Anyone who has struggled with their weight (I mean, really struggled) can tell you that the fight is not fair. Unlike other addictions (drugs, alcohol, or gambling), you can't go cold turkey with food. One must learn to do the seemingly impossible which is, learning to eat in moderation.

If you are worried you have an addiction to food you likely have a weight problem. Addictions are powerful habits. Food addictions are no different. Like many habits, there are biological factors at work, but people can overcome their addictions - even food addictions.

Charles Duhigg presents a powerful model for understanding and changing habits in his bestselling book, The Power of Habit. Every habit involves three stages: a Cue, a Routine and a Reward.

The key to changing a habit is to substitute the routine. For instance, if you routinely go to the vending machines for a cookie at 3:00 in the afternoon and eat it, you can identify all 3 stages of the "habit loop" in your behavior.

Let's break this down. It isn't obvious what "cues" you to go get a cookie. Is it the clock, your workmates, or that you start to nod off and need an excuse to get up from your chair? In any case, you can evaluate this by simply taking note of what triggers you to go get a cookie.

Getting the cookie and eating it is your "routine". You choose to do that. You likely do it without much thought if it is truly a habit. You're going on autopilot. At some level, however, this step is the easiest to understand and change.

The "reward" is the trickiest part to understand. By going to get a cookie, your brain is getting a reward that has caused it to remember the routine and execute it every time the cue triggers it.

There may be a number of things at work, however. The reward your brain experiences may not be inherent in the cookie but could be in the break from the monotony of the work. Perhaps, it is the association with your friends. Or, it is related to blood sugar. You can figure this out by substituting different routines for the cookie routine.

Try eating the cookie alone at your desk while you work. Does that provide the same satisfaction, or are you left craving the association with friends? Try visiting with friends, but drinking water. Take another day and consider having an apple or a banana instead of a cookie. With any luck, you'll identify the true reward. Chances are, you'll find the reward you seek isn't the cookie.

Substitute a new, healthier routine for the cookie and you'll be on your way to overcoming your food addiction. The key is to apply this same evaluation to every interaction with food.

The following ideas will give you some direction for changing your habits:

Write down everything you eat one day each week

That activity will make you more aware of what you eat, and at what time, and will allow you to begin identifying opportunities to change some habits.

Use smaller plates for your food

Many people find they eat less on smaller plates.

Keep food out of sight

Just seeing food is a cue for many food addicts; keeping it out of sight will remove the cue, eliminating the trigger for the routine.

Food addiction is a cruel master. Once you recognize that you have the power to change your habits, you can take control and become healthier.

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