Food Addiction: Signs, Symptoms, and How to Get Help
By Ashley Delmar
With obesity now a global health crisis, many professionals are shining a light on food addiction. Often correlated with binge eating disorder, food addiction occurs when a person develops an emotional dependence on food. Since the brain releases dopamine when we eat pleasurable foods rich in sugar and fat, biochemical dependencies on food are a growing concern for many food addicts around the world. Like any form of disordered eating, food addiction is a painful disorder that leaves sufferers feeling totally out of control. Knowing what signs to watch for is an important first step in recognizing food addiction and getting help for you or a loved one.
Eating More Than You Planned
Many people who suffer from food addiction may set out to eat a healthy amount of food only to find themselves eating far more than they originally planned. For food addiction sufferers, eating more than planned goes well beyond having an extra slice of pie at dinner. If you find yourself eating much more than planned most days of the week, it could be a sign of food addiction. Keeping a food journal and documenting instances of overeating is a good way to take stock of your eating and determine whether or not you may have a problem with food.
Many people with food addictions find themselves avoiding social situations due to the shame and fear of overeating. If being forced to eat in front of others causes you anxiety due to fear of overeating, this could be a sign of food addiction. Those predisposed to food addiction may also experience some forms of depression and anxiety, making them more likely to self-isolate regardless of any potential disordered eating. Eating Disorder Hope, an organization dedicated to connecting people with eating disorder recovery resources states that, "social anxiety or phobia, social comparison, poor social functioning, and social support have all been associated with eating disturbances." If you find yourself isolating to accommodate your eating habits, talking to a professional or someone you trust is an important first step in getting help.
While it's no secret that eating large amounts of food over an extended period of time can lead to weight gain, keeping track of fluctuations in your weight can be important in pinpointing a food addiction. A compulsion to constantly eat or not being able to stop eating even when you feel full can be made even more frustrating when the number on the scale keeps creeping up. The weight gain associated with food addiction can make sufferers feel as if they no longer have control over their own bodies, an extremely distressing feeling that can oftentimes make the addiction worse. As mentioned above, keeping a food journal may help you get a handle on overeating as it creates a visual representation of everything you eat. Speaking to a therapist or joining an organization such as Overeaters Anonymous may also be helpful.
Like other forms of disordered eating, food addiction can lead to isolation, weight fluctuations, and feelings of loss of control and helplessness. Even though food addiction can be debilitating, it's important to remember that help is available. Organizations like Overeaters Anonymous and Food Addicts.org exist to create an accepting community for those in recovery from food addiction. Talking to your doctor, therapist, or health care provider about your addiction is also an important first step in getting help. With an effective recovery plan in place, you can make the first steps towards overcoming food addiction and living a healthy life.
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