but it is essential to understand the seriousness of this disorder and the need you have for appropriate care for recovery.

Consider working with a treatment team that includes a registered dietitian who specializes in food addiction to begin your road to recovery today.


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About the Author: Crystal is a Masters-level Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) with a specialty focus in eating disorders, maternal/child health and wellness, and intuitive eating. Combining clinical experience with a love of social media and writing, Crystal serves as the Special Projects Coordinator for Eating Disorder Hope/Addiction Hope, where her passion to help others find recovery and healing is integrated into each part of her work.

As a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor, Crystal has dedicated her career to helping others establish a healthy relationship with food and body through her work with EDH/AH and nutrition private practice.

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of addictions. These are not necessarily the views of Addiction Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Addiction Hope understand that addictions result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an addiction, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on January 31, 2016
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