According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over a third of all Americans or around 35.7% suffer from obesity. Many believe these people are lazy or lack the willpower to stay physically fit. Then, there are others that believe food addiction is the true culprit, including several well-respected members of the scientific community. If you’ve been recently diagnosed with a food addiction or fear that someone you know and love is afflicted, it’s crucial to learn what exactly the diagnosis means, its real dangers and possible treatments.
What is Food Addiction?
WebMD suggests that people suffering from food addiction display many of the same predilections and attributes as alcoholics and drug abusers. Food addicts experience withdrawal symptoms, physical and mental cravings and a chemical dependence on eating certain types of food. There are several other qualities food addicts exhibit, including:
- An unhealthy compulsion or obsession with food.
- Feeling the overwhelming need to overeat or binge, even if there are negative consequences for doing so.
- Using food to create a false sense of comfort or pleasure. The addict will often becoming excited or seek fulfillment through eating.
- An overwhelming physical need to eat.
Dangers of Food Addiction
Obesity and the possible medical issue that arise from being overweight –including heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure – isn’t the only danger associated with food addiction. As a matter of fact, many professionals believe that food addiction doesn’t necessarily lead to obesity in every instance. As with other forms of addiction, an unhealthy obsession with food can cause lowered self-esteem and a feeling the afflicted has lost control. It’s these feelings that ultimately have a negative effect on the person’s relationships, career and family life.
Signs and Symptoms of Food Addiction
Before attempting to change your eating habits or seek professional help, it’s crucial to ask yourself a few important questions about your lifestyle. The first step that any potential food addict must take is to perform this simple self-diagnosis:
- Do you find yourself constantly thinking about food? Is the thought of your next meal or snack constantly on your mind, and is this disrupting your life.
- Do you have trouble controlling yourself while eating or snacking? For some addicts, their love of food is so overwhelming they physically cannot stop themselves from eating.
- Do you secretly binge or