How Food Addiction Is Treated
Although food addiction, as exemplified by conditions such as binge eating syndrome and compulsive eating, does share many similarities with other kinds of addictions, it has one characteristic that makes it unique: human beings cannot live without food. We can live without drugs, alcohol, gambling, sex, and so many other things stop eating and you will die of starvation. Therefore, abstinence is not a cure.
The goal of food addiction treatment is to identify what causes compulsive thoughts and behaviours so that these can be managed. Some of the more common triggers of food addiction are:
- underlying emotional stress
- more and stronger cravings for food
- a need for comfort that only food can provide
- an inability to say no to food when entertaining or being entertained.
Treatment tends to focus on counselling therapies and individual strategy building sessions. Patients will be counselled about the underlying emotional and physical issues that trigger addictive behaviour they will work with their therapists to develop effective strategies to prevent future overeating.
If you are suffering from food addiction or any compulsion to eat that is unreasonable, you do not have to continue living with it. UKAT takes food addiction seriously. We work with clinics throughout the UK that are more than capable of addressing your issues. We can help you overcome binge eating disorder, compulsive eating, or all out food addiction.
Are You Addicted To Food
Karl Strom, M.D. contributes to topics such as Bariatrics.
Saba Afzal, M.D. contributes to topics such as Behavioral Health.
When most people think of addictive substances, drugs, alcohol and tobacco usually come to mind. But is food considered an addictive substance?
Saba Afzal, M.D., psychiatrist at Ocean Medical Center, considers food addiction a behavioral addiction similar to gambling, shopping or internet addictionaddictions where a person is preoccupied by a certain behavior. The parts of the brain triggered by drugs can also be triggered by some foods, particularly by foods high in fat, sugar or salt, she says.
Dr. Afzal says people who show signs of food addiction have a higher tolerance for foodthe more they eat, the more they need to sustain and the less full they feel over time.
Dr. Afzal notes that there is no easy solution for any addiction, food included, but treatment programs are available, including counseling, support groups and possibly medication on a case-by-case basis. The goal of any food addiction treatment is not just to treat the addiction to food, but also address other co-occurring or underlying issues like low self-esteem, anxiety and depression, she says.
Food Addiction Manifests Differently Depending On The Person Learn The Common Signs And Symptoms Of Food Addiction
Food is not just a necessity for life, but it is also a means of social engagement and a source of pleasure. Humans use food beyond its nutrient value as a source of comfort, to celebrate special events, and to reward loved ones. For some, however, the desire and need to consume food can become uncontrollable and compulsive.
Food addiction has been a somewhat controversial topic in scientific circles, but the disorder has gained legitimacy thanks to several studies. It has now been shown that both sugar and fat produce opiates in the body. While a physician still will not give a food addiction diagnosis, the overeating and resulting harm associated with these activities are very real.
Fortunately, now there are also food addiction recovery services available for those who suffer from this type of eating disorder. Here are just five things you should know about food addiction, including a pathway to recovery.
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How To Get Help For Addictive Eating
Willpower alone is rarely a strong enough defense against food addiction and the vicious cycle of cravings, overindulging and guilt it creates. In fact, trying to fight your cravings can even intensify them.
Dr. Albers recommends working with a psychiatrist or psychologist who can help you address both the physical symptoms and the underlying emotional factors that might be contributing to your food addiction. You might also find support groups like Overeaters Anonymous that host free in-person or virtual meetings in your area.
Learning what triggers your addictive behaviors will be an important first step. For some people, its stress or despair that leads them to turn to food for comfort. If you can learn your triggers for overeating and break that cycle, that can be important because we cant always control whether those addictive foods are going to be around us, Dr. Albers says.
The more youre aware of the forces at play in your cravings and what strategies can help combat them, the better your chances of breaking free of them and healing.
Ways To Help If You Think You Have A Food Addiction
When thinking about addictive substances, most people will put illicit drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes at the top of the list, without even giving a second thought to the food they consume on a daily basis. That makes sense, given that food addiction is not currently included in The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders , the standard classification used by mental health professionals in the United States to diagnose addiction. However, perhaps it should be, as there are more than 100 million adults considered obese in the U.S. compared with the countrys 17.6 million alcoholics and one million chronic heroin users. Is using food Americas drug of choice?
The jury is still out, so to speak, when it comes to classifying food as an addiction. On the pro side, scientific research shows us that certain palatable foods can create a reaction similar to the impact drugs have on our brain. For example, when a person repeatedly eats sugar, which is hidden in so many of the foods that we consume, it causes dopamine to be released in reward-related areas of the brain. These same areas of the brain are activated when you drink alcohol or smoke cigarettes. The reward from eating sugar can lead to further eating, ultimately making it hard to cut back on intake.
