Food Addiction

For most of us, having a health relationship with food is nothing but a forethought. Eating helps to build strong bones and muscles, replenish vitamins and minerals and food is a vital source to promote life. Unfortunately, for some people food causes an uncontrollable craving that manifests as an addiction and leads to excessive consumption of sugars and other foods which leads to physical, emotional and social consequences.

Until recently, many did not actually believe that there was a condition in which people could actually become addicted to food but recent scientific research has confirmed that food addiction is possible and does happen. Experiments in animals and in humans have shown that in some cases, the reward and pleasure centers that are triggered when using certain drugs can also be activated with food. The probability of such addiction is highly likely with foods that are rich in sugar, fat or salt but other foods can also play into an addiction as well.

What is Food Addiction?

Food addiction is a disease similar to drug or alcohol addiction in which a chemical reaction in the brain is triggered by a certain behavior. With food addiction, the behavior that triggers the reaction is eating a particular food or a particular amount of food. This addiction manifests itself in the uncontrollable cravings that one has for excessive eating and typically involves eating salty, sugary or carbohydrate rich foods for satisfaction.

The cravings that a food addict will have to eat are so strong that the addict cannot control them and in many cases, food addiction will lead to a deteriorated quality of life. Physical, emotional, social and spiritual happiness and well-being are all affects by food addiction. Once an individual who is addicted to food eats and experiences the “high” or pleasurable state that they feel when they are done eating, they will quickly feel the need to eat more or to eat again to feel that feeling.

Tolerance can build as an individual eats more and this can lead to a desire to eat even when they are already full. In fact, tolerance can result in an individual’s need to consume more and more food with less and less satisfaction from their eating over time. Because of the tolerance that builds, scientists believe that food addiction plays an important role in obesity and in the struggle to lose weight.

Food Addiction Symptoms

The symptoms of food addiction affect an individual physically, emotionally, spiritually and socially. Food addicts gain pleasure from the anticipation of eating, the availability of food or from actually eating food. This pleasure leads to excessive eating, typically of the wrong types of foods, that can lead to increased weight gain, poor self-image, and a range of other medical conditions. Often times, food addicts do not even realize that they are addicted to food as their addiction and improper eating habits have simply become a way of life.

Early detection of a food addiction is vital to the successful recovery for the individual. Further, the sooner that one realizes the need for help, the least chance there is for negative consequences to have set in such as extreme weight gain, physical illness or other problems that are associated with eating too much or consuming the wrong foods.

Not all food addictions result in weight gain though. In some cases, an individual’s decision to consume large amounts of food is followed by excessive exercising, vomiting or use of laxatives to eliminate or reduce that number of calories that were eaten. This is known as bulimia. In other cases, excessive eating is followed by instances of limiting food for days or even weeks at a time which is a form of anorexia. Both of these eating disorders are characterized by an addiction in some manner to food and can lead to extreme weight loss.

Physical Food Addiction Symptoms

Each of these physical symptoms of food addiction can lead to long term consequences. Those who vomit regularly to overcome the fact that they ate a large amount of food are likely to suffer from tooth decay, esophageal problems, malnutrition and a range of other issues as a result of their addiction. In time, an obsession with food, whether it’s an obsession with not eating, overeating and dieting to cover it up or using diuretics or other methods to reduce weight from overeating, a food obsession can lead to rash physical problems and could even result in death if left untreated.

Social Symptoms of Food Addiction

Socially, food addiction leads to an intense obsession with food that can distract us from the things that really matter such as spending time with friends or family members. In time, the food addict will find more time to spend with food and may spend less and less time socially interacting in a healthy way with others. Many food addicts will hide food or steal food from others so that they can secretly indulge in the foods behind closed doors.

Emotional Symptoms of Food Addiction

Food addiction can have an adverse effect on our emotions that lead to mood swings and other mental health problems. Some food addicts will suffer from great depression or anxiety as a result of their inability to control their eating habits despite a desire to eat less and to improve their self-image. Others are emotional eaters who eat just because they are happy or just because they are sad but when these emotions take over their eating slips out of control.

Types of Food Addiction

Various types of food addiction exist. Some food addictions are marked by an individual’s desire to consume large amounts of food at one time (binge eating) while others are characterized by the obsession that an individual has with food (bulimia).

The most common types of food addiction are:

Identifying Trigger Foods

Are you ready to accept that you have a food addiction and need help? One of the first steps that you can take in overcoming food addiction on your own is to identify trigger foods that may be at the root of your addiction.

You can identify trigger foods by:

By keeping a food diary and monitoring the diary to determine which emotions or situations trigger you to eat, or which foods are your downfall you can take steps to get rid of such situations, change such behaviors or eliminate certain danger foods from your diet.

More Self Help for Food Addiction

Once you have your food diary in your hand and have kept careful track of the foods that you eat, when you eat, how much you eat and why you eat you can begin to formulate a plan to stop these bad eating habits and to later take on healthy eating habits that will work for you. Follow these steps to ridding yourself of food addiction and getting back on track with some healthy eating habits.

You are not alone. Food addiction treatment professionals and support groups can help you overcome.

Treatment for Food Addiction

Scientists are still working to figure out and fully understand every facet of food addiction but there have been some treatments which have proven to be effective at helping people to come out on top of their addiction. Many argue that food addiction is actually more complicated than certain types of drug or alcohol addiction simply because people can refrain from using drugs or alcohol but they cannot completely refrain from eating. This means that for those who do suffer from food addiction, there will always be the presence of food in their lives which can cause a potential relapse.

Food addiction treatment typically consists of behavioral therapy, nutrition counseling, education and social support. If an addiction to food is primarily the result of an emotional disorder such as anxiety or depression, psychological counseling and medication to treat the mental illness can often reduce the adverse addiction to food.

Nutritional counseling is often effective at helping those who are addicted to food to at least learn about the foods that are better for them so that they eat healthily. Nutritionists can help those with a food addiction to learning to cook healthier meals, learn about the foods that they can indulge on and learn about the foods that they can safely eat to make them feel full for longer. Healthy eating habits can become a normal part of everyday life for recovering food addicts with the help of some nutritional counseling, therapy, and support.

Support groups such as Food Addicts in Recovery Anonymous are another option of treatment for food addiction. Individuals can get social support in a recovery group like this or Food Addicts Anonymous. Both of these support groups utilize the principles of the 12-step program to help food addicts to learn how to eat better, reduce their food intake, seek spiritual happiness and socially support one another.