For many people, there is one four-lettered “F” word that will make them want to run away.

It’s always around and you can’t escape it. Many regard their relationship with it as one of the love-hate variety. It’s hard to live with, but you definitely can’t live without it.

And that word is: FOOD.

One issue that plagues thousands of people is food addiction. According to the Food Addiction Institute, the most common food addictions include foods that contain sugar, flour, fats, grains, or salts, or some combination of these ingredients. The most common food addiction behaviors include binging, purging, and volume eating.

Your attitude towards food

Consider your own attitude towards food. Do you eat to live or live to eat? If it is the latter you have some work to do. While food can be comforting and pleasurable, food should not be looked to as a main source of comfort, pleasure, or reward because at that point eating becomes a problem and food addiction can wreak havoc on your life.

A qualified therapist or a good coach can help you assess if food addiction is an issue for you and provide you with a plan to overcome this problem. There are also 12-step programs that can help you regain control.

Remember that food is sustenance

You must recognize that your diet is key in supporting your health, and this includes all of your body including the brain. When you only eat junk food, processed food, and foods filled with sugar and bad fat you deprive your body of key nutrients it needs to not only survive but to thrive.

Keep away from quick fix crash diets

It’s been shown that people often rebound after being on a strict diet. If it is not something that you can easily integrate into your life, you probably won’t be able to keep it up. It’s difficult to stick to one of these highly restricted diets for lengthy periods. Instead, choose to make healthy lifestyle changes that include eating whole real food and pay attention to portion and appetite control.

Treat yourself with compassion

Foster a sense of self-compassion. This can be difficult. Between social media and the mainstream media, the “perfect body” is constantly being pushed upon us. Treat yourself with care and understanding. Try not to be hypercritical and pass harsh judgment on yourself, doing so will only foster a sense of defeat. Maintaining a healthy attitude about weight is difficult. You will make mistakes and slip up from time to time, but remember, you are looking for progress and not perfection.

Emotional Hunger Versus Physical Hunger

Physical hunger usually comes on gradually and is guilt-free. You get full and it satisfies your need for food. Emotional hunger is a void that can’t be filled with food. In the moment of pain, loneliness, boredom, and stress eating may feel good, but after you will likely experience shame, guilt and powerlessness and the feelings that triggered the emotional eating are still there.

Food is not a healthy or effective coping mechanism for negative emotions, never has been and never will be. Once you recognize and accept this fact, you can learn healthy coping skills for your emotional issues and see food for what it is, sustenance for the body. Healthy coping skills for your negative emotions and problems include talking with a friend, getting in with a good coach, self-care and healthy activities that promote wellness of your spirit.

Don’t Go To The Store Hungry

Science has proven that when you shop hungry, you make poor food decisions. A study performed in 2013 took 68 people and asked them to avoid eating for 5 hours before the study.

Randomly, half of the participants were given a plate of food and instructed to eat enough to no longer feel hungry. The other half of the participants were not. They then asked participants to shop in a simulated online grocery store that offered a mix of lower-calorie foods (fruits, vegetables, chicken breasts) and higher-calorie (candy, salty snacks, red meat) foods. The hungry laboratory participants chose a higher number of higher-calorie products.

In short, you’ll make poor decisions when you’re hungry. Shop on a full stomach. (And shop with a list.)

Practice Mindfulness

To be mindful is to focus your awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations. Monks train for years to perfect this state of being.

Practice mindfulness while you eat, slow down, and pay full attention to your food to reduce your overall intake of food and calories. How many times have we sat in front of the TV, with a bowl of chips mindlessly munching away? I know I have. If you’re mindful, you will avoid these types of situations and improve your relationship with food for the better.