How Do I Know If Im Addicted To Food
Food addiction is elusive it doesnt always look the same. It affects both men and women, and it can occur at any age.
People addicted to food are not always overweight in fact they can be underweight or normal weight. This is because weight can be controlled with over-exercising or restricting or purging food. Those who suffer from food addiction can lose control despite their best attempts to stop overeating.
To determine if someone has a food addiction, clinicians can use the Diagnostic Statistical Manual , which describes the symptoms of substance dependence. If the patient answers yes to three or more of the following seven criteria, a medical professional would likely refer the patient for further evaluation:
To assist with diagnosis of food dependance, researchers at the Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity developed a food addiction scale. The following is a sampling of questions from the Yale Food Addiction Scale that require yes or no answers:
Food Addiction And The Weight
For people with food addiction, the decision to overeat is not a conscious one, at least not in the early days of your addiction. You do not wake up and think, Rise and shine! Lets get crackin. Eat a box of donuts and lose some of that self-esteem!
No, its usually more like, Im going to be so good todayis that an OREO?
Food addiction is a daily struggle for many weight-loss surgery patients. It may be a week, a month, a year after surgery but for about 70 percent of those who undergo weight-loss surgery, it happens.
Of course, having the smaller stomach and/or rerouted intestines that come with WLS can be a great tool to help control your eating, but if you had trouble with food before surgery, there is high risk of eating compulsively, overeating or even just obsessing about food after surgery.
What exactly is food addiction?
Addiction is a loaded word that unfortunately holds a negative connotation for many people. That is why I prefer the term eating disorder, but even that term is viewed negatively by some.
The truth is, though, that food addiction is a complex problem for which there is no one cause and no simple solution. No matter what you call it, food addiction or an eating disorder, the basic definition is the same: an unhealthy relationship with food.
You do not set out to be addicted to food, or to be affected by obesity. Food addictions can develop over time, and are not always obvious in the early stages.
What if you are a food addict?
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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Can Food Addiction Be Cured Or Prevented
As with other addictions like alcoholism and drug addiction, treatment for food addiction isnt a cure. However, food addiction is treatable and can be successfully managed or at least mitigated. However, people who are recovering from an addiction will be at risk for relapse for years and possibly for the rest of their lives. Research shows that combining abstinence from a persons addictive foods with support from a twelve step program and or a professional who uses the abstinence approach to treatment, ensures the best chance of success for most people. Treatment approaches tailored to each persons food use patterns and any co-occurring medical, mental, and social problems can often lead to continuous recovery.
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
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Effects Of Food Addiction
The effects of food addiction are different for every person. There really is no one size fits all food addict type. Food addicts can come from all socioeconomic backgrounds, ethnicities, ages and more. However, they are all at risk for the physical and psychological effects of food addiction:
- Increased risk for medical issues. These run the gamut from diabetes, liver disease and chronic fatigue to reduced libido, stroke, kidney disease and osteoporosis.
- Tremendous guilt. When you eat more than you know you should, and spend money to buy food to binge eat, you may find yourself embarrassed and feeling shame.
- Increased stress and lowered self-esteem. Whenever you have a condition you feel you cannot regulate, you are in jeopardy of declining confidence mixed with heightened anxiety.
These are very serious effects, and they illustrate why its important to start treating food addiction early. It should be noted, though, that not all people who are food addicts are heavier than normal. In fact, some peoples bodies are able to metabolize large quantities of food quickly. Therefore, even if you are of average weight, you can still have a food addiction.
Avoid Alcoholic Drinks And Caffeine
As much as you can, avoid alcoholic drinks and caffeinated beverages . Evidence shows that drinking alcoholic or caffeinated beverages triggers poor eating choices.
Coffee can cause the body to crave sugary drinks or sweet foods. In addition, too much caffeine can cause anxiety, and an anxious person may end up resorting to binge-eating comfort foods to feel better.
Drinking alcohol may also cause you to become hungry. After a night of drinking or bar-hopping with friends, eating whatever you see on the fridge, even junk food, seems like a good idea. Alcohol causes poor judgment in many people, so this can destroy your recovery.
Also, avoid soda because it has addictive substances and high sugar content. Dont make it a part of your everyday life to consume sugar because this can trigger addiction in your brain.
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Inability To Cope With Negative Emotions
Much like recreational drugs, the good feeling you get from eating sweet, salty, or fatty foods can mask negative emotions. Eating is one way of dealing with these negative emotions since it provides the dopamine release that makes us feel so good. When we dont have skills for coping with negative emotions it can be easiest to look to substances for relief.
According to the journal Physiology & Behavior, food addiction is focused more on relieving or avoiding negative feelings rather than seeking positive ones.
Food Is Survival Its Not Addicting
There are other issues with the food addiction model, including the fact that kissing babies and receiving hugs light up the very same pleasure centers as drugs and food.
The bottom line though is that we dont have sufficient evidence to suggest food addiction is a true biological addiction. In fact, evidence suggests food behavior that feels compulsive is simply a survival response its our bodies doing what they were designed to do.
If youre struggling with feeling addicted to food, it might help to flip the script a little bit.
