Food Addiction Recovery

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Preparing yourself for a new way of eating

Follow the 10/40/50 Rule

10% food/biochemistry
40% behaviour change
50% group support

In the early days of recovery, you will be very vulnerable to cravings and temptations and withdrawal symptoms such as irritability, muscle cramps, headaches, reduced concentration, constipation or diarrhoea, fatigue and mild nausea, this is sometimes known as ‘keto-flu’.

We suggest abstinence from flour, grains and sugar for addiction due to the effect they have on the brain. These processed carbohydrates are unnaturally high in glucose and give some people an unnaturally high release of dopamine in the brain. Repeated intake of these foods leads to tolerance meaning they would need to eat more to get the same euphoric feeling released by the dopamine, leading to dependence and addiction.

Be prepared by doing everything you can to maximise your chances of getting at least two weeks of sugar-, flour- and grain-free eating under your belt.

  • Aim to do things that keep you distracted.
  • If you exercise, consider gentle exercises such as walking or yoga.
  • Rest if you feel you need to.
  • Don’t overdo it, be kind to yourself – remember you’re healing.
  • Tell friends and family of your plans and ask them to support you in your changes.
  • Avoid situations where a surplus of food is involved. When you have recovered you will be able to face these situations with confidence and a newfound freedom around food.

After at least 2 weeks, the majority of people will notice the withdrawal symptoms subsiding or stopping completely and notice the upsides of giving up these foods. they may feel more brighter mood, have reduced cravings, less bloating, more energy, better sleep, focus and productivity, healthy bowel movements and so on. Make a written note of these observations that come for you.

Having these benefits at hand and adding to them regularly, will help you to keep going and get you back on track if you sway.

  1. Set a date to start. Choose a time without too many big commitments, socialising or disruption but not a two-week holiday as it’s actually good to keep your mind distracted.
  2. Go through your cupboards, fridge and freezer in advance and get rid of all your ‘drug’ foods. From now on you are eating for health, not for amusement. Give stuff away, donate to the food bank or bin it. The bin is where that stuff belongs, not in you. You are not a dustbin. We understand that people hate food waste though, so give it away if you truly can’t bring yourself to bin it.
  3. Re-stock your fridge, freezer and cupboards with recovery foods from the green list. Some tins and jars are fine but ALWAYS read the label to check for SUGAR. It will surprise you where you’ll find it. Stock up on vegetables, meat and fish, frozen or fresh is fine. Consider shopping online for bulk items so you don’t need to be tempted at the supermarket.
  4. Have your own cupboard, fridge shelf and freezer section if other people in the house are not going to follow the same nutrition plan as you. The idea is to look as little as possible at trigger foods in the first few weeks. You will soon desire a cake as much as you desire pet food, this is just for the recovery period. Many of us can now happily go to buffets and walk straight past the chips, sandwiches, cakes and desserts. In the early days, that would have not been possible.
  5. Discuss with housemates and family what you are doing and why. It will depend on your circumstances whether you will be cooking for yourself or still catering for others. Consider making the main meal e.g., chicken curry and green beans then add microwave rice for those still eating it. Keep it simple.
  6. Plan your eating, particularly at first. Make sure you have plenty of tasty and nutritious real food so as not to be hungry. Fat is allowed and necessary for recovery. This is not a DIET. It’s a way of life.
  7. Start with three good meals a day based on protein, veg/salad and good fats. Have breakfast when you get hungry, if you never ate it, no need to start now, just have two good meals a day. Don’t eat after 6pm. This is much better for your metabolism.
  8. Try not to snack, but if you need to, choose something high in protein/fat.
  9. Some people who cut back hard on flour, grains and sugar may get withdrawal symptoms, sometimes called ‘keto-flu’ for a few days. This may include; headaches, mild nausea, poor concentration and muscle cramps. It is due to the body changing over to fat burning as a fuel rather than sugar. It helps to stay hydrated, avoid strenuous exercise, and increase dietary salt (the lower insulin levels cause you to wee out a lot of salt).
  10. If you are on prescribed medication, particularly for diabetes your plan will need checking with the doctor or nurse responsible in case doses need to change.


How do we get our daily dopamine in natural, healthy ways?

You can’t think, read or talk yourself out of addiction.

  1. Dopamine is made from tyrosine or phenylalanine which is in protein-rich foods like beef, pork, fish, chicken, cheese and seeds. So, base your meals on good-quality protein.
  2. After nutrition, regular exercise is just about the brain’s best medicine. It increases new brain cells, helping you to re-wire your brain, slows down brain ageing and increases dopamine. Find anything you enjoy that is active and notice how you feel before and after. Make some new habits around physical activity a daily priority. Walking, jogging, dancing, gardening, badminton, golf, yoga it doesn’t matter, just get moving! Prolonged sitting will lower dopamine. Eating and weight gain have often robbed us of the motivation to move around. Don’t think of exercise for weight loss or as punishment for eating but as the ultimate mood booster.
  3. Pay attention to stress levels. Easier said than done sometimes but worth always keeping in mind and learning how to keep stress at the right level for you. Meditation, massage and yoga have all been shown to increase dopamine. Learn not to take on too much. Be good to yourself.
  4. Make good sleep a priority. Go to bed and get up at regular times allowing for enough sleep. Turn screens off well before bedtime or invest in some blue light-blocking glasses – perhaps take the mantra of “my phone sleeps downstairs while I sleep upstairs”. Even one night’s poor sleep can down-regulate dopamine receptors. Research also shows that we are much more likely to overeat after a bad night. Talking of screens, beware of social media and games on your phone. They too can get you trapped in a bad addictive cycle.
  5. Listening to music seems to increase our dopamine levels. Get listening to your favourite music, or better still start playing an instrument!
  6. Pick hobbies that provide new discoveries or challenges. This can be sporting, such as playing with a team or trying to beat your personal best or it could be something like birdwatching, crafting or gardening where there are always new discoveries to be made. Try and develop a new skill or return to something you loved as a younger person. Jen’s a big knitter, which gives me something constructive and enjoyable to do in the evenings other than eating!
  7. Celebrate small wins every day. Make a list of stuff to do and enjoy ticking things off. Savour small victories.

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Help is at hand!

Here at Food Addiction Resources, we provide courses for individuals with Food Addiction regularly throughout the year,

  • Intensive weekends retreats
  • Online live groups
  • Online self-study course
  • 1-1 sessions.

We are regularly adding more dates to our live sessions, if you would like to be kept informed of the dates and what FAR is up to please feel free to sign up for our newsletter.