Food Addiction Facts

Food addiction is more than over eating. An over eater is someone who eats too much. A food addict, may or may not over-eat, but when they eat something that they know they ‘shouldn’t”, much like any other addict, they don't stop.

Eaten piece of rich cake! How much will you eat?

Being addicted to food has recently gotten more support from the scientific community. Research has demonstrated that for some of us, the same pleasure centers of the brain, that are triggered by drugs like cocaine and heroin, are activated by foods rich in sugar, fat, and salt.

These foods activate brain chemicals like dopamine, and once you experience the increased dopamine transmission, that you get from eating certain foods, you’ll keep eating ~ regardless of not being hungry, or actually feeling full.  If you’re a food addict, you will continue to eat in spite of negative consequences. This is not only an weight issue, this is an emotional issue.

Similar to a gambler or drug addict, if you’re addicted to food, you have trouble stopping your behavior ~ in spite of diets. This is not about diet ~ staying on a diet, falling off a diet ~ like any other addiction, this is about handling the stresses, which trigger you to over-eat, and create a new lifestyle.

 Signs of Food Addiction

A Food Addiction Questionnaire was developed by researchers at Yale University's Rudd Center for Food Science & Policy to identify people with food addiction.

Here are a few questions to evaluate yourself!

Do you:

  • End up eating more than planned when you start eating certain foods?
  • Keep eating certain foods even if you're no longer hungry?
  •  Eat to the point of feeling ill?
  •  Worry about not eating certain types of foods or worry about cutting down on certain types of foods?
  •  When certain foods aren't available, go out of your way to obtain them?

 Do these situations apply to you?

  •   You eat certain foods so often or in such large amounts that you start eating food instead of working, spending time with the family, or doing recreational activities
  •  You avoid professional or social situations where certain foods are available because of fear of overeating.
  •   You have problems functioning effectively at your job or school because of food and eating.
  •  Does eating food causes problems such depression, anxiety, self-loathing, or guilt?
  •  Do you need to eat more and more food to reduce negative emotions or increase pleasure?
  •  Does eating the same amount of food not reduce negative emotions or increase pleasure the way it used to?

Food addicts eat an abnormal amount of food, become obsessive about it and have cravings for foods that they know are harmful to them. We are only beginning to understand and accept the fact that people can be addicted to food, similar to drugs, alcohol, gambling and sex.

When someone overeats to the point of becoming sick, they avoid some emotional issues and instead of dealing with it, they’re escaping into food. It's as if they're self-medicating.

Eating gives them immediate gratification and for a short time there is relief of pressure and they don’t have negative thoughts. They calm down. They’re lost in food – but once they stop eating they become depressed and angry at themselves.

When you have a food addiction, you chastise yourself for what you've done and promise yourself that you won't do it again.   The worse you feel, the more anxiety you create and finally you need relief. For the alcoholic this means drink. For the food addict, relief means food.

This becomes a cycle ~ like any other addiction

Help for Food Addiction

You Don't Have To Struggle!

There's Help!

On a positive note, you can overcome this compulsive behavior and these these tips can help: 

  •  Know the trigger foods: Trigger foods are the ones you can’t stop eating. For some it’s salty, for others it’s sweets, or both. Beware of them or avoid them altogether.
  • Emotions: Get in touch with your feelings.
  • Ask yourself what emotions you're escaping. Are you bored? Angry? Frustrated? Once you acknowledge your feelings you can stop escaping them and take the appropriate action. Ex. Bored? Do something – exercise, call a friend, play video games etc.
  • Danger Zones: When are you most vulnerable times to overeat? After work? At night?
  • No Guilt: Guilt serves no purpose other than to make you feel miserable and hopeless. If you feel hopeless. Instead, acknowledge that you’re an emotional eater, and get on with taking care of yourself.
  • Snacks: Don’t allow yourself to be hungry. Take healthy snacks from home, and here are more healthy eating tips
  • Say ‘No’: Stand up for yourself. Much like the alcoholic must refuse a drink when it’s offered, a food addict also has to refuse what will trigger a binge. Be polite, but say ‘no’.
  • ‘Diet Foods’: Beware of low cal cookies, sugar and ‘diet food’. Two diet cookies may be 40 calories, but a food addict doesn’t only eat two.
  • Punishment: If you’ve eaten too much don’t punish yourself by letting yourself go and eat more ‘bad food’. What’s done is done. Get back on track.
  • Eat: This can seem like conflicting advice, but it’s not. When you’ve eaten too much many addicts compensate by skipping meals. This doesn’t work. It will only lead to hunger, binging and over eating

Take Power: When you have this obsession you feel that food controls you – not true.

  You can learn to empower yourself and stop!

  We can argue that ‘an alcoholic can stay away from alcohol, but a food addict can’t stay away from food’ so food addiction is more difficult, but I disagree. All change is difficult for the person involved. And you can’t compare one addiction with another

Just as there are 12 step programs for drugs, alcohol, sex, or gambling, there are recovery programs for food addiction ~ check Overeating Anonymous programs in your area. You can also get help from a therapist or counselor who specializes in this.

Compulsive over eating is usually kept a secret and this demoralizes your self-confidence and self esteem. You not only feel out of control, but you also feel depressed, reject social engagements and prevent yourself from getting on with your life. It does not have to be this way.

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