What is food addiction? Food addiction is comparable to any other addiction, and the person suffering from food addiction is constantly craving food and thinking about it. The symptoms are very similar to other addictions such as alcohol and drug addictions. As a matter of fact, one research has shown that a family with a history of alcoholism has a higher risk of obesity. This result implies that certain people may have a tendency towards addiction, including food addiction.
There are even support groups for people with food addiction, with some of them following the 12-step approach similar to the one used in Alcoholics Anonymous.
It appears that with some people, their brains react to food the same way as they react to addictive drugs like heroin and cocaine. This seems to be even more so when it comes to foods rich in sugar, fat, and/or salt. Even for ordinary people without food addictions, these foods trigger the release of feel-good chemicals such as dopamine.
However, food addiction is considered more to be a psychological disorder because it’s often associated with feelings (obsession, depression, feelings of loss of self-worth), while the effect can be seen on the physical body (obesity).
Food Addiction Symptoms
- Cannot function effectively with normal routine activities due to food and eating
- Over time, need to eat more to have the same desired feelings such as pleasure or reduced negative emotions
- A lot of time is spent feeling lethargic or sluggish from overeating
- Eating much more than originally planned
- Keep eating the same amount or type of food despite resulting physical/emotional problems
- Worry about not being able to eat certain foods
- Have withdrawal symptoms including anxiety, agitation, and/or other physical symptoms when reducing or eliminating certain foods (does not include caffeine)
Should You Be Worried About Having Food Addiction?
Nowadays with most of us living busy lives with a lot of stress, and with sugary, fatty, salty, and processed foods being available everywhere you turn, it is hard to eliminate these foods from our lives. And with these foods having highly addictive qualities, it is hard not to be dependent on them at one point or another.
For most people, this is fact of life and as long as you are eating them in moderation, there is probably no need for concern.
However if you have almost all of the food addiction symptoms above, you may be suffering from food addiction, and should get help. There are support groups you can join, or you can also consult a psychologist. Acknowledging that you have a problem is the first and most important step. Especially if you’ve tried all the diets and nothing has worked and you are having food addiction symptoms, you need to get help right away.
Sugary, Fatty, Salty, Processed Foods
Keep in mind that foods high in sugar, fat, salt, especially if they are processed, are addictive! These foods stimulate the same receptors in our brains that are stimulated by addictive drugs. It is no wonder that you can easily eat a lot of pizza, ice cream, and other junk food, while it’s almost impossible to overeat spinach, broccoli or even meat. The brain reacts differently to these foods and as a result, you may crave them even if you are stuffed.
Aside from eliminating unhealthy sugars, fats, salts, and processed foods completely from your diet, the next best thing to do is to consume them in moderation.
For most people, going cold turkey does not work. Permanent change is easier to make if you ease into the change. Try reducing unhealthy addictive foods from your diet gradually. Also try eating healthy alternatives. Fruits or the natural sweetener stevia can be consumed instead of processed sugar, or almonds, walnuts, or pecans can be eaten as snacks instead of potato chips.
Lastly if you are constantly craving sugary, fatty, or salty foods, it may also be a sign that you are severely stressed and looking for immediate mental relief (dopamine!). If so, be sure to take time to take care of yourself and reduce your stress!