How Food Addiction Is Treated
There isn’t one standard or widespread food addiction treatment method as of yet, Masterson says, and “finding a treatment center dedicated to this type is going to be hard to find.”
For the most part, she says, a mental health specialist can help you address food addiction by identifying any underlying thoughts, beliefs and behavior patterns that fuel the addiction, and then finding ways to replace those thoughts and patterns.
Cohen says there are two “radically different” approaches to treating food addiction. Eating disorder specialists do it one way and addiction specialists do it another way.
“Eating disorder experts will say that removing foods will only trigger a greater biological subconscious desire to eventually eat these foods, and usually overeat to abundance,” she says. “The guilt that then surrounds the eating episodes then triggers a restriction cycle and the pattern continues.”
In that sense, in order to heal your relationship with food, eating trigger foods can reverse the idea you’re addicted to food, Cohen says.
On the flip side, addiction experts may create strict rules around food and use a 12-step program similar to Alcoholics Anonymous — in this case, it’s Overeaters Anonymous . In an OA program, abstinence from trigger foods is key, Cohen says.
A post shared by Christina Frangione RDN, RYT on Jan 21, 2020 at 9:29am PST
Can Fast Food Hijack Your Brain
Studies in rats show sugar overstimulates pleasure centers in the brain in much the same way alcohol, some prescription medications, recreational drugs, and smoking do. In one study, researchers indulged rats with sugar and then stopped offering the rats sugar treats after the rats had become accustomed to consuming it. In other tests, they gave the rodents a drug that blocked the pleasure receptors in the brain that sugar activates. In response, the rats experienced physical signs of withdrawal. They became nervous and shaky until their source of sugar was restored.
Why would a sugar-addicted animal develop withdrawal symptoms? Each time an animal consumes sugar, and potentially junk food or fast food, the reward centers in their brains release dopamine. If the same happens in humans, youll get a surge in dopamine release when you dip those fast food fries into sugary ketchup and wash it down with a soft drink.
Suppose you cant get your next fast food or sugar fix? You feel blue and anxious because you have fewer dopamine receptors and dopamine activity in your brain. In response, you have strong cravings for the foods that you think will give you that desired feeling of reward. So, you seek out that substance to restore feelings of well-being. At least in animals, withdrawal from fast food causes physical symptoms as well.
Break The Fast Food Addiction: Enjoy Dinner Again
Make dinner special. You dont need candlelight and a big production, but turning off television and your cell phones will give you a chance to catch up and enjoy your meals again.
There are times when fast foods a convenient solution. But there are also times we become addicted to fast food because it feels like a treat or as though were doing an activity WITH our significant other. Going through the drive-thru feels like a date .
When my husband and I were dating, we loved making meals together. Cooking was a lot of fun and a bonding experience. Wed put on music and chat and laugh. Now, there isnt time for date night cooking every night, but occasionally cooking together is romantic and a blast!
There are services like Blue Apron and Hello Fresh which send all the ingredients to your door to cook a meal. We tried Blue Apron and found for us, it wasnt very practical and cooking was too time consuming. However, if you are looking for a date night option, these types of meal delivery services still cost less than restaurant meals and are a fun option.
Experiment with other fun dinner activities to break up the routine of dining at home. Eat outside. Enjoy a picnic in the living room or celebrate a special occasion with a meal . Dont make dinner complicated or overwhelming, but fun so youll feel motivated and excited to cook at home.
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How To Break The Junk Food Habit
Which foods are addictive?
Here are the 10 foods most associated with addictive-like eating, according to research by Ashley Gearhardt, assistant professor of clinical psychology at the University of Michigan:
Do you find yourself craving ice cream, intoxicated by an image of french fries or unable to resist the candy jar at a co-workers desk?
Research shows youre not alone. Certain foods particularly processed foods that are high in sugar, salt and fat dont just taste good, they also can be addictive, said scientists at a UC San Francisco symposium on food and addiction.
Food addiction is still a controversial concept in the scientific community. But researchers find strong evidence that certain foods can trigger binging, craving and withdrawal, responses that are similar to those produced by addictive substances like alcohol, cocaine and tobacco.
I dont think sugar is more addicting than cocaine, but I do think sugar is addicting, said addiction expert Mark Gold, co-editor of the book Food and Addiction and keynote speaker at UCSFs Oct. 27 Sugar, Stress, Environment, and Weight Symposium.
Take heart, consumers. As with other addictive substances, you can break free of your cravings. Follow these tips from experts to cut down on sugar and break your junk food habit:
How To Tell If You’re Struggling With Food Addiction
Food addiction will play out differently in everyone, but there are some common symptoms to look out for.
