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Ask HN: Food Addiction

I'm very obsessive and it makes me very susceptible to addictions. I have very poor moderation but I've got strong will power.

I was able to stopped smoking, drinking alcohol and playing video games by just getting rid of all the "paraphernalia" and quitting cold turkey. After a good year or so of complete abstinence, I was able to introduce those things back in my life and exercise moderation. I could drink socially and play video games without harming my work productivity, etc.

Now I'm struggling with food addiction, which ended up being my escape valve and receiving all my obsession after I quit everything else.

I've tried fasting and I was able to do 18h fasts daily with no problem and even go over a week without eating, just on water and herbal tea. But that completely messed up my habits, metabolism and relationship with food, and I'm now struggling to follow a schedule and any kind of diet.

So I was looking for a way to "quit food" without the unpleasant side effect of death. This is not about weight, I'm a bit overweight yes, but I exercise and am able to keep a decent shape. The real problem is that my blood work is starting to approach the higher ends of what is considered ok. And I'd love to avoid becoming diabetic and obese in my later life.

I'd love to know if anyone has been able to completely replace food with protein powders and vitamins, hospital liquid diet, or any other alternative. The idea here is to abstain from food for a full year and then restart eating normally with a light balanced diet with a nutritionist's help.

Has anyone done this or is familiar with the supporting science? What is recommended or non-obvious mistakes to avoid?

Thanks!

  • 31 points
  • 1 hour ago

  • @magusd
  • Created a post

Ask HN: Food Addiction


@_moof 58 minutes

Replying to @magusd 🎙

> I've tried fasting and I was able to do 18h fasts daily with no problem and even go over a week without eating, just on water and herbal tea. But that completely messed up my habits, metabolism and relationship with food, and I'm now struggling to follow a schedule and any kind of diet.

This is called restricting, and it's classic eating disorder behavior.

> I'd love to know if anyone has been able to completely replace food with protein powders and vitamins, hospital liquid diet, or any other alternative. The idea here is to abstain from food for a full year and then restart eating normally with a light balanced diet with a nutritionist's help.

This is incredibly dangerous. Don't do this.

Get a nutritionist, and seek professional help to recover from your food addiction/eating disorder. Most importantly, do what they say.

The internet is rife with people who have active eating disorders and will make yours worse in an effort to justify their own unhealthy behavior. It's almost never a good idea to take the internet's advice on psychiatric matters, but in this area it is especially dangerous.

Get off the internet and get professional help.

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@adbachman 1 hour

Replying to @magusd 🎙

Have you talked with a therapist?

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@CuriousSkeptic 3 minutes

Replying to @magusd 🎙

I don’t think there is any reason to go fasting for an entire year to kick addiction. Also it can be very dangerous, both for you and your microbiome.

As others have suggested. Seek out a therapist to CBT or some such instead. Possibly you have non-food related issues you’d rather tackle on its own. Also, eating disorders has a tendency to get worse when tackled individually, so really do get help if there is a need.

As for fasting, I found 3-5 days is all it takes to recalibrate hunger and kick sugar cravings. Make sure your not malnourished before fasting. Either way, _do not_ fast (or cut out selected nutrients) for long periods without consulting a doctor.

As for diets, probably no need to go for any crazy fad diets. Just go with the current science: make sure you have enough fiber, polyphenols and other prebiotics (eat your fruits and vegetables as it were) cut down on fat, salt, sugar and meat.

It takes 14-days to rebalance your micro biome, so just stick with healthy foods for two weeks and you'll probably find that will be what you crave after that.

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@samatman 1 hour

Replying to @magusd 🎙

I say this in a friendly way, it sounds like you're developing an eating disorder.

Maybe go see a doctor who deals in both nutrition and disordered eating, they exist, see what he or she thinks.

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@meristohm 1 hour

Replying to @magusd 🎙

I can relate: stopped drinking alcohol in early 2020, and videogames are mostly social now, to stay in touch with a few good friends, and I still struggle with food. Practicing fasting helped me be able to go without the "safety blanket" of always having snacks in the car, for example. Because I have a young child, and a spouse who prefers to eat throughout the day, I'm still surrounded by food. When I'm feeling more stressed it is that much harder to stick to my narrower eating window. Coffee and fats help, and warm salty water.

I'd be wary of going without "real" food for a year. Fiber and plants in general feel like such an important part of my diet, and the pleasure of eating for an hour and feeling full of healthy food seems like a healthy part of life. Relegating sugar to a condiment at best is an important step toward being able to notice the compulsion to eat, and then do something else instead.

