Can You Really Be Addicted to Food?

Unlike widely acknowledged addictions to drugs or alcohol, many people question whether food addictions are real. But food addiction is a very real addiction, and one that triggers the same reward pleasure centres within the brain that are triggered by addictive drugs such as cocaine and heroin. Foods addicts suffer from the same withdrawal symptoms and cravings as other addicts, and food addiction can dominate and ruin lives in much the same way. Food addiction can negatively impact on your relationships with others, and cause your physical and mental wellbeing to deteriorate dramatically.

People with food addictions are often labelled fat, greedy and criticised for their lack of self-control by those ignorant of their condition, meaning that there is a huge stigma associated with suffering from a food addiction.  Food addicts are often criticised and ignored, and they are often not offered treatment or support to help them deal with their problems. Even medical professionals largely ignore food addictions, and whilst many health insurance policies will provide basic treatments for drug or alcohol addictions, they do not make any provision for the mental health treatment and support needed by those overcoming food addictions.

How is Food Addiction Treated?

The treatment of food addiction is much more complicated than the treatment of other addictions. Whilst alcoholics can abstain from alcohol and drug addicts can abstain from drugs, it is not possible for food addicts to abstain from eating food: food consumption is essential to life. That means that rather than abstinence, food addicts must develop a healthy relationship with food instead (although abstinence from known trigger foods, such as fried foods or candy, may be wise at least in the short term).

Because external treatment for food addiction is difficult to receive, one of the first and most important steps you can take is to realise that you have a problem and to commit to regaining control of your eating habits independently. Following a structured meal plan can help with regaining this control, and with avoiding problematic foods: meal plans will help you to understand and establish normal eating habits that you can continue to model your food behaviour on. 

Distraction is another great coping strategy: many food addicts eat when they are stressed or bored, and often don’t have other healthy habits to fall back on. Starting a new hobby, such as sewing, writing or even gaming can give you something else to do with your hands and your mind when boredom and stress drives you to food. If all of these strategies continually fail then professional help is available: finding a nutritionist or dietitian and a therapist that specialises in food addiction could give you the addiction support you need to regain control of your diet and of your life.

Turn to Exercise

Many food addicts suffer with weight problems as a result of their addiction, but the good news is that exercise could be the solution to both of these problems. Exercise can satisfy the same pleasure centres in your brain as food, raising dopamine levels and increasing your number of dopamine receptors. Beginning an exercise regime, starting slowly and at a low intensity so that you don’t put too much strain on your joints and muscles, could not only provide the distraction you need from food, it could also give you a new focus for receiving a natural high, and help you to lose weight much faster, and in a healthier and more controlled way. Whilst it is possible to develop an addiction to exercise, and this is something to be aware of if you have already demonstrated an addictive personality type, turning to exercise could be the ideal solution for food addicts in need of additional help and support.

Author: Missi Davis

Resources                             

“Can you really be addicted to food?”, Intuitive Eatinghttp://www.intuitiveeating.com/content/can-you-really-be-addicted-food

“How to tell if you have a food addiction – and eight ways to regain control”, Prevention Magazine, http://www.prevention.com/weight-loss/how-beat-food-addiction

“Are you a food addict?”, Food Addicts Anonymoushttp://www.foodaddictsanonymous.org/are-you-food-addict

“Health Insurance”, Qhttp://www.quotezone.co.uk/health-insurance.htm

 “5 steps to take control of food addiction”, My Fitness Palhttp://blog.myfitnesspal.com/5-steps-to-take-control-of-food-addiction/                  

 “Food addiction – a serious problem with a simple solution”, Authority Nutritionhttps://authoritynutrition.com/how-to-overcome-food-addiction/


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