If you or someone you know is struggling with food addiction, here are five topics to consider as an intervention:
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Wake Up With Accelerated Keto
When you take Accelerated Keto, it flips you into burning your body fat for energy. As a result, your appetite is suppressed because your body no longer needs dietary fuel and can feed off its own body fat. While you dont eat and instead burn your fat stores, blood sugar, and insulin levels lower, and quickly become consistently low and stable. The roller coaster ride of blood sugar and cravings is finished. This helps halt the physical addiction to food and the dependence on dietary carbohydrates for energy.
Eating Much More Than Intended
For some people, there is no such thing as a bite of chocolate or single piece of cake. One bite turns into 20, and one slice of cake turns into half a cake.
This all-or-nothing approach is common with addiction of any kind. There is no such thing as moderation it simply does not work .
Telling someone with food addiction to eat junk food in moderation is almost like telling someone with alcoholism to drink beer in moderation. Its just not possible.
When giving in to a craving, someone with food addiction may not stop eating until the urge is satisfied. They might then realize that they have eaten so much that their stomach feels completely stuffed.
Eating until feeling excessively stuffed either frequently or all the time may be classified as binge eating.
Trying to exert control over the consumption of unhealthy foods and then giving in to a craving can lead to feelings of guilt.
A person may feel that they are doing something wrong or even cheating themselves.
Despite these unpleasant feelings, a person with food addiction will repeat the pattern.
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Is It Possible To Become Psychologically Addicted To Food
The word addiction typically brings to mind drug or alcohol dependence. But individuals can be addicted to anything that triggers their pleasure center or is perceived to fulfill a need like sex, gambling, video games, shopping, a certain food, or any number of other substances or activities.
Addiction means the body has become dependent, physically or psychologically, on a particular substance or activity, and needs that substance or behavior to feel a positive sense of well-being. When we experience something pleasurable, our brain is triggered to release chemicals like dopamine that cause a euphoric rush. Neurotransmitters in the brain that signal the intense high work similarly whether the substance is food, drugs, or alcohol, and reinforce a craving to re-experience the feeling.
It Goes Beyond Normal Food Cravings
Just like with any other addictions, food addicts can experience withdrawal when they stop bingeing, or eating in excessive amounts. Food cravings can also cause anxiety and eventually, a food addictâs relationship with food can affect daily life.
The DSMâs criteria for substance dependence includes intense cravings that make it difficult to âthink of anything else” and needing more and more of the substance to feel satisfied.
â may also notice feeling irritable, anxious and tired once they stop overeating more food than their body needs for sustenance,â Tricia Nelson, a food addiction expert and author of Heal Your Hunger: 7 Simple Steps to End Emotional Eating Now, says. âWhen food addicts no longer eat excessively, the feelings they were attempting to numb begin to emerge and they can experience strong, seemingly out-of-control emotions, including anxiety, depression, and crying.â
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Food Addiction Studies Limited & Flawed
The research on food addiction is way too early to be drawing any conclusions. The great majority of studies have been on animals. The limited research on humans has only been brain-imaging studies with a very small amount of people and not much exclusion criteria .
Yale Food Addiction Questionnaire has generated a lot of headline news. Yet, upon a closer look, the questionnaire seems to actually be measuring compulsive eating or rebound eating from chronic dieting . Here is a sampling of the questions:
- I find myself consuming certain foods even though I am no longer hungry. .
- I worry about cutting down on certain foods.
- I have spent time dealing with negative feelings from overeating certain foods, instead of spending time in important activities such as time with family, friends, work, or recreation.
To read more questions and details on scoring the questionnaire see
What Causes Food Addiction
Consuming highly palatable foods, or foods that are high in carbohydrates, fat, salt, sugar, or artificial sweeteners, triggers the pleasure centers of the brain and releases feel-good chemicals such as dopamine and serotonin. These foods affect the same area of the brain as drugs, alcohol, and behaviors such as shopping or gambling.
Highly palatable foods often contain unnatural substances or higher-than-normal levels of natural substances that your body and brain can’t process. This results in your body being flooded with feel-good chemicals.
To help you hang on to or recreate those good feelings, your body and brain will begin to crave highly palatable foods. And, because your brain will adjust its receptors to compensate for the rush of chemicals, you’ll eventually need to consume increasing quantities of highly palatable foods to get the same feel-good reaction.
