Does Fasting Help To Overcome Food Addiction?

Food addiction affects millions of people around the world. Our society is full of trigger foods and addictive substances, making eating healthy extremely challenging. Fast food addiction is an example of how society affects our eating choices. With fast food joints on every corner, how do we stick to wholesome foods?

food addicts fast food addict

Our brains are programmed to crave foods with the substances corporations put into processed, unhealthy foods. Sugar, for one, is highly addictive and a source of weight gain, sugar addiction, and compulsive overeating. Sugar addiction is comparable to drug addiction as it affects the same dopamine pathways in our brains.

Health professionals are seeing record numbers of patients who are obese or at an unhealthy weight as a result of food addiction.

What is Food Addiction?

The eating behaviors of a food addict are different from those of a regular eater. Food addiction is defined as “a disease which causes loss of control over the ability to stop eating certain foods.” Symptoms of food addiction include not being able to stop eating certain foods, persistently eating more food than one’s body requires, and eating in a way that is not good for one. Just like addictive drugs, food addiction is a disease of loneliness and desperation.

All kinds of programs and pills claim they can treat any form of food addiction and help with weight loss. Today, we will look at fasting to treat food addiction and other methods to treat food addiction.

What is Fasting?

Fasting is defined as consuming no calories during a specific period. It is a way for people to reset. It’s been shown to be very beneficial because fasting can improve heart health, lower blood sugar levels, and completely reset the body. There are many types of fasting, and we will explore a few of them today.

Before beginning a fast, it is a good idea to reduce any addictive substances you are using. This will help with the withdrawal symptoms associated with fasting. Reduce sugar by reducing the number of sweet foods you eat. Eliminate soda, fruit juice, and other sugary drinks.

A note about fasting for food addicts with eating disorders. Sober Speak does not recommend fasting for those with eating disorders. Please speak with your doctor or other health professional before trying fasting.

Types of Fasting

Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting is one of the most popular types of fasting. It involves eating between specific periods of time during the day, and there are numerous variations of intermittent fasting.

According to the website Zoe.com these are some of the types of Intermittent Fasting:

  1. 16/8: Refrain from eating for 16 hours, then eat within an 8-hour window.
  2. 18/6: Refrain from eating for 18 hours and eat within a 6-hour window. 
  3. 20/4: Refrain from eating for 20 hours and eat for 4 hours.

Another variation of intermittent fasting is severely limiting calories on certain days of the week. For example, you would eat normally for 6 days, and then on one day during that week, you limit calories to around 500-800. 

Consult your doctor before starting intermittent fasting. There can be risks involved.

Biblical Fasting

When reading the Bible, you’ll find several passages in the Old and New Testaments that refer to fasting. A familiar Bible story tells about the 40 days of fasting in Exodus. Moses, Jesus, and King David are Biblical figures who fasted for spiritual reasons. Biblical fasting includes praying and connection to God.

biblical fasting spiritual fasting prayer fasting

Types of Biblical Fasting:

1. Regular Fast – Refrain from eating all foods except drinking water (Matthew 4:2)

2. Partial Fast – This type of fast involves excluding a certain food from your diet. Daniel 10:3 speaks of Daniel’s diet in Babylon. Popular foods to refrain from eating for a period of time include caffeine, alcohol, or soft drinks. Another type of partial fast involves skipping one meal a day.

3. Absolute Fast – An Absolute fast is refraining from eating or drinking liquids. Due to our bodies’ need for sustenance, this type of fast should only be tried for a short period of time, less than three days.

4. Supernatural Fast – Moses fasted for a long time: 40 days (Deuteronomy 9:9). God enabled Moses to fast for 40 days.

Prayers for Biblical Fasting

Psalm 66:16-20

“Come and hear, all you who fear God,
and I will tell what he has done for me.
I cried aloud to him,
and he was extolled with my tongue.
If I had cherished iniquity in my heart,
the Lord would not have listened.
But truly God has listened;
he has given heed to the words of my prayer.

