Tuesday, April 23, 2024

How To Know If You Are Addicted To Food

The Downsides Of Thinking In Terms Of Food Addiction

How to Know You are Addicted to Food

The problem with thinking of food as addictive is that we can become disempowered.

Food becomes bad and something to be avoided, something to feel guilty about rather than celebrated and enjoyed to nourish us and enable us to live our best life.

Food addiction constitutes a medicalisation of common eating behaviours, taking on the properties of disease. The use of this medical language has implications for the way in which society views overeating and obesity.

If we medicalise our behaviour, we are more likely to adopt a victim mentality and take less responsibility for our choices. While people feel they are addicted to sugar, the research doesnt tend to support sugar as being addictive.

We find little evidence to support sugar addiction in humans, and findings from the animal literature suggest that addiction-like behaviours, such as bingeing, occur only in the context of intermittent access to sugar. These behaviours likely arise from intermittent access to sweet tasting or highly palatable foods, not the neurochemical effects of sugar. .

Whole foods that naturally contain sugar dont necessarily drive overeating. The sugar content in our food system trended closely with obesity until 1999 when artificial sweeteners were introduced. We no longer require as much added sugar to produce a hyperpalatable sweet taste. Since then, food manufacturers have continued to find more effective ways to create products that drive us to eat more, even without sugar.

How Common Is Food Addiction

So why is it then, so many of us do feel addicted to certain foods? Well, the brain does have a neurochemical response to food, causing the release of feel-good hormones such as dopamine. Were programmed to remember habits that are rewarding so that we repeat them, and hormones such as dopamine help us do that. Our primal brain also knows that high calorie foods will restore the equilibrium more quickly, which is in our best interests for survival.

This is more pronounced when the body detects an imbalance, such as that created by calorie restricted dieting. Were drawn towards the very foods were trying so hard to avoid, confirming our worst fears that we must be addicted! As a cruel double blow, the body will interpret calorie restricted dieting as a threat, which puts us into defence mode. In this mode the sympathetic nervous system takes over which further serves to deregulate appetite and mess up how we metabolise food.

Whilst keeping food as the enemy, were effectively swimming around in stress chemistry which just makes everything a whole lot harder. But instead of getting out of the water and looking objectively at the pool, we stay in it, smacking ourselves over the head with a dive stick. Random analogy there, sorry but you get my point.

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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You Need More To Feel The Same Effect

One day, you started by having just one piece of Weight Watchers cake, or just one bar of chocolate. But today, one portion wont do the trick. To feel the same effect, you now have one after the other. Just like someone with a substance dependence. Somewhere along the line, you became desensitised and ended up increasing your dose!

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Intervention And Treatment Of Food Addiction

If you or someone you know has a food addiction, intervention plays a huge part. Like any addiction, food addiction can be difficult to treat for many reasons:

  • The food addict is hesitant to admit to their problem.
  • The food addict isnt ready to get help.
  • The food addict has lived with the addiction for so long it has been comfortable.
  • The food addict doesnt think he or she has a problem.
  • The food addict has tried to quit overeating before but has never had any success.

This is why its so critical to get help from someone who has expertise treating food addiction. Food addiction treatment is very different from the treatment related to drugs or alcohol or cigarettes. After all, we must eat to live. This means we cannot give up food entirely. Instead, we have to change the way we feel about the food we put into our bodies.

How To Support A Loved One Who Has A Food Addiction

If your relationship with food is fine but someone close to you is having a hard time, speak up. Sometimes it takes acknowledging there’s a problem in the first place to move forward in fixing it.

“If someone is a food addict meaning they turn to food repetitively and eat big quantities, fast-paced, often hidden and in shame know they’re hurting. They want to enjoy food the way everyone else enjoys food. This isn’t fun for them,” Dr. Brisman says. “Trying to know what’s needed at those moments turning to healthier options of self-care is likely going to be the hardest thing they’ve ever done. Support them any way you can.”

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Science Stats And Food Addiction

Science backs up the fact that certain foods make some people feel great when they eat them. Research also tells us that food addiction is widespread and growing:

  • There are in excess of 70 million Americans estimated to have food addictions.
  • Almost half of the individuals in the United States who are obese have some level of food addiction.
  • Of the obese individuals in America, about 400,000 will die from their obesity. If half of them have food addictions, this means around 200,000 deaths have a direct connection with addiction to food.