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What Causes Food Addiction And What Are The Signs
People with food addiction struggle every day with a loss of control or inability to stop eating foods that are high in carbohydrates, fat, salt, sugar, or artificial sweeteners. They also suffer from painful feelings of shame and embarrassment when it comes to their food behaviors.
Food addiction is a relatively new topic. But, its a complex condition that has similarities to other types of addiction, such as drugs, alcohol, shopping, or gambling. However, help is available.Understanding the causes and signs of food addiction can help you lower your risk and change potentially problematic behaviors.
Can You Really Be Addicted To Food
There has been a lot of media attention on food addiction research. Scientists are curious about this possibility because the brain region involved with substance abuse, are also implicated in overeating. But there are a lot of reasons, other than addiction, that can explain the rewarding aspect of eating.
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Food Addiction Recovery Options
Recovery from food addiction is different from recovery from alcoholism or drug addiction in one simple way. You cannot simply refrain from eating all together as a part of your recovery. Humans need to eat to live, so there has to be some form of behavioral change. One thing is certain. Food addiction is a problem that is unlikely to be solved without help.
There are several food addiction recovery options available if you or a loved are suffering from this eating disorder. Treatment for food addiction includes therapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy , nutritional therapies, and group support. Contact us to learn more about our food addiction recovery program or to discuss admission options.
First Steps In Overcoming Food Addiction
A few things can help prepare for giving up junk foods and make the transition easier:
- Trigger foods. Write down a list of the foods that cause cravings and/or binges. These are the trigger foods to avoid completely.
- Fast food places. Make a list of fast food places that serve healthy foods and note their healthy options. This may prevent a relapse when hungry and not in the mood to cook.
- What to eat. Think about what foods to eat preferably healthy foods that are liked and already eaten regularly.
- Pros and cons. Consider making several copies of the pro-and-con list. Keep a copy in the kitchen, glove compartment, and purse or wallet.
Additionally, dont go on a diet. Put weight loss on hold for at least 13 months.
Overcoming food addiction is difficult enough. Adding hunger and restrictions to the mix is likely to make things harder.
After taking these preparatory steps, set a date in the near future like the coming weekend from which point onward the addictive trigger foods wont be touched again.
To overcome food addiction, its important to plan. Make a list of trigger foods and know what is going to be eaten instead.
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You Can’t Be Addicted To Food And Life Simultaneously
Recently I had a conversation with a client about the power of smiling. As she continued talking about the pressing issues in her life draining her energy and causing her to retreat back to unhealthy habits, she ended her montage of thoughts by saying she just wanted to smile again.
Family and work stress had caused her to eat without thought, and once again she was eating too much unhealthy food. Her focus was on the problems at hand and not on herself. She turned to food for comfort, or for a respite from the outside stress, and this was a major concern to her. She was unhappy with herself and with how she chose to deal with events that were out of her control. As she recited all her issues to me, the one thing I noticed as she was speaking was she was also smiling. When she said, “I just want to smile again,” I found that ironic and said, “You’ve been smiling this entire time.” It caused her to pause and she suddenly realized that daily, her co-workers say that she is able to smile through adversity. This sudden realization of her smile changed her attitude toward her issues.
Old habits return in weak moments. Sometimes weak moments last a long time, and people turn to addictions they believe they had already conquered, as my client did. Addictions are deeply ingrained and can wreak havoc on your life when left to fester.
Food is not the center of life.
Find healthier ways to deal life’s issues.
Recognize when food has once again taken hold of you.
Can You Legitimately Be Addicted To A Certain Food
The answer is yes if you have one of these four personality traits.
Addiction to food, especially sweet foods, is a hot topic these days. Women talk about it as a joke , as coping mechanism , and as a straight-up reality . But is any of that actually true? Can people really develop an addiction to certain foods? And if so, who’s at risk?
The answer may not be as straightforward as we like. It depends on two things, according to a round-up of recent research into addiction: First, some foods are more likely to be addictive. Second, some people are more likely to be addicted. It shouldn’t be a problem for most foods and most people, but combine a highly addictive food with a person with a highly addictive personality and you have a recipe for disaster.
Highly addictive foods are fairly easy to identify. They’re usually some combination of fat, salt, and sugar, often in very refined states . Who hasn’t opened a package, thinking they’ll have just a bite or two only to polish off the whole thing? There’s a reason for that. Brain imaging scans show that these types of foods trigger the same brain mechanisms as substance abuse, according to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Now, no one is saying the effects of sugar-laden treats are the same as the effects of cocaine, just that we can crave treats with the same intensity.
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