Behavioral symptoms of food addiction, according to Cohen, Hopkins and Masterson, as well as the 2018 systematic review on food addiction, can include:
- Intense and persistent food cravings
- Eating past the point of fullness, and even past the point of physical discomfort
- Eating in isolation or secrecy, especially because of feelings of shame
- Finding it very difficult to say “no” to fatty, sugary, processed foods
- Feeling guilty after overeating
- Spending excessive amounts of money on foods, specifically for bingeing
- Avoiding social interactions to avoid trigger foods, or to eat in isolation instead
- Making food rules for yourself and breaking them over and over
Food addiction also brings about emotional symptoms, such as low self-esteem and feelings of hopelessness, as well as physical symptoms, such as fatigue and digestive issues.
As for when to seek help, Masterson says to look at how food is affecting your life. “If something you’re doing causes you impairment in an aspect of your life, such as your health, relationships or job, it’s worth addressing,” she says. “If you suspect it’s a problem, it probably is. Often we don’t recognize a pattern as problematic until it’s pretty well-established and hard to ignore.”
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How Real Families Break The Fast Food Addiction
By The Busy Budgeter | | This post may contain affiliate links
How does this scenario happen? Youre running late and you forgot about dinneragain. Oops. Or maybe youve even purchased all kinds of yummy food at the grocery store. Your fridge is full and yethere you are, veering off your plan. Either way, youre back at it: feeding your familys fast food addiction. Youre in line at McDonalds again.
Now, dont get me wrong. I love me some fast food as much as the next girl. Chick-fil-A? Sign me up! Waffle fries? Yes, please!
But, fast food isnt great for every day. Sure, the drive-thru is convenient, but there are often other fast food alternatives that are just as convenient AND less costly. And hey, there are plenty of other reasons to quit the fast food addiction. Like, its not super healthy and fast food doesnt make you feel like youre adulting very well, either .
Theres hope! If you and your family are addicted to eating out, you can get over your fast food addiction. Im going to help you break the cycle.
So why do you do it? Why do you go to the drive-thru when you dont feel great about going there? Why does it seem like dinner is never, ever, EVER planned ahead? OR why do you end up at Wendys, Burger King or Carls Jr., when theres a fridge full of food at home? Why come up with elaborate meal plans and feel guilty when you dont achieve them?
Well, you could argue fast foods delicious, and yes, it SO IS.
Are You At Risk Of Refeeding Syndrome
Currently, most of us are over-nourished rather than under-nourished. But that doesnt mean you shouldnt exercise caution. Certain groups of individuals are at a higher risk for developing refeeding syndrome than others:
- Your body mass index is less than 18.5.
- Youve experience unexplained weight loss in the last six months totalling a loss greater than 10% of your body weight.
- You have fasted consuming nothing but water for five or more days.
- Your blood work shows you have lower than normal levels of phosphorus, potassium, calcium or magnesium levels.
- You are an alcoholic or have a history of alcoholism.
- You have anorexia nervosa.
- Are taking insulin, diuretics, antacids or undergoing chemotherapy.
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How To Avoid Refeeding Syndrome
There are several ways you can reduce your risk of developing refeeding issues when you do break your fast:
- Avoid breaking your fast with a meal that is high in carbohydrates stick to low-carb, high-fat meals. Avoid meals that surge insulin and blood sugar.
- Stay hydrated during your fast Drinking mineral water is good.
- Supplement with a pinch of natural salt such as Himalayan salt a few times throughout the day.
- Consult with your healthcare provider for any extended fast.
Make Healthier Choices At Restaurants
Nowadays many restaurants have their menus enlisted online with nutrient contents for each dish. If you have a plan to visit a restaurant then you can check the menu for a healthier option.
Most restaurants are individual flexible. You can ask there for your chicken to be grilled instead of fried one or you can also have a salad to be served with dressing on the side.
Find Yourself A Distraction Tactic
This is something that you do instead of your bad eating habit. You see, you cant stop one habit easily without replacing it with another one. For example, if you like to have something sweet to eat after dinner, try replacing dessert or chocolate with a flavoured herbal tea. If you get bored during a certain point in the day instead of reaching for an office fundraiser or buying a blueberry muffin, why not plan the next weeks worth of meals and exercise sessions. Maybe you need a hobby. For further reading, check out my article on boredom eating.
How To Prevent Or Overcome Food Addiction
Food addiction is difficult to prevent because its impossible to avoid food. However, one of the best strategies is to avoid overexposure to palatable foods by eating a healthy, balanced diet thats rich in natural, unprocessed foods. Eating a balanced diet and understanding the warning signs of food addiction will help you to act quickly if you suspect a problem.
