Could You Have a Food Addiction?

  • By Dr. Anand Thakkar
  • 16 Mar, 2016
Eating good food feels just as pleasurable as sinking into a hot bath, watching a gold and purple sunset, listening to live music, or smelling your favorite candle. It brings a bright, vibrant explosion of flavors, sensations, and emotions into your head, delighting your mind as much as your body.

Since food has this tantalizing effect on our minds and bodies, no one should feel surprised by the existence of food addictions. Just like other substances, food creates a pleasant sensation that no other substance can mirror. Some people become addicted to this sensation, so they eat out of control to maintain it.

Unfortunately, this addiction can lead to weight gain and a slew of other health problems. Read below to see if you have this addiction, and discover what you can do about it.

Food Addiction Symptoms

If you have a food addiction, you'll exhibit all or some of the following symptoms:

You can't control your food intake, especially when it comes to high-fat or high-sugar foods.
You continue eating long after you already feel stuffed. You may eat until you feel ill.
You can't make a diet work in the long-term.
You crave food even when you're full, so you snack constantly.
You obsess over what you'll eat and when you'll eat it.
You've tried using laxatives or diuretics, vomiting, and exercising constantly to avoid weight gain, but it hasn't worked.
You feel depressed, hopeless, and ashamed about your eating/weight, but you keep eating this way anyway.
You eat when you're upset and/or reward your good deeds with food.
Your emotions become more intense after you eat high-sugar, high-carbohydrate, or high-fat foods.
You eat in private so not one will see you.
You borrow other people's food.
You avoid social gatherings so people won't see how you look.
You care more about the food at social gatherings than the people you'll see there (even at friend or family gatherings).
You may experience all of these symptoms at once, or you may only experience a handful. Regardless, if your recognize several of the above in your life, you could suffer from a food addiction. And while it might not seem like a big deal (especially in contrast to hardcore drug addictions), it can cause serious and permanent health problems unless you do something about it.

Food Addiction Causes

Before you can overcome this addiction, you have to understand what causes it. We already outlined its link to pleasure above, but as you know, addiction usually goes deeper than that.

Just like drugs or alcohol, food releases dopamine into your brain. This chemical induces feelings of pleasure, and our primitive ancestors needed this kind of physiological response to encourage them to eat and survive. However, this evolutionary trait causes some problems for us today.

If you eat too much fat and sugar, your brain produces exorbitant amounts of dopamine, and that dopamine begins to change your brain's chemistry and structure. This leads to your brain becoming physically and chemically dependent on dopamine, so you become addicted as a result.

Food Addiction Complications

You can't compare food and drug addictions without running into a web of complexities. However, the two addictions do have one thing in common: they can cause serious, lasting health effects. If your food addiction continues unchecked, you could face the following problems:

Obesity (which leads to a higher risk of disease, organ failure, cancer, and all other conditions)
Type 2 diabetes
Heart disease
Digestive problems (including constipation and worse conditions)
Bulimia (which can lead to dehydration, tooth decay, damaged digestive tracks, and heart failure)
Isolation as you push loved ones away
Mental health disorders resulting from shame and isolation are also common. As with most addictions, you could lose your job and deplete your bank account as you try to feed this addiction.

The immediate symptoms already cause you enough problems. Don't let your food addiction turn into something more serious. Find a way to overcome the addiction so you can live a healthier, longer, and happier life.

Food Addiction Solutions

In some ways, overcoming a food addiction can prove more difficult than overcoming other kinds of addictions. After all, an alcoholic or a smoker can stay away from his or her addiction. But no matter what, you'll always have to eat food.

To get over this addiction, you'll have to visit with a specialist. Psychologists, nutritionists, weight loss specialists, and doctors may all have the qualifications necessary to help you overcome this hurdle. You can also join organizations like Food Addicts in Recovery Anonymous or any smaller groups in your area.

If you opt for professional help, you'll receive one of the following treatments:

Behavioral therapy
Psychotherapy
Nutritional therapy (or strict nutritional plans)
12-step programs (which you can find with any addiction)
Medications
Your healthcare professional will help you find the best option for your situation. If you think you have problems with food addiction, call a psychologist, nutritionist, or weight loss specialist for more help today.
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