FOOD ADDICTION / COMPULSIVE OVEREATING: "Signs and Symptoms:"
Within the professional community there is considerable debate as to what exactly the term "food addiction" represents. Those of us who approach compulsive overeating and related eating disorders from an addictions perspective have come to realize most "food addicts" do not handle highly processed [junk] food the way non-food addicts do. Briefly stated, most compulsive overeaters tend to become dependent, not upon food, but rather specific foods that are laden with sugar and/or flour [high glycemic foods]. A few others may attempt to sidestep this addiction and find themselves dependent on excessive volumes of foods.
Signs and symptoms Food Addiction / Compulsive Overeating
- Preoccupation with food.
- Tendency to overeat sugar/flour products or trouble with volume
- Rapid eating or eating constantly [grazing]
- Sneaking or hoarding food - even immediately after meals.
- Feeling ashamed or fearful when confronted about the problem.
- Body Image Shame [Shame about size / body weight / appearance]
- Sense of "losing control" with food and weight.
- Feeling lonely, depressed, worried, preoccupied.
- Spending a great deal of time alone / social isolation
- Claiming continued hunger despite adequate food consumption
- Social Isolation
Treating Food Addiction and COE at Milestones
As with most other eating disorders, treatment assumes there exists an addictive or "dependent" relationship with food and, the "food addict" meets a minimum of three  of the criteria listed by the American Psychiatric Association characteristic of a "substance dependency."
The program offered at Milestones is comprised of two primary components, making the treatment experience unique among most programs.
The first is the setting - utilizing apartment-style residences affording residential participants to experience treatment in a "real world" environment. Participants grocery shop with our dietitian in the community, learn to prepare their own meals per the prescribed food / meal plan they have formulated along with the dietitian, attend a full schedule of groups and individual therapies at our clinical campus [near the residential complex], attend local community support groups in the evenings, and visit with our physicians and clinical staff regularly throughout their stay. In effect, the experience is one of providing a supportive and structured setting without the restrictive elements of a "hospital" or institutional facility. A key element in providing the support necessary to begin recovery is remaining in the company of other participants during the initial phase of the treatment. This provides both a form of supervision and a deterrent from the behavior often associated with binge eating: namely eating in isolation or alone.
Secondly, Milestones approaches treatment from a more "holistic" perspective. Doing so is best described by the acronym "SERF" - Spirituality, Exercise, Rest, and Food Plan.
Spirituality need not equate with any religious or spiritual beliefs imposed on or by anyone. In fact, Spirituality at Milestones simply is left up to the individual to cultivate with his or her own working definition. For most, it is a belief in a "higher power" and still for others it may be a return to some of their original religious beliefs. For everyone, it is an individual journey.
Exercise is individualized and represents collaboration between the resident and clinical team. It is meant to be in the service of restoring and maintaining a healthy body rather than an "intensive" means of controlling body weight.
Rest is simply about finding the correct balance in recovery between work and play and narrowing the gap between an "all or none", "feast or famine" approach to daily living.
The food plan suggested by Milestones is a blend of structured eating and a combination of healthy, whole foods that are bought and prepared by participates with the guidance and supervision of our dietitian and ancillary staff. In brief participants select their own preferences within the guidelines of their individual food plans. The guidelines require participants to abstain from "junk foods" and eliminate most highly processed [sugar and flour laden] food products as well as weigh and measure portions per their food plan while in residence.
Residents are assigned a primary [individual] therapist whom they meet with on a regular basis during their stay as well as attend groups and experiential therapies per the schedule In sum, the physical, emotional and spiritual aspects of food addiction are addressed within these formats. Additional members of our clinical staff include our psychiatrist [providing medication management and consulting services for depression and related mood disorders if needed], internal medicine [to monitor medical issues and provide treatment as needed] registered dietitian [to monitor body weight, exercise, and food plan] and licensed therapists. Above is a link on lour website to our daily schedule.