Saturday, June 8, 2024

Why Am I Addicted To Eating

Sugar Addiction And Emotional Eating

why am i addicted to food

People may find sugars ability to provide instant energy, combined with the good taste of sugary foods, enticing. Sugar provides some with a quick fix during a long and stressful day. People who are enduring breakups or other emotionally stressful situations often turn to chocolate or pints of ice cream to comfort themselves during the difficult time. However, those who turn to sugar to deal with emotional issues are more likely to become addicted. Other indications of sugar addiction for emotional relief are weight gain and difficulty focusing on daily responsibilities. These side effects can damage self-esteem, cause feelings of helplessness, and lower self-worth this in turn leads to more sugar consumption and a more severe addiction.

Problems With The Addiction Model

The reward system in the brain is very powerful. We certainly are pleasure seekers, and certain types of food entice more cravings than othersthose foods that are highly palatable, those that contain sugar, refined flour and fat can light up the midbrain dopamine receptors. In early food addiction brain imaging studies, many researchers argued that the brain on sugar looks just like the brain on cocaine.

The key here is pleasure. Take the same scans of a brain on an awe-inspiring vista in nature or a mother seeing her child for the first timeyep, it lights up like fireworks. Pleasure has profound reinforcing qualities, and singling out any one category of foods is problematic given that we need food to survive. We can avoid drug substances, but how far do we go with sugars and other carbohydrates? Ask someone with orthorexia who reads labels so closely that they know every single different word for sugar. Ask someone from the Keto Diet camp: Is fruit from a tree or a below ground root vegetable acceptable?

A recent study shows that the addictive qualities of cheese may be more powerful than those of sugar. Do we now avoid all dairy? There go two food groups! Its this type of black and white thinking that fuels the 65-billion-dollar diet industry.

What Is Addiction Of Eating Chalk

Most of you who are reading this post must have come across people, friends or acquaintances who have a compulsive habit of chewing on chalk as their favorite pastime. While we dismiss them thinking theyre just plain weird, there might be a graver underlying condition to their habit than just plain weirdness. Chalk eating is not just a habit.Its an addiction. And an addiction that may sound interesting, but nevertheless unhealthy to the core.

Chalk eating addiction is classified under a broad medical condition called Pica. Pica is a disorder of the human body, where the patient feels the urge to eat substances that are not categorized as food. A patient suffering from pica has the compulsive disorder of ingesting non-food substances. Pica, while it occurs in most animals, is extensively diverse in the case of humans.Under pica, we can find people obsessed with eating hair, chalk, paint, soil etc. Chalk is essentially calcium carbonate, a substance thats not a toxin but still unhealthy when ingested.

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Am I Addicted To Food

Do you feel as if you have a compulsive need to overeat? If so, you could be addicted to food. The idea of suffering from food addiction isnt a new one. After all, Overeaters Anonymous was first launched in 1960 in Los Angeles. However, the idea hasnt widely been accepted until the last few years.

The concept of being addicted to food is one that has only recently started to gain support. This is thanks to studies that have been carried out into the effect that compulsive overeating has on the brains pleasure centers. Experimentation in humans and animals have shown that, for some people, the identical pleasure and reward centers in the brain that react to addictive substances such as heroin and cocaine can also be activated by food, and especially foods that are rich in salt, fat and sugar. Just like addictive drugs, these foods can trigger chemicals like dopamine in the brain which make us feel good. Once someone has experienced the pleasure caused by increased dopamine in the reward pathway of the brain from eating these foods, they soon want to eat again.

Why Do People Become Addicted To Food

How to Overcome Food Addiction

The reward signals that highly palatable food causes in the brain can override the brains other signals of satisfaction and fullness. This makes compulsive eating just like other forms of behavioral addiction, which means that people become preoccupied with specific behaviors that trigger intense pleasure. People who are addicted to food become preoccupied with eating, losing all control over their eating behaviors. They find that they spend an excessive amount of time overeating and involved with food, or anticipating the emotional impact of their compulsive overeating.

People with food addiction also often develop a form of tolerance to food. This means that they end up eating more and more while finding that the food they used to love satisfies them less.

Experts believe that addiction to food has a key role to play in obesity, yet people of a normal bodyweight can also struggle with this type of addiction. Its possible that their bodies are just genetically programmed so that they can handle those additional consumed calories more efficiently, or perhaps they are more physically active and this compensates for their overeating.

