Food Addiction 101
The thought that someone can be addicted to food was not always accepted but now days the idea that a person can have a food addiction has gotten more support from science.
Experiments in animals and in humans has shown that for some people the same reward and pleasure centers of the brain that are activated by drugs such as cocaine and heroin are also activated by, believe it or not, food; especially, really tasty food. Food that is rich in the good stuff like sugar, fat, and salt.
Very similar to illicit substances such as coke and heroin, really tasty foods trigger a feel-good response in your brain. This is due to the release of neurotransmitter called dopamine. Once you experience the pleasure of eating, due to the increase in dopamine, you will quickly feel the need to eat again. And this is where food addiction starts. The reward signals or dopamine release from highly palatable foods may override other signals in the brain such as fullness and satisfaction. As a result of that override, you end up overeating.
People who have signs of food addiction are very similar to those who show signs of drug addiction. You may end up developing a tolerance to food which means you have to eat more and more only to figure out that food satisfies you less and less. Scientists believe that food addiction may play an important role with those people who are overweight.
People who struggle with a food addiction will also continue to eat despite negative consequences. This is just like a drug addict will continue using drugs regardless of consequences. The negative consequences of a food addiction can range from weight gain, bad health, and even damaged relationships.
Here are some signs of food addiction:
- 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
These signs of food addiction are very similar to the signs of drug addiction. In fact food addiction has even more similarities to drug addiction in the way that it impacts your personal life and those of the people around. For instance, food addiction affects your personal life in many ways such as:
- 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.
- Eating food causes problems such as depression, anxiety, self-loathing, or guilt.
- You need to eat more and more food to reduce negative emotions or increase pleasure.
- Eating the same amount of food doesn’t reduce negative emotions or increase pleasure the way it used to.
Food addiction even has withdrawal symptoms which is something most people don’t associate with anything other than drug addiction. Withdrawal symptoms from food can cause:
- Other physical symptoms
There is still no concrete treatment for food addiction. Some people say that treating food addiction is even more complicated than treating other kinds of addictions such as drug addiction. This could be because everyone has to eat to survive whereas with drug addiction, drugs and alcohol are not a necessity to survive. There are growing fellowships for those who suffer from food addiction such as, Food Addicts in Recovery Anonymous. These groups use the principles of the 12 step programs used in AA or NA but also include strict diets and require that people abstain from their problem ingredients such as refined flour, wheat, sugar, and high fat foods.
If you or a loved one is in need of drug, alcohol and/or eating disorder treatment please give us a call at 800-951-6135.