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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Dangers Of Food Addiction
You may not consider food addiction a serious condition it is nonetheless. Food addiction does not necessarily have the same kinds of immediate impacts associated with alcohol and drug addiction, but the danger is every bit as real. Food addiction and binge eating disorder can lead to a whole host of problems, including:
There is no doubt that food addiction is a serious problem that can lead to physical and mental issues. Not treating the addiction only makes matters worse. A person who is struggling with food to any extent, whether through binging or compulsive eating, needs to seek out treatment right away.
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Are You A Food Addict
To answer this question, ask yourself the following questions and answer them as honestly as you can.
The Science Of Food Addiction
Food addiction arises because eating lots of food makes us feel better.
But why does food make us feel better? And why does this cause addiction?
The answer is simple: foods rich in sugar, fat and salt stimulate the brains reward centre i.e. feel good hormones such as dopamine.
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that allows us to feel good about ourselves.
Over time, the brain becomes more tolerant to dopamine. This means an ever greater quantity of food is needed in order to achieve this feel good factor.
Activities such as sex, exercising and eating all trigger dopamine. Each activity is essential for survival, so its essential we feel good when doing these activities.
Otherwise, we might not do them and die .
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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.
Risks For 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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A Definition Of Terms
We need to set the table for discussion on food addiction by defining two very important terms: binge eating disorder and compulsive eating. The two are very different in a number of important ways.
Binge eating disorder is a medically recognised disorder that is characterised by excessive eating over long periods of time. Perhaps the term binge is not the best choice given that we associate binge drinking with consuming too much alcohol in a short amount of time whether it occurs over weeks or months. Nonetheless, the chosen term has been officially adopted for clinical purposes.
A person who suffers from the disorder will typically demonstrate the following symptoms:
- Compulsions to eat when not physically hungry
- Routinely eating past the point of feeling full
- Routinely eating more quickly than others
- A tendency to try and keep eating habits a secret
- Feelings of guilt after eating episodes
- Persistent feelings that one is abnormal
- Persistent feelings that food is taking over ones life
- Routinely attempting to compensate for overeating through dieting or purging.
People suffering from binge eating disorder often mention not having the ability to restrain themselves from eating. They eat because their bodies and minds crave food at a level that would otherwise be deemed irrational.
Getting To Be A Habit
When words like “food addiction” are bandied about, there are plenty of skeptics who hesitate to put foods like cheese and chocolate into the same category as widely acknowledged addictions such as cocaine or alcohol. But Barnard asks, “What other term would you use for a woman who gets into her car at 11:30 at night and drives six miles to the 7-Eleven to get a chocolate bar, and does it every night? She’s gaining weight, she feels profoundly guilty afterward, and though she resolves to stop this behavior, she does it every night, night after night? That’s a food addiction.”
The proponents of this food addiction theory point to possible differences between the sexes in their compulsions. Women may be more susceptible to chocolate, particularly in the premenstrual period. While some men may have a sweet tooth, many more say that the one food they’re least likely to give up is steak. Barnard points to an April 2000 survey of 1,244 adults, which concluded that one in four Americans wouldn’t give up meat for a week even if they were paid a thousand dollars to do so. “It sounds an awful lot like an addiction to me,” he says.
In an animal study at Princeton University in 2002, researchers found that after rats binged on sugar, they showed classic signs of withdrawal when the sweets were removed from their diet, suggesting that sugar may have addictive properties.
“Yes, people do get into habits,” adds Ayoob. “But the good part is that habits can be changed.”
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The Anatomy Of An Addiction
What makes something an addiction, rather than something you just like?
An addiction is something you keep doing even though it has destructive effects on you. The habit has tied into your brains reward mechanism, through positive reinforcement, so that you feel the need to keep doing the habit even when you know you should stop.
An example might be someone who smokes even though its making him sick, or someone who shops even when shes deeply in debt. Food addictions are common, ranging from a minor addiction to coffee to a major addiction that might cause obesity, diabetes, heart disease and more.