Could it be possible for you to feel appreciative that your body is watching out for you like this? That its functioning as intended and doing everything in its power to keep you safe and secure? Its not easy, especially if youve come from a long history of berating and criticizing your body. But if you can recognize that this feeling of food addiction is actually a survival or coping mechanism, you may find it easier to practice self-care and gentle nutrition regardless of how your body looks.
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What Would Happen If Food Addiction Was Made Official
Because of this, treatment of binge eating disorder has taken a moderate, all foods fit approach that focuses more on making peace with food and the body dissatisfaction that drives the binge-and-restrict behavior. Treatment focuses on addressing the emotional dysregulation and avoidant behaviors such as bingeing to escape their present reality. Becoming weight-neutral rather than using weight loss as a measure of treatment success helps those struggling to focus on intrinsic factors driving the behavior rather than the size of their bodies.
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 Leads To Food Addiction
From the time were young, we learn that its bad to do drugs, drink alcohol excessively, smoke and abuse over-the-counter medications. However, were never taught food can be anything but an asset. Certainly, we are told to eat in moderate portions, but at the same time, we celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, holidays and special occasions with food!
From Christmas cookies to French fries, we become accustomed to particular foods we associate with good times, love, relationships, friendships and excitement. Consequently, we are primed to become addicted to the very substance that keeps us alive.
The causes of food addiction vary, and every food addict becomes addicted for their own reason. What makes you crave one type of food to the point where youll eat it excessively to the detriment of your health and social situation may not affect someone else. However, most people with food addiction exhibit one or more of the following traits:
Whatever the reason, if youve ever wondered, Do I have a food addiction? its time to take your thoughts seriously and get to know the signs and symptoms related to food addiction.
Investigating The Evidence Behind Food Addiction
According to the food addiction research that asks, Is food addiction real? evidence that food addiction is a demonstrable, biological condition can be broken down into the following conclusions:
The problem with these statements is both reactions are mediated by restriction and deprivation. We live in diet culture, which means the same people hyper-concerned about food addiction are the same people constantly cycling through the diet-binge pattern. If we are constantly depriving our bodies, physically or mentally, we are going to respond strongly to food-related stimuli.
Why? Because we need food to survive! In many ways, this suggests our response to food is not addictive at all.
Similarly, feeling out of control around food and struggling to prevent yourself from eating is also an indication that your body is doing exactly what it was designed to do: seeking out the thing that fuels our body and keeps us alive.
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Help I’m Addicted To Food
I am completely and utterly addicted to food. Once I start eating… I never stop.
Food addiction is one of the many misunderstood topics that society grapples with today. This confusion, made worse by diet culture and old-school medical practitioners, can have long-term damaging effects on many people who struggle with food addiction symptoms. This misunderstanding feeds into chronic shame cycles and perpetual feelings of failure. Trauma and attachment histories are often overlooked and the need for mental health support ignored.
Many of my clients come in for the first time asking for help with their food addiction. They believe that they are at a high risk for cardiovascular disease simply because they are fat. Very often I get people telling me that they need help with their sugar addiction because the Dr. on TV that wrote a book said that sugar causes cancer.
While it is true that foods rich in sugar, fat, or salt can induce a rush of neurochemicals such as dopamine, allowing people feel good, this feeling in-and-of-itself is not harmful or addiction forming. Its actually a blessing. Dopamine is a chemical that is released during enjoyable situations, and facilitates pleasure in the brain.
The difference between food addiction and addiction to other substances is that we actually need food in order to live.
Society has become fat phobic and judgmental. We are so afraid of gaining weight that we restrict.
So do you still feel like you are addicted to food?
Signs Of Food Addiction
Researchers at Yale University’s Rudd Center for Food Science & Policy have developed a questionnaire to identify people with food addictions.
Here’s a sample of questions that can help determine if you have a food addiction. Do these actions apply to you? Do 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
The questionnaire also asks about the impact of your relationship with food on your personal life. Ask yourself if these situations apply to you:
- You eat certain foods so often or in such large amounts that you start eating food instead of working, spending time with the family, or doing recreational activities.
- You avoid professional or social situations where certain foods are available because of fear of overeating.
- You have problems functioning effectively at your job or school because of food and eating.
The questionnaire asks about psychological withdrawal symptoms. For example, when you cut down on certain foods , do you have symptoms such as:
- Other physical symptoms
The questionnaire also tries to gauge the impact of food decisions on your emotions. Do these situations apply to you?
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What To Do About Food Addiction
Dealing with food addiction is complicated and often involves addressing more than one underlying cause. If you think you may have a food addiction or emotional eating issue, talk with your healthcare provider about natural ways to reset food cravings and stop emotional eating.
This article was medically reviewed by Madiha Saeed, MD, a board certified family physician. As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor.
Its not easy to think about, but do you fit the food addiction category? What do you think is the biggest contributor?
What Is Food Addiction
Food addiction is defined as unhealthy habits or addiction to junk foods . Evidence shows it is similar to other eating disorders like compulsive overeating and binge eating disorder. This explains why many people with food addiction find it hard to adhere to healthier diets. They may develop obesity for this reason.
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