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Food As A Treatment

I saw a patient several days ago that has not been very successful in losing weight.  When I see a trend on the week-week weigh-ins that that weight is not coming down my approach is to discuss with the patient what his/her current strategy is, how that strategy is deviating from our dietary plan, the reasons why the recommended dietary plan is not being adhered to and then how we can enact a plan that brings the person more in line with our dietary approach.  The patient very quickly told me the reason why too many carbohydrates, snack foods and alcohol were being consumed: The patient is working through severe anxiety issues and those derailing foods/drinks provide a temporary respite from the extreme anxiety.  

We often look at food as a “feel good” temporary escape.

It is often the case that we use high-caloric/high-sugar foods and/or alcohol as “treatments” for medical conditions we are experiencing.  These conditions may include sleep problems, anxiety, depression and/or chronic pain.  Many people will opt for the food/drink “treatment” as opposed to prescription medications for these reasons:

  • Not wanting to see a doctor or having difficulty getting in to see a doctor 
  • Fear of side effects of prescription medications
  • Fear of the stigma of being on prescription psychoactive medications 
  • Relative convenience and low expense of foods/alcohol as opposed to prescription medication

During your long-term weight control journey, take a step back and self-analyze whether you are using derailing food/drink sources as a “treatment” for something else going on in your life.  Clearly, any positive impact of these foods/drinks are quickly wiped out and replaced with the same problems and now an additional one:  Not being able to shed weight.

Yes, no one wants “sleeping pills”, benzo tranquilizers, anti-depressants or potentially addicting pain medications.  However, treatments must always include an in-depth “risk-benefit” analysis, and with careful prescribing and monitoring, medications or more natural approaches such as medical marijuana may turn out to be far dangerous to people than being overweight/obese due to ingesting a bunch of carbs and alcohol as treatments.

What the alternatives to treat weight gain?

If after your self-analysis you conclude that you are, in fact, turning to food/alcohol as a treatment for something else, please visit with your primary care doctor to discuss the alternatives.  By doing so, you may get positive results on both ends:  Better treatment for the underlying medical problems AND better weight control.

Summary: We often look at food as a “feel good” temporary escape. Food cravings coming from chemical factors that produce immediate relief from anxiety, stress, depression, chronic pain and etc. How to find the best treatment for the existing medical problems and better weight control? 

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