How do we get addicted to food? It starts out simply you might eat something because its tasty and makes you feel good. And then when you are feeling down or stressed out perhaps, you turn to the food to feel better . Next time the bad feeling comes up, you do it again, because last time you did feel better after eating the food. Through repetition, each time you get the bad feeling, you start to get a strong urge to eat the food so strong, you cant resist, even if youre on a diet.
This can happen with a bunch of negative feelings stress, loneliness, boredom, sadness, anger, mourning a loss, the discomfort of travel, the discomfort of awkward social situations, and so on. Each of these might be tied to one type of food, or several.
Ways To Stop Food Craving
If the food cravings have nothing to do with missing a meal, here are other steps to stop food craving.
Read more comprehensive information on Food Addiction.
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Neurobiology Of Reward Sensitivity
Addictive drugs directly affect the mesolimbic dopamine system , which is thought to mediate the processing of motivational salience, pleasure and reward . Animal studies have shown that, similar to drugs of abuse, palatable foods are capable of triggering dopamine release in the nucleus accumbens and ventral tegmental area . Furthermore, activity in the MDS has been linked to the amount of food ingested and its rewarding properties . However, distinct patterns of neuronal firing in the NAc to food and illicit substances have also been reported . Increased activation of this reward system has also been shown in human participants during the presentation of food cues and meal consumption . For example, Stoeckel et al. demonstrated that when viewing images of high-calorie foods, obese women showed significantly greater activation in a number of regions associated with reward, compared to healthy-weight women. Obese participants have also demonstrated increased responsivity to food in gustatory and somatosensory regions , suggesting a heightened sensitivity to palatable food that may contribute to overeating and obesity.
The Top 4 Treatment Options For Food Addiction
Food addiction, which is not listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders , can be similar to other addictions and often requires similar treatments and support to overcome.
Fortunately, several programs and therapies may provide treatment.
This article lists the 4 most common food addiction treatment options.
One way to address food addiction is to find a good 12-step program.
These are almost identical to Alcoholics Anonymous except the substance of addiction is different.
In a 12-step program, people attend meetings with others who also struggle with food addiction. Eventually, they get a sponsor to help them develop a dietary regimen.
Social support can make a big impact when dealing with food addiction. Finding people who share similar experiences and are willing to help can be beneficial to recovery.
In addition, 12-step programs are free and usually available worldwide.
There are several different programs to choose from.
Overeaters Anonymous is the largest and most popular option, with regular meetings across the world.
Greysheeters Anonymous is similar to OA, except they provide a meal plan that involves weighing and measuring three meals per day. While theyre not as widespread as OA, they offer phone and Skype meetings.
These groups are designed to provide a welcoming, nonjudgmental space.
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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
Ways To Beat Your Food Addiction
And nix your stress-eating for good
Its an all-too-common scenario: You wake up in the morning swearing todays the day when youll eat clean, nourish yourself with a healthy breakfast at home, and pass up the glistening bakery goodies that tempt you every day. You make it to work without incident and then stress hitsany kind of stress, from a new project deadline to a caustic remark from your boss. A little while later, you find yourself with pastries in hand, wolfing down sugary anesthetics and wanting more. When you finally pop out of your food trance, and the reality of what youve done begins to settle in, the ensuing feelings of shame and guilt stoke your stress levels more and youre already plotting your next food fix. You wonder: Why do I keep caving to these cravings? Wheres my discipline and willpower?
This is your brain addicted to food.
Thats right. Addicted. You might tell yourself, “Im not addicted to food I just love a good sweet now and then.” Well, Im here to tell you that food addiction is real it affects more people than you know, and manufacturers actually design food products so that they are as addicting as possible. Yes, that perfect combination of salty, sweet, and savory was created to make sure you keep reaching for more. Thats why I wrote The Hunger Fix, because I want to change the game that is rigged against you.
Here are six ways to beat food addiction:
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