These numbers are enough to make anyone stand up and listen, yet food addiction is ignored among many populations. Why? The reason is straightforward: Food just isnt seen as an addictive substance.

How It’s Like Other Addictions

Are You Addicted to Food?

Neurotransmitters and the brain’s reward system have been implicated in food and other addictions. In animal studies, for example, dopamine has been found to play an important role in overall reward systems, and binging on sugar has been shown to influence dopamine activity.

Food, drugs and other addictive substances and behaviors are all associated with pleasure. When advertising or the people around us tell us that food, drug, or activity will feel good, it sets up a self-fulfilling prophecy. We are more likely to seek it out, and we are more likely to experience pleasure when we indulge.

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Getting Cravings Despite Feeling Full

Its not uncommon to get cravings, even after eating a fulfilling, nutritious meal.

For example, after eating a dinner with steak, potatoes, and veggies, some people may crave ice cream for dessert.

Cravings and hunger arent the same thing.

A craving occurs when you experience an urge to eat something, despite having already eaten or being full.

This is pretty common and doesnt necessarily mean that someone has food addiction. Most people get cravings.

However, if cravings happen often and satisfying or ignoring them becomes hard, they may be an indicator of something else .

These cravings are not about a need for energy or nutrients its the brain calling for something that releases dopamine, a chemical in the brain that plays a role in how humans feel pleasure .


Cravings are very common. While a craving alone doesnt indicate food addiction, if you often get cravings and ignoring or satisfying them is difficult, it may indicate a problem.

Sugar Addiction Can Show Itself In A Subtle Way And Easily Vary For Each Individual

This is why you need to pay close attention and learn the most significant symptoms of sugar, refined flour and processed food addiction, giving you a better understanding of your energy levels and health.

So, lets talk about the most significant signs of sugar addiction and the steps to take to help curb it.

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How Do You Know If You Are Addicted To Food

by Laura Clark / Dietitian Blog Posts

It is common for many of the people I meet and work with to feel they are addicted to food. But how do you know if you addicted to food? And is this even accurate?

Often this label we give ourselves is all tied up in a history of chronic dieting which has led to restriction followed by bingeing cycles. It is easy to feel addicted to food, when we go through long periods of time denying ourselves.

So, the first question is:

Risks For Food Addiction

How to Tell if You Have a Food Addiction

Because everyone must eat to survive, anyone can develop food addiction. Overexposure to highly palatable foods can increase your risk of developing a food addictionand people who are overexposed at a young age are at an even higher risk. People who use food to cope with stress or change their mood are also at a higher risk.

Studies also show that there are genes that put people at a higher-than-average risk of developing any type of addiction. The more addictive genes a person has, the more likely they are to struggle with addiction to food, another substance or a behavior.

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Are You A Food Addict

Are you wondering if you are a food addict?

Do you start the day promising yourself you will not binge, only to give in to another day of overeating?

Are you ashamed of how much you eat?

These are important questions and the answers to them will help you to decide whether or not you are addicted to food. Unfortunately, there is no simple laboratory test to determine if you have a food addiction or any other type of addiction. But you can take our quiz to help you decide. If some of the answers to these questions are yes, it can indicate the condition of food addiction.

This set of questions is based on a preliminary screen developed by Bitten Jonsson, Reg. Nurse, LegSSK, a Swedish food addiction professional.

Cravings Are A Key Feature Of Addiction

A craving is an emotional state characterized by a desire to consume a certain food. It should not be confused with simple hunger, which is different.

Cravings sometimes seem to appear out of thin air.

A person might be doing mundane things like watching a favorite TV show, walking the dog, or reading. Then suddenly a craving for something like ice cream appears.

Even though the cravings sometimes seem to come out of nowhere, they can be turned on by certain triggers, which are known as cues.

These cues can be as simple as walking past an ice cream parlor or smelling a pizza.

However, they can also be induced by certain emotional states, such as feeling depressed or lonely, a behavior known as emotional eating.