Blessed be God,
because he has not rejected my prayer
or removed his steadfast love from me.”

Low Carb/High Protein Diet

A low-carb diet is a type of fasting because it requires giving up many carbohydrates. One’s energy level may plummet on a low-carb diet, eliminating many palatable foods, including bread, fruits, juice, pasta, cereal, etc.

One popular diet that dramatically reduces carbs is the Keto diet. The ketogenic diet has been used to treat epilepsy since around 500 BC. Doctors reintroduced it in the 1920s. In more recent history, the keto diet has been a fad diet for those wanting to lose weight.

Water Fasting

Waterfasting.org claims that water fasting is a tool for overcoming all sorts of addictions, including food addiction. Like other fasting practices, water fasting eliminates food for a specific time period. The only substance consumed during a water fast is water. Water fasting claims to recalibrate your body and heal from the cycle of food addiction. They recommend using a coach to fast, someone who can help you daily through water fasting. 

Dr. Tallis Barker of Waterfasting.org offers water fasting coaching. According to the website, he has guided over 900 people worldwide in 3 to 40-day water fasts.

Should Anyone Avoid Fasting?

Skipping meals can be risky for those with certain medical conditions, such as diabetes. Fasting can cause dehydration due to the body’s loss of salt and water, which can cause headaches, dizziness, and fatigue.

Children and teenagers should not try fasting. Their bodies require additional calories for growth. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should avoid fasting. And those with an eating disorder should avoid fasting.

Other Methods to Treat Food Addiction

According to Healthline, these are the 4 treatment options for Food Addiction:

Support Groups

Instead of fasting, there are other choices to treat food addiction. Overeaters Anonymous was founded in 1960 as a treatment option for food addiction. Overeaters Anonymous is a “community of people who through shared experience, strength and hope are recovering from unhealthy relationships with food and body image.” In Overeaters Anonymous, there are 12 steps similar to Alcoholics Anonymous. People work the 12 steps and learn how to have a healthier relationship with food and themselves.

Other support groups for food addiction include Food Addicts Anonymous and Food Addicts in Recovery Anonymous.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a psychological tool that shows great promise in treating food addiction. Look for a therapist or psychologist who treats eating disorders or is familiar with food addiction.

Treatment Programs

There are a variety of treatment centers for food addiction. Here is a list from Healthline:

  • ACORN: They offer several treatment options, mostly in the
    United States.
  • Milestones in Recovery: Located in Florida,
    they offer long-term treatment for food addiction.
  • COR Retreat:
    Located in Minnesota, they offer a 5-day program.
  • The Turning Point: Based in Florida, they have options for several
    feeding and eating disorders.
  • Shades of Hope: Located in Texas, they offer both 6- and 42-day
    programs.
  • PROMIS: Based in the UK, they
    offer treatment for various feeding and eating disorders.
  • Bittens Addiction: They offer various
    options for those with feeding and eating disorders in Sweden.

Drug Therapy

We’ve all heard about the drug Ozempic and Wegovy being used to treat obesity. New scientific studies are seeing promising results with these drugs for binge eating disorders. Semaglutide is the ingredient in these drugs that causes a decrease in appetite and possibly changes our thoughts about food.

Another drug used for food addiction is Contrave. The combination of bupropion and naltrexone targets brain pathways that are thought to be involved with addictive foods.

Antidepressants can also be used to treat food addiction. Many times, depression is a source of food addiction, and antidepressants can help relieve depression.

Conclusion

Food addiction is not just a bad habit. It is an actual eating disorder that affects many. With the right tools and resources, food addiction can be treated. The process takes many years, and a lot of patience, and the food addiction struggle does not disappear overnight. 

Working with professionals and going to support groups has shown great promise. Their tools can treat food addiction, lead to a healthy lifestyle, and improve health.

Sources used in this article:

https://zoe.com/learn/how-to-fast

https://www.foodaddictioninstitute.org/post/what-is-food-addiction

https://oa.org

https://waterfasting.org

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19049574

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/food-addiction-treatment-find-help