What you're proposing sounds interesting but also something I wouldn't opt for myself. Everyone is different, though, and we're for the most part free to try things. I keep a journal and that helps me be more aware and forgive myself when I don't do exactly what I'd prefer. Helps obviate regret.

My default at this point is to delay breakfast, ideally until mid-afternoon, and have one more meal a few hours later, with the family. Sometimes I skip that if I'm still full from the break-fast. It's taken months of practice, and I'm not as regimented as I'd like, but it's better than before.

I hope you find something that works.

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@rc_kas 26 minutes

Replying to @magusd 🎙

> completely replace food with protein powders and vitamins

Woah don’t do that. That is a bit too much. Just pick foods that you won’t eat. Highly processed or highly fatty or whatever. Personally I stopped eating cheese and it’s been good for me.

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@magneticnorth 1 hour

Replying to @magusd 🎙

I know someone who successfully got their food addiction under control via “FA” - see foodaddicts.org. Basically they put you on a strict food plan where you weigh & measure all parts of your meals and avoid sugar and any of your personal triggers, and you check in regularly with a sponsor like in AA. Not something I would want to do, but for one person I know who couldn’t get their eating under control, it worked really well.

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@nonrandomstring 53 minutes

Replying to @magusd 🎙

Sounds like you're really working hard, and digging deep.

It also sounds like you might be experiencing addiction replacement/displacement, when you "overcome" one thing and shift the focus on to something new [2]. People can go through the whole gamut - alcohol, drugs, gambling, pornography, and still end up in something more socially "acceptable" like shopping or phone overuse. Even the act of "overcoming" can itself be an obsessive (control desire) act.

I'll second the comments saying maybe talk to a therapist [2]

What you're looking for is a "hole" (feels like an inadequacy or deprivation threat). When you hit it and deal with it, the other stuff will fall into line. Good luck.

[1] https://www.addictioncenter.com/community/addiction-replacem...

[2] Don't get addicted to therapy :)

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@hshf 1 hour

Replying to @magusd 🎙

Take a look at bright line eating

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@loxs 24 minutes

Replying to @magusd 🎙

I am in my second year of controlling my weight. Down ~30kg and I am in the healthy range now for more than 6 months. So far it seems to be sustainable. I am in a paid fitness (online) group and I have learned a lot, though it's still up to me to find ways to fit into the requirements... Here are some random observations that seem to work for ME (might be different for you).

- Nothing "extreme" works for me, as it's not sustainable for periods longer than a few months. I did keto... works for some time, then a total rebound. In the end it seems that a "balanced diet" works. For me (and my training regimen) this means 150g protein, 180g carbs and 50g fat per day.

- While you are cutting, you have to weigh everything you eat. There is no good way around this as you cannot control what you don't know and you can't know how much you eat unless you measure it.

- It's perfectly fine to eat completely uniform food every day for some months. For the first months, for me it was chicken breast, raw cabbage, peaches, cheese and the occasional high-protein pudding. This puts the dopamine under control, as you (or at least me) get trained to not expect anything "special", ever. After some months I was able to start varying a bit, while still staying 100% within my macros (no more and no less of each macronutrient). After some time I stopped weighing the veggies I eat and now I eat all of them (like broccoli, kale, turnips, tomatoes, cucumbers, salads etc.). I eat all kinds of meat and seafood. Mostly never eat any vegetable oil, as meat and cheese provides the needed quantities.

- Yeah, what I described above is almost exactly the same as your described "quitting food", just it's "healthy", as you consume enough fibre. Yeah, do supplement with some multivitamins.

- You have to cook, no way around it. But it's not as frightening as it sounds. Once you accept bland (and uniform) food... it's easy. Buy an Instant Pot and start prepping the meat there. 2 kilos of chicken breast under pressure for 10 minutes will last you a week.

- Always have your "correct" food handy, so that you don't need to eat something else, or think what to eat. (yeah, buy the instant pot).

- Throw away all the "junk" food you own and never buy any.

- If you are out and you are not able to eat your "right" food, just fast and eat at home whenever that is. Yeah, I get it it might not be possible for everyone, but it's possible for me.

- Don't do this initially (the first months), but later... everything is allowed if you do not exceed your macros. French fries? Alright, you can have that now and then. Pizza? Sure thing, I am having a slice or two almost every week. But never exceed macros.

- Artificial sweeteners are your friend when you are in a crisis. (Ab)use them as much as you want and you are still better than being fat (or having bad lab readings as you mentioned).

- If you are still hungry, always have cabbage/kale/etc. handy. You can eat as much as you want in raw form (and in several months you will start to like it, I promise).