People with a food addiction continue eating even though there are negatives consequences like damaged relationships and weight gain. Just like people with a gambling or drug addiction, those with food addiction struggle to cease their behavior, even when they try and want to cut back.

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So Youll Keep Walking Past That Vending Machine In Hopes That You Actually Will Give In

  • Youll eat sugary foods even when you don’t really want to.

  • Youll crave something, but you know its not a good idea. Then youll try and rationalise it by saying it will only be this time.

  • Youll also intend to eat once slice of cake, then think it wasnt enough, consume three more slices, and regret it straight afterwards.

  • Youll end up eating so much candy that you get a headache, gas, fatigue, or sleepiness – just like a hangover.

  • Youll maybe do this a couple of times a week if youre a sugar addict, because that split-second moment seems worth the horrible after effects.

Overcome Food Addiction With A Friend Or Family

Its nice to know that youre not alone during your treatment. So if you can reach out to family and friends to help you get through with it, then do so. If you ask your family to do this with you, you can all agree not to buy junk food in your house anymore.

It also helps if you reach out to your friends so the next time you hang out and have lunch, youd pick a healthy restaurant rather than a fast-food chain. Its also nice to have a friend watch out for what you eat. It may be annoying, but you know its for your own good.

You can also share recipes for healthy meals and cook healthy foods for one another. Going on a diet is much easier if you have a support system helping you overcome food addiction. You can even exercise together.

Also Check: How To Know If Your Addicted To Weed

The Best Solutions On How To Overcome Food Addiction

We all know how delicious junk foods, ice cream, or processed foods are. They are called comfort foods for a reason, and you can easily get addicted to them. But did you know that these comfort food have certain effects on the brain that make it hard for other people to avoid them? Or let just say that eating can be addicting in general.

Do you know the scary part? Food addiction is similar to substance abuse disorders or drug addiction. It is real, and its a hard habit to break, no matter how hard other people try. For some people, like individuals diagnosed with eating disorders, when stress is felt, relapse happens. This causes the person to start having bad eating habits again. Food addiction, is one of the bad eating habits people have.

In this article, youll learn what food addiction is and how to overcome it.

How Can You Be Addicted To Fasting

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Fasting can cause rapid weight loss, leading some to become addicted to it.

You can be addicted to fasting itself, the endorphin rush that fasting triggers or weight loss in general. If you are on a total fast, for the first few days you will lose weight very rapidly. This rapid weight loss is addictive because it produces results quickly. Unfortunately, just as some fasting is healthy, extreme fasting can be dangerous. When you fast too often you deprive your body of vital nutrients. Like many addictions fasting has some side effects that show up particularly when you are addicted to it. These side effects are:

  • weakness
  • changes in cardiac function
  • kidney damage

Most of these side effects are reversible as soon as your body starts to get the nutrients that it needs again.

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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.


How Many People Have Food Addiction

A recent systematic review examined the total prevalence of food addiction in people all over the world8Pursey K, Stanwell P, Gearhardt A, et al. The prevalence of food addiction as assessed by the Yale Food Addiction Scale: a systematic review. Nutrients. 2014 6:4552-4590.. Some interesting findings from this review emerged:

  • The global prevalence of food addiction is 19.9%.
  • Females had higher rates of food addiction than males .
  • Overweight/obese people had higher rates of food addiction than normal weight people .
  • People with an eating disorder had much higher rates of food addiction than people without an eating disorder .

Some people think that food addiction is just another term for binge-eating disorder.

The evidence does not support this, because more than 40% of people with binge-eating disorder do not receive a diagnosis of food addiction9Linardon J, Messer M. Assessment of food addiction using the Yale Food Addiction Scale 2.0 in individuals with binge-eating disorder symptomatology: Factor structure, psychometric properties, and clinical significance. Psychiatry Research. 2019..

This suggests that the food addiction construct is not entirely overlapping binge-eating disorder.

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The Role Of Cravings In Binge Eating Disorder

The struggle is real: Some people who have had prolonged exposure to high-sugar and high-fat foods have decreased dopamine receptors making them more vulnerable to pleasurable stimuli. This heightened sense of anticipation for reward increases their risk for using food for self-medication whether conscious or subconscious.

When explaining this to my clients, I use the metaphor of a fighter plane such as in the movie Top Gun that has technology that locks in the target for a missile launch. By the time your brain locks in on food, youre toast unless you use some very skilled flying to change your trajectory. Once triggered, these types of cravings activate reward-seeking behaviors. Behavior is influenced by stress. Food exposure combined with stressful stimuli, including prolonged food deprivation may activate this painful pull. Someone in substance use recovery might use the term jonesing.

