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Food Addiction: Truths That Will Knock the Stuffing Out of You

Reviewed by: Dr. Steven Knauf, D.C.

By Genevieve Cunningham

Food Addiction

Food is life. Not only does it literally sustain us and give us the ability to stay alive, but it’s also metaphorically life. You know -- it’s delicious. If you’ve ever sat down with a good meal at the end of the day, you understand this statement in its fullness. Food. Is. Magical.

But sometimes, food is a problem. We need food, but sometimes managing our eating habits becomes a task. And if we’re not careful, food can become an addiction.

Unfortunately, food addiction is an addiction that we don’t really understand. It doesn’t get as much attention as some of the bigger, more serious addictions like a drug addiction or alcohol dependence. And yet, it’s an addiction that can affect us every day and significantly impact our health.

What is Food Addiction?

According to Medical News Today, food addiction describes a compulsive or uncontrollable urge to eat food. It does not relate to hunger, but rather explains an unhealthy relationship with food. It can also be claimed as one of the many eating disorders, which makes it difficult to define. But PubMed Central breaks down the debate about food addiction even further. Here’s what’s being discussed in the world of addiction regarding food.

Do carbs and fat play a role in addiction? - Researchers want to know whether the types of foods we eat play a factor in addiction. Is it only specific foods that are involved in food addiction? Are we prone to becoming addicted to highly processed food? Does it matter if the food is fatty or full of carbs?

Is food addiction related to behavior or substance? - Although it’s more likely to be associated with high-carb, high-fat foods, researchers haven’t found a magic substance that causes addiction. Because of this, researchers suggest food addiction may be highly behavioral.

Is it real? - Researchers want to know if food addiction is valid. Is it a real problem that needs real concern? Is it something that needs treatment?

Whether or not scientists say food addiction is “real” doesn’t matter to the 1 in 8 Americans who show signs of food addiction. To them, food addiction is a real, tangible, significant problem that needs immediate attention.

What Are the Symptoms of Food Addiction?

You might think that the symptoms of food addiction would be obvious, and some of the symptoms are, in fact, easy to guess. But you may be surprised at some of the signs of an impending problem.

  • Cravings - Occasional cravings can be normal. If you find that you’re getting cravings even after you’re full, it may be a sign of a bigger problem.
  • Eating more than you need and want - Addicts often find themselves eating all of their food and then continuing to eat without the ability to stop. If that’s the case, a food addiction might be the cause.
  • Feelings of guilt - Many people who suffer from food addiction continually eat too much, feel guilty about it, and then do it again. The cycle continues over and over again.
  • Hiding eating - If you find yourself hiding food or stepping away from everyone to eat, you may have a problem.
  • Ignoring health issues - Eventually, food addiction can lead to serious health problems. But because it’s an addiction, we will often ignore the health problems and make excuses as to why we have to continue the habit.

Just because you experience one or more of these on occasion, it doesn’t mean you’re addicted to food. But experiencing one or more regularly may warrant closer attention.

Who Suffers From Food Addiction?

Many people think they’re immune to the struggles of food addiction. We know it’s out there. We know it’s real. But me? No way. The truth is that food addiction can affect anyone. Food is something we all need, so access is easy. Many drugs or other addictive substances are difficult to find or obtain. But food? It’s everywhere. It’s affordable. There is no barrier of entry to this addiction. Although anyone can develop a food addiction, some people are more likely to suffer.

  • Those suffering from mental health issues - Some doctors speculate that food addiction spirals from other mental health disorders like anxiety and depression.
  • Those looking for an escape - If you tend to opt for escapism, you should at least be aware of food addiction. Mental health professionals believe that some people use food as a way to escape the stress and pressure of daily life.
  • Those with low self-esteem - Low self-esteem can lead to awkwardness and stress in social situations, which can lead people to use food as a way to deal.

What Are the Consequences of Food Addiction?

Food addiction can cause a multitude of problems in your life. A few of the effects of food addiction that you might experience include the following.

  • Weight gain - Food addiction means eating more food, even when you’re full. This causes the most obvious consequence: weight gain.
  • Financial strain - This is especially true in today’s world. Food can be expensive. If a food addiction lasts too long, it may lead to serious financial strain.
  • Low self-esteem - If low self-esteem didn’t cause your food addiction, it’s possible that you’ll have lower self-esteem once the physical and mental aspects of the addiction take hold.
  • Isolation - Many people who can’t manage food addiction begin to feel nervous in social situations. They may find themselves avoiding social situations, which can lead to isolation and loneliness.

There are consequences to every kind of addiction. Some are much worse than others. But anything that affects your life and happiness is something that needs attention and treatment.

How Do People Treat Food Addiction?

If you find yourself suffering from food addiction, what are you supposed to do? Luckily, food addiction is gathering more and more attention, which means professional help is becoming much more available. Food addiction treatment can vary widely, which is why getting help is always a good idea.

  • Seek mental health help - A mental health professional may be able to help you find the trigger of your food addiction, as well as give you tips for how to manage it.
  • Keep your body in good condition - This means maintaining an exercise routine, seeing a chiropractor for pain, making regular checkups with your doctor, and continuing any wellness plans you have in place.
  • Support groups - No matter what kind of issue you’re dealing with, someone else is dealing with it, too. Find a support group to give you moral support. If you can’t find one, ask your mental health care professional or general practitioner for help.

Food is life. We can’t live without it. But we can certainly live without the addiction, the weight gain, the obsessiveness that sometimes comes with it.

Enjoy your food. Savor your food. Experience food without the stress. Get help with your addiction so that food can be delicious and magical every step of the way.

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