Do you ever feel overwhelmed with a compulsion to just eat? A feeling that is so strong that you have to act on it? A drive so strong that you just need your ‘fix’ of food before you can calm and settle? This is what many clients describe as food addiction; a compulsion and drive to eat, where they simply become unable to control their eating.

Is Food Addiction Really An Addiction Like Drugs And Alcohol?

The term food addiction is normally used when refereeing to foods that are high in sugar, fat, or salt. All these substances are used to help our bodies function. Sugar is essential to provide energy, fat to protect our bodies and in our cell membranes, and salt to maintain electrical currents for chemical reactions. Our bodies know the importance of these substances and can begin to crave them.

When we consume these substances parts of our brain are also stimulated. High fat, sugar, and salt foods activate the hedonic system in the brain, our pleasure centre, and we get a release of a feel-good chemical dopamine. Food addicts experience the same hedonic system in the brain as cocaine and alcohol. When we become addicted, we need to eat more and more to get a similar fix and feel good. The vicious cycle has a strong chemical component. The more we stimulate this area of the brain, the more we need to get a similar fix to feel good. Addiction to these substances becomes a complex interplay of biology, emotions, psychology and behaviour.


Who Is Likely To Develop A Food Addiction?

Recent research has found a correlation between Binge Eating Disorder (BED) and individuals who tested positive for Food Addiction according to the Yale Food Addiction Scale. Studies have found that people who are dependent on substances such as alcohol share similar brain activities with those believed to be addicted to food.

If you are a person who struggles with binge eating disorder, you will experience an increase of dopamine while repeated exposures to tasty foods. The findings from the research indicate that a combination of food addiction and BED can be thought of as a unique subset of BED. One that is more severe and difficult to manage.

However, it is also possible to struggle with addictive like behaviours to food without having binge eating disorder.

Indicators that you may struggle with an addiction to food include:

  • You start eating a food you are craving, then find yourself eating it again soon after
  • You are eating to the extent that you feel sick
  • When you stop eating certain foods you experience withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety and agitation
  • You often get cravings for certain foods, despite feeling full and having just finished a nutritious meal
  • You feel unable to control eating unhealthy foods, despite knowing that they are harmful to your health.


How To Treat Food Addiction

The use of the term addiction implies that eating food is a problem that is overwhelming and out of our control. People who have addictive tendencies towards food must manage their addictive behaviours differently from people who struggle with an addiction to drugs and alcohol because it is essential for us to consume food.

One critique of the term food addiction is the minimising of a persons’ capacity to take action because it disqualifies the role of personal responsibility.

If you are struggling with addictive behaviours it is important to seek treatment. Even sever symptoms can improve with psychological intervention and in person talking therapy with a counsellor.

Treatment with a psychotherapist or psychiatrist may include:

  • Managing a safe withdrawal from your addictive substance
  • Exploring what you are avoiding through your behaviours
  • Learning skills to challenge your thinking, and managing emotions
  • Creating relapse prevention and wellness plans

Our team at WeightMatters agrees that food addiction can be managed with the help of proper weight therapy and support. We will help you uncover the underlying causes for your addiction and work with you to address your life struggles. Food does not have to be an experience filled with worry or anxiety. We can help you regain control over your struggles with food addiction and binge eating disorder.


Binge Eating Disorder Treatment

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