A true craving is about satisfying the brains need for dopamine. It has nothing to with the bodys need for energy or nourishment.

When a craving occurs, it can start to dominate a persons attention.

A craving makes it hard to think of something else. It also makes it hard to consider the health impacts of eating junk food.

While it isnt unusual to get cravings , repeatedly giving in to cravings and eating junk food, despite having made a decision not to, is cause for concern.

For those with food addiction, these cravings can be so powerful that they cause people to break rules they set for themselves, such as only eating unhealthy food on Saturdays.

They may repeatedly overeat, despite knowing that its causing physical harm.

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Help For Food Addiction

Science is still working to understand and find treatments for food addiction.

Some argue that recovery from food addiction may be more complicated than recovery from other kinds of addictions. Alcoholics, for example, can ultimately abstain from drinking alcohol. But people who are addicted to food still need to eat.

A nutritionist, psychologist, or doctor who is educated about food addiction may be able to help you break the cycle of compulsive overeating.

There are also a growing number of programs that help people who are addicted to food. Some, like Food Addicts in Recovery Anonymous, are based on the 12-step program that has helped many people addicted to alcohol, drugs, or gambling.

Others, like Food Addicts Anonymous, use the principles of the 12-step program along with strict diets that advise people to abstain from problem ingredients, like sugar, refined flour, and wheat.Ã

The Psychology Of Food Addiction


Your psychological relationship with food is based on how you think about and behave around food. When you have a food addiction, you lose control over the types and amounts of food you eat. You become dependent on the feel-good effect that certain foods have on you, even though the good feelings dont last.

Heres what it doesnt mean to be a food addict: It doesnt mean you have an eating disorder. Food addiction has never been classified as a true eating disorder, like anorexia or bulimia. But while food addicts may not have a diagnosed eating disorder, they certainly show signs of having an unhealthy relationship with food.

The American Society of Addiction Medicine defines addiction as a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry. Additionally, dysfunction in these circuits leads to characteristic biological, psychological, social and spiritual manifestations in a pathological state in which an individual pursues reward and/or relief by substance use and other behaviors. The terms food addiction and food addict were coined because the behavior of a food addict resembles that of an alcoholic, drug abuser, or gambler, all recognized addictions.

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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.

Take Our Quiz And See

Food addiction can show itself in many different ways. We thought we lacked willpower or self-discipline. Many of us had self-discipline in other areas of our lives, but not with food. Or if we sometimes restrained our eating while on a diet, it never lasted very long.

We heard people express feelings of low self-esteem, fear, doubt, insecurity, shame, guilt, and hopelessness around their relationship with food. We hated to admit that we had a problem and that we were not normal with food. Over time we became aware that these were symptoms of food addiction.

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What Is A Food Addiction

According to the Food Addiction Institute, “food addiction is a chronic and progressive disease characterized by our seeking the foods or food behaviors we are addicted to, eating/doing them compulsively and having a great deal of difficulty controlling these urges despite harmful consequences.”

Researchers at Yale University’s Rudd Center for Food Science & Policy have developed qualification questions to help identify those with food addictions. Do these apply to 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

What Is Food Addiction

How do you know if you are addicted to food?

Food is essential to human survival and is an important aspect of our wellness, in addition to a means of pleasure and enjoyment. Food not only provides needed sustenance, it also adds a gratification factor through various tastes, smells, textures, etc. However, for many individuals, food addiction can become as serious as drugs are to a substance abuser.

For men and women suffering from an addiction to food, highly palatable foods trigger chemical reactions in the brain that induce feelings of pleasure and satisfaction. This reaction has been explained as comparable to an addicts response to their substance of choice, as it activates the same brain reward center.

Food addicts become dependent upon the good feelings that are obtained from consuming certain foods, which often perpetuates a continued need to eat, even when not hungry. These behaviors generate a vicious cycle. As the food addict continues to gorge upon foods that induce pleasurable feelings, they often overindulge and eat beyond what is required for satiety and normal nutrition.

This can lead to several physicals, emotional, and social consequences, such as digestive issues, heart disease, obesity, low-self esteem, depression, and isolation. A food addict will often re-engage in these destructive behaviors, even amidst undesired consequences, due to the need for induced feelings of pleasure.

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