A Hunger for LoveWhile a person may not want to say the words out loud, they struggle with hunger. It’s not a hunger for food but love. Admitting their need for love can be extremely difficult, especially if they have experienced pain from love. But it is the first step out of their addiction. They may have to probe and push to get in touch with the truth. And honesty is the way to start climbing out of the pit.

Being honest about the depth of a person’s emotional pain is extremely difficult. No one wants to get in touch with the root of the pain system—this renews the loss and deprivation that they’re trying desperately to avoid. Generally, a person’s apprehension twists their opinion of themselves, leaving them with low self-esteem.

A person must learn that self-esteem is not only a product of accomplishment, but enduring self-esteem rests on a sense of self-worth intrinsically. After all, everyone is a child of God. I John 3:1 (NLT) says: “See how very much our heavenly Father loves us, for he allows us to be called his children, and we really are!” Each person must recognize and accept this fact as true.

The addictive process is an endlessly turning wheel until something breaks the cycle. For the alcoholic, the chemical content of alcohol keeps the wheel moving. Food addiction requires acceptance of the fact that food is having a similar effect on them. Breaking the cycle requires a connection with others and understanding the source of the pain; both are needed to begin recovery.

Often people overeat because feeling full gives them a sense of relief, which pushes away the gnawing feelings they are feeling. Unfortunately, the effects of consistently overeating pile up and begin endangering their health. It also is a cycle of dissatisfaction in which the food never addresses the true need.

When someone eats, blood sugar levels rise and neurochemicals, called endorphins, are released to give them a sense of well-being. Runners often experience a similar pleasant sensation. Food has turned into a tranquilizer—the quest for this feeling of well-being turns into food addiction over time.

Finally, food addiction can distance a person from others. When a person is healthy, they gather around a table to connect over a meal. However, some people who were victimized believe that eating excessively can keep people and—ultimately—pain away from them. They protect themselves from any further abuse or unexpected rejection, and at the same time prevent the potential for connection which can bring healing.

When someone is caught up in this swirl of confusion, they need to put food back in its proper place. The Life Recovery Workbook for Eating Disorders can help. To find a licensed counselor, call 800-NEW-LIFE.