Overcoming food addiction typically involves following the same model thats used to treat other types of addictionsand youll need a solid plan and plenty of support.
- First, youll need to detoxify your body by avoiding trigger foods, such as fast food or foods with processed sugar. During this time, you may experience withdrawal symptoms that can range from mild to severe.
- After you detoxify your body, youll need to work on changing your eating behaviors. You may need to avoid certain people, places , situations and foods that intensify cravings or make you more likely to consume the problem food. You also may need to break associations between food and routines or events, such as eating ice cream before bed or having buttery popcorn at the movie theater.
- Other strategies that can help include tracking your food consumption, preplanning your meals and eating mindfully.
If you need professional support to help you lose weight, talk to your primary care physician to see what options may be right for you.
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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.
What Kinds Of Foods Are Addictive
Foods you would call “junk food” — cookies, candy, potato chips, cheese puffs, and the like — are very palatable, which gives them their addictive qualities.
Typically, high-fat, high-sugar and high-calorie foods are the most addictive, Hopkins says.
“Highly processed foods with added fats and sugars tend to have the greatest addictive potential,” she says. “It’s thought that the brain develops a stronger preference for calorie-dense foods, and prepackaged snacks fit the bill.”
One important thing to call out is that these kinds of snacks also tend to contain higher amounts of refined grains and lower levels of satiating fiber, Hopkins says, which results in food moving more quickly through the digestive system.
“Combine this with starch, sugar, salt and fat and you have yourself a food that can be addictive and also likely to leave you feeling hungry not long after eating it,” she explains. This is one of the reasons why even people without food addiction may find it difficult to to eat certain foods in moderation, and the reason why these foods are not usually fresh fruits and vegetables.
What Is Junk Food
Junk food is cheap to produce, easy to preserve and addicting to eat, so much so that America through the 20th century has become whats called an obesogenic environment and a variable of the chronic disease epidemic .
Long-term weight loss and weight management can be challenging due to the interactions between our biology, behavior, and the obesogenic environment riddled with inexpensive, highly-processed foods we’ve been conditioned to crave .
Through the industrialization of our food systems and the distribution of food through a market system that prioritizes profit margins over health and wellness, Americans have come to consume ultra-processed foods for the majority of their calories.
This processed American diet has come to be called the S.A.D. diet, or standard American diet, full of excess sugar, refined carbohydrates, saturated fat and trans fat.
It’s ok to be frustrated if you’ve had a hard time kicking the junk food craving the industry purposely creates foods that are easily addictive.
Occasionally eating junk food is a normal part of life remember that your health and wellness is a cumulation of all the choices you make and food you eat so practice self-compassion when you’re trying to kick a craving.
Add New Recipes But Hang On To Old Favorites
Variety is the spice of life, but most of us also appreciate old favorites. When you get in meal planning mode you might start Pinning endless ideas and coming up with meals you dont know how to cook.
Dont bite off more than you can chew ! If your family has favorites they love , plan it in to your repertoire. Dont create a meal plan so complicated it doesnt fit your families tastesstick to your favorites.
If you dont include your favorites, youll still end up caving to the fast food plan and youll feel guilty doing it. This is how people end up throwing in the towelbecause if you aim for perfection you feel like youve failed whenever you falter.
Instead aim for progress. If youre eating at home 5 nights a week, its still much better and less expensive than going out 7 nights a week! If youre using up all your groceries and not tossing out a fridge full of food, youll feel more successful and find momentum to keep going. Youll see savings and progress.
If you and your spouse love grilled cheese and canned tomato soup, enjoy it! Put the meal in your weekly rotation! If its working, and it keeps you on track for your goals, then theres no harm in having similar dinners often!
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Is Food Addiction Real
The topic of food addiction is debated among medical experts, mental health care workers, scientists and dietitians.
Whether or not food addiction truly exists is controversial among health professionals, Ashley Hopkins, RD, LDN, director of wellness program success at Wellable tells CNET. Though it’s highly debated, she says, the concept of food addiction was examined in a systematic review of studies in 2018, to determine if certain addiction characteristics — such as preoccupation and impaired control — can be associated with food.
The findings did, in fact, support the idea that food addiction is possible. Additionally, some scientists argue that ignoring the potential addictiveness of foods can lead to public health issues just like other addictions.
Susan Masterson, a health psychologist, tells CNET that much of the debate about food addiction arises because food doesn’t pack the chemical “punch” that alcohol and drugs do, but the effect can still be emotionally powerful.
“Contrary to what most people think, it’s not the actual substance people become addicted to, it’s the chemical emotional response within us that hooks us,”Masterson says. “The temporary pleasure and emotional relief stems from the release of neurotransmitters in combination with other cognitive factors such as our expectations of our experience being met.”