When most people think of addictive substances, drugs, alcohol and tobacco usually come to mind. But is food considered an addictive substance?
Food addiction is a behavioral addiction similar to gambling, drugs and alcohol, or internet addiction—addictions where a person is preoccupied by a certain behavior. The parts of the brain triggered by drugs can also be triggered by some foods, particularly by foods high in fat, sugar or salt.
People who show signs of food addiction have a higher tolerance for food—the more they eat, the more they need to sustain and the less full they feel over time.
Signs You May Be Addicted to Food
You have a high tolerance for food—you eat more and more only to be less satisfied by food.
You continue to overeat despite negative consequences like weight gain.
You have trouble stopping overeating.
You end up eating more than you planned to.
You keep eating even if you are no longer hungry.
You often eat to the point where you feel ill.
You go out of your way to obtain certain foods.
Other Factors Contributing to Overeating
Most people are not technically addicted. They are more likely habituated. Most people become obese because of one or more of three factors:
Behavioral: A person may have habits or even traditions of overeating or eating poorly. For example, let’s say you have a Saturday night tradition of watching a movie and eating extra portions of caramel-swirl ice cream and popcorn.
Environmental: Certain factors in our environment can cause us to overeat or eat poorly. For example, did that commercial make you head for the drive-through at your favorite fast food restaurant for dinner instead of cooking a healthier meal at home?
Genetic: Research shows that if your parents are obese, you’re more likely to be obese, too. But that doesn’t mean you can’t maintain a healthy weight. Watch your portion sizes and eat a healthy diet to avoid excess inches.
The world can be full of stresses, temptations and standard activities that may not be the most conducive for eating well and exercising regularly.
Next Steps & Resources:
1. DEVELOP A HEALTHY RELATIONSHIP WITH FOOD
In traditional 12-step addiction-based recovery models, addicts are challenged to remain abstinent for healing. However, with food addiction, one can’t simply abstain by not eating, as food is essential to life. Thus someone suffering with food addiction must learn how to eat properly again by establishing a healthy relationship with food.
2. SET BOUNDARIES WITH UNSAFE FOODS
Typically, trigger or “unsafe” foods are removed from the diet and boundaries are set so that managing these foods in a healthier way can be relearned. If someone binges on ice cream when he or she is stressed, it’s best not to keep it in the house. Eliminating the temptation until he or she can eat ice cream again in a balanced way is a safe option.
3. FOLLOW A STRUCTURED MEAL PLAN
A person suffering from an unhealthy relationship with food can get on the right track to recovery by following a meal plan and normal eating pattern. This helps the person set safe boundaries with food, and feel satisfied so that there is not a physiological need to eat. It’s more tempting to be out of control with food when there is physical deprivation.
4. LEARN HEALTHY COPING STRATEGIES
Address reasons for turning to food to cope. Identify healthier coping mechanisms and strategies so that one can begin learning healthier means of dealing with emotions.
5. SEEK PROFESSIONAL ADVICE
Beating a food addiction is a process that doesn’t happen overnight; it often needs to involve a registered dietitian and licensed therapist that specialize in the area of disordered eating. These professionals will help a person suffering from food addiction implement appropriate strategies, and provide accountability and sound advice.
Recovery from a food addiction is achievable.
We have over 40 years of experience helping our clients over come food addiction and unhealthy food behaviors.
You are not alone. We are here for you whenever you're ready.
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We’re health coaches, but we’re not your doctor. The information shared through our website, emails, products and services is for informational and educational purposes only. It may not be the best fit for you and your personal situation. It shall not be construed as medical advice, nor as a replacement for professional medical advice, diagnosis and/or treatment.
© 2021 Diet Center of Grand Island Inc.