- Fasting is mostly not a great idea as it doesn't help you learn how/what to eat and how to control your cravings. After lots of experimentation with it, I arrived at 3 meals a day with carbs early in the day. Breakfast in the morning, then lunch, then a light dinner around 4 and no food afterwards. Yeah, if you are a social person it will suck. But I guess you can find your own thing... but don't be afraid to experiment and don't have prejudices. I always thought that having breakfast is not my thing (or a good idea) despite the overwhelming evidence for the contrary. Yeah, there are actually studies that show that it's beneficiary to eat early in the day, opposed to late. But if your body is broken you will need time to arrive to this.

- Despite the previous point, initially do whatever works. At least for several months. Then what works will change. Do not be afraid to follow along.

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@DoreenMichele 1 hour

Replying to @magusd 🎙

Let me suggest you likely have some kind of vitamin deficiency making you obsessive. Address that and your relationship to food may stop being so problematic.

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@badrabbit 51 minutes

Replying to @magusd 🎙

Speaking from my own addictions: there has always been some underlying cause. With enough motivation, I was able to break free just like you did from smoking,etc... but working to resolve the addiction without resolving the root cause and any current environmental conditions to which you are responding to by eating will never work. I am in the same boat as you, what I have found out is, finding the problem is only the first step, there are many steps before actually solving it.

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@mdp2021 23 minutes

Replying to @magusd 🎙

> I'd love to know if anyone has been able to completely replace food with protein powders and vitamins, hospital liquid diet, or any other alternative. The idea here is to abstain from food for a full year and then restart eating normally with a light balanced diet with a nutritionist's help

Please, please, please: live naturally. Respect nature. You are made of nature. Treat yourself properly. If it is unnatural, do not do it. You take an award for having introduced to our collective mind the unthinkable concept, «abstain from food for a full year».

If you have strong will power, consider the game of "forcing yourself to the healthiest diet ever".

(Since you are there, consider proceeding to considering the game of "forcing yourself to the healthiest life ever". There may be a chance that it could help with the «obsessive» side and finding some better «escape valve».)

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@lambdaba 1 hour

Replying to @magusd 🎙

Just do a carnivore / zerocarb diet, that's actually healthy (none of that liquid diet / powder nonsense).

Lots of people doing it are doing it for the same reasons as you, so you'll find support if you need it.

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@scantis 50 minutes

Replying to @magusd 🎙

Those things are fun, I did a lot of abstinence experiments myself when I was young. I learned that I don't want any constraints for food ever.

Eating only powdered protein low quality and fake stuff will mess you up and your kidneys. So I once choose coma patient food. It comes in many varieties for all ages and is cheap in bulk. It is complete, tastes medium awful and you only feel horrible for the first few days. Then just drained, zombified and mildly happy until you can't take this stuff anymore. High fibre content is important.

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@redredrobot 48 minutes

Replying to @magusd 🎙

Did you actual address your addictions or did you just fill that hole with something new and so moderation became easy? I would suggest stop focusing on the symptoms and focus on the underlying problem that is driving your addictions, whether that is unhappiness or persistent habit triggers or whatever it might be. If you "quit food" will you just be writing this same post next year but with a new addiction?

More concretely:

- Identify why you need an "escape valve". Understand that having an escape valve that dominates your life negatively is the problem, not the shape that valve takes

- Identify the triggers that push you to the escape valve. Both the long-term triggers (for example, it could be being stressed or unhappy) and the immediate habit triggers (for example, it could be seeing paraphernalia or being extremely hungry). Try to reduce the long-term triggers. Try to develop new habits around the immediate triggers (trigger still exists, but habit response is something you want to do). Being aware of your habit loop is IMO important for improving how you react to triggers (therapy can be really helpful here)

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@vxxzy 1 hour

Replying to @magusd 🎙

After about a week or so, following a strict keto diet (<20 net carbs), destroys my compulsion for food. Something along the lines of, “Yeah I could eat, but I don’t _have_ to”. It does take willpower at first, but getting your body off of the sugar/carb craving can do wonders. Hit me up if you wanna chat more - email in my profile.

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@ergonaught 1 hour

Replying to @magusd 🎙



@kodisha 46 minutes

Replying to @magusd 🎙

I excersize a LOT.

I admitted defeat. I love food.

But then I quit all of the shitty stuff, no more sweet stuff, no more sodas, no more potato chips.

Weight went down, but I stagnated again. Then I started again with High Intensity training - and that's it, food still goes in, food gets burned down.

Never felt better.

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@andsoitis 1 hour

Replying to @magusd 🎙

> I have very poor moderation but I've got strong will power.