For those with binge eating disorder, unfortunately the wanting is more powerful than the liking of the actual food or experience. There is evidence of dissociative processes during a binge that interestingly makes it hard to fully enjoy the reward the person was seeking.

Causes Of Addiction Of Eating Chalk

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A variety of underlying causes can lead to chalk eating addiction such as:

  • Mental Disorder- Most of the time, pica is associated with some kind of mental health condition or mental disorder. Doctors believe that this mental disorder is what drives their addiction to eat chalk all the time.
  • Nutritional Deficiency- Chalk eating addiction also points towards an unhealthy diet or a diet lacking essential nutrients. Lack of these drives the body and the mind towards the compulsive disorder.
  • During Pregnancy- Often women are found to crave for unusual things during pregnancy. It may range from simple things like the pickle to graver things like chalk, soil, etc. This can again be contributed to the above two reasons.
  • Due to poverty- People suffering from poverty often fall prey to pica because they have to scavenge for food all the time, and chalk is something that is easily available to them.

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Scientific Evidence For Food Addiction

Most of the evidence supporting the concept of food addiction is biological in nature, with some behavioural evidence also available.

Here are some of the key findings from studies that support the notion of food addiction:

  • Evidence shows that various processed foods and illicit drugs take advantage of the same neurobiological systems in the brain, namely the dopamine and opiate systems 2Nieto MM, Wilson J, Cupo A, et al. Chronic morphine treatment modulates the extracellular levels of endogenous enkephalins in rat brain structures involved in opiate dependence: a microdialysis study. Journal of Neuroscience. 2002 22:1034-1041.. Both systems are responsible for the perceived value of reward from both food and drugs.
  • Damage to the dopaminergic system has been shown to reduce the reward value of both sugary-rich foods and illicit drugs3Avena NM, Hoebel BG. A diet promoting sugar dependency causes behavioral cross-sensitization to a low dose of amphetamine. Neuroscience. 2003 122:17-20..
  • Positron emission tomographic imaging studies have also shown that both obese individuals and drug dependent individuals exhibit a decreased sensitivity of the dopamine-reward system4Wang G-J, Volkow ND, Logan J, et al. Brain dopamine and obesity. The Lancet. 2001 357:354-357..
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    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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    Critics Of Food Addiction

    Food addiction is not as widely endorsed as the literature suggests.

    Some of the main criticisms of the food addiction concept are10Fletcher PC, Kenny PJ. Food addiction: a valid concept? Neuropsychopharmacology. 2018:1.:

    • The addictive substances within foods are unclear: This a major problem because the food addiction model assumes that some foods directly affect the brain, hijacking its reward systems. Critics argue that it is difficult to accept claims that food can be addictive if we are yet to pinpoint what the addictive properties are.
    • Food addiction = binge-eating disorder: There is a lot of overlap between food addiction and binge-eating disorder, both at the diagnostic level and the symptom level. Given the substantial overlap, critics are wondering whether food addiction is just another fancy term for binge-eating disorder.
    • The neurobiological evidence is poor: Critics argue that there is no convincing human evidence showing that neurobiological changes do indeed underlie food addicted behaviours. Also, the same areas of the brain that light up in response to food and drugs may also light up to other pleasurable stimuli.
    • Too much reliance on animal models: Although rats show evidence of compulsive eating and a range of other characteristics associated with addiction when given intermittent availability of high-sugar foods, whether these findings can be generalized to humans has been questioned.

    Treatment Of Addiction Of Eating Chalk:

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    • The very moment you find an affinity for chalk or look at chalk as something edible, visit your doctor.
    • If youre fully into the addiction, visit your physician to check what damage the ingestion of chalk has done. For this, you may need to get blood tests, x-rays. endoscopy tests to be done
    • Once all the harm is identified and flushed out, visit a psychologist. Get professional help to identify the reason behind your disorder.
    • If the reason is identified as a mental disorder and ill-health, continue sessions with the psychiatrist and if required neurologists.
    • If the reason is lack of nutrients, then visit a nutritionist, plan a proper diet chart and follow it regularly.
    • Cut all means by which you can acquire chalk and related substances
    • If doing the above by yourself is difficult, get help from family or close friends. Describe your condition and let them be your motivation.

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