The idea that a person can be addicted to food has recently gained increasing support. I have spent the latter part of my graduate studies learning about food addiction and wanted to spend some time sharing with you some very important information.
For some people, the same reward and pleasure centers of the brain that are triggered by addictive drugs like cocaine are also activated by food, especially highly palatable foods. Highly palatable foods are foods rich in sugar, fat and salt.
Like addictive drugs, highly palatable foods trigger feel-good brain chemicals like dopamine. Once a person has experienced pleasure associated with increased dopamine from eating certain foods, they quickly feel the need to eat again.
The reward signals from highly palatable foods may override other signals of fullness and satisfaction. As a result, people keep eating, even when they’re not hungry.
Compulsive overeating is a type of behavioural addiction meaning that someone can become preoccupied with behaviour that triggers intense pleasure. People with food addictions lose control over their eating behaviour and find themselves spending excessive amounts of time involved with food and overeating, or anticipating the emotional effects of compulsive overeating.
The following may all be signs that you have developed a food addiction:
- Unable to stop eating certain foods even when you are not hungry
- Eating to the point of feeling physically unwell/nauseous
- Finding that you will go to extreme lengths to obtain ‘junk food’ when this is not available
- Eating so excessively that it causes you to neglect work, friends, family, and hobbies
- Experiencing problems at work because of food and eating
- Finding that you need to eat increasing amounts of food, and more frequently, in order to feel satisfied
- Finding that you need to eat to reduce negative emotions e.g. to relieve anxiety and stress
- Eating more quickly than other people
- Being secretive or dishonest about your eating behaviours
- Experiencing guilt after overeating
- Feeling as though food controls your life
- Feeling as though you are unable to stop overeating despite the negative consequences that this causes
Ask yourself, do you:
- Do you think about food or your weight constantly?
- Do you find yourself attempting one diet or food plan after another, with no lasting success?
- Do you eat to escape from your feelings?
- Do you eat in secret?
- Have you ever hidden food to make sure you have “enough”?
- Do you feel driven to exercise excessively to control your weight?
- Do you obsessively calculate the calories you’ve burned against the calories you’ve eaten?
- Do you frequently feel guilty or ashamed about what you’ve eaten?
- Are you waiting for your life to begin “when you lose the weight”?
If you feel you have a food addiction and would like to resolve this problem, then read up if working together is the right fit!