There's a paradox in there. My suggestion would be to explore that.

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@kX4A8o4mVmX8aW 45 minutes

Replying to @magusd 🎙

Generally you can't white-knuckle your way out of obsession disorders. A common strategy for overcoming obsession disorders is to reduce the power they have by not giving into them, by acknowledging them honestly and observing them with curiosity but not engaging. If you drastically rework your eating habits to indulge your obsession, that can give it much more power and make things much worse.

So the "simple" solution is to just eat normally and try not to worry about it. Unfortunately that can be much, much harder said than done. In your case it seems like you are already in crisis, having already done a week-long water and tea fast and now actively considering a year-long liquid and vitamin diet. These are huge red flags. They may seem reasonable to you in your current mental state but they are major warning signs.

I strongly encourage you to seek professional mental help as soon as you can. I discourage you from trying to be your own therapist, unfortunately that can turn into an obsession on its own.

Disregard all comments here that focus on food instead of mental health.

I'm very sorry you are struggling. Good luck.

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@crispyambulance 17 minutes

Replying to @magusd 🎙

> The idea here is to abstain from food for a full year and then restart eating normally with a light balanced diet with a nutritionist's help.

Why not just start with that instead of "abstain[ing] from food for a full year"? That's what a nutritionist is FOR!

If you got strong will power, but weak moderation it means you just need structure.

But if you have to do it yourself, why not count calories?

It's simple and works for many folks. Select nutritious foods that you like and that comports with your culture, weigh yourself everyday and count calories (using one of many apps that even break it down to your component nutrients). Limit calories to a level that lowers your weight 1-2 lbs a week. Adjust as needed... but keep doing it even after you've leveled off to your target weight, do it until it's a habit, and start again if your clothes get tight.

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@mrpf1ster 43 minutes

Replying to @magusd 🎙

You need to develop a healthy relationship with food and change “what” you eat. You can’t just quit food or you’ll feel miserable and eventually go back to old habits. Not to mention it being incredibly unhealthy.

I would really recommend watching this podcast episode: https://youtu.be/C-H4KwoKaOc

It goes into the science of different macronutrients and how they effect your body.

A quick tldw: Eat lots more of protein and fiber, they will make you feel full and we don’t get enough of it unlike sugar/carbs that are everywhere in modern diets.

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@calculated 1 hour

Replying to @magusd 🎙

Your problem doesn't lie in to what you're currently addicted to but the addiction and obessiveness as a whole. I have the same problem and when I stop myself from consuming something it just turns out that I have switched it with something else. I've been able to stop drinking, smoking, etc. but I've found other alternative sources of addiction in their place. I don't know how to solve the problem of addiction as a whole yet but you should focus on that in my opinion.

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@romx 1 hour

Replying to @magusd 🎙

Nadie puede ser feliz

Reply


@halfmatthalfcat 1 hour

Replying to @magusd 🎙

Echoing the comments on trying therapy, a nutritionist and/or a weight coach. Doing a weight loss transformation and keeping it off is very hard to do alone. I say this after losing over 100lbs in a previous life.

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@novok 11 minutes

Replying to @magusd 🎙

Go get assessed and see if you do have ADHD, OCD or something else. If you have ADHD then a lot of the 'dopamine seeking' behaviors make a lot more sense and medication can actually help reduce your food addiction and general addiction susceptibility. If you are a girl, and/or the non-hyperactive type of ADHD and a smart kid, it can be fairly easy to be overlooked, since your 'doing ok' in school, even though it's your intelligence just papering over that fact.

Another way to go cold turkey is to ban all 'junk food & carbs' paraphernalia and just go whole foods / non-processed veggies and meat.

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@nurettin 1 hour

Replying to @magusd 🎙

Skip breakfast, heavy lunch with dessert, then soup for dinner. Do this for six months. You're welcome.

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@COGlory 38 minutes

Replying to @magusd 🎙

Disclaimer: I'm not a dietitian, although I do have a B.S. in Nutritional Science with a didactic focus.

What you are describing has all the hallmarks of a psychological condition (eating disorder) and not a physical condition (poor diet).

You should not attempt to treat this yourself, and you should especially not attempt to treat it by changing your eating habits. Changing you eating habits will not treat a psychological disorder. Eat a healthy balanced diet, and seek medical care if you are having trouble with that.

Otherwise it's like trying to fix a flat tire by changing your oil.

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@lozenge 1 hour

Replying to @magusd 🎙

>my blood work is starting to approach the higher ends of what is considered ok.

Your blood work is showing you are healthy. It doesn't sound like there's any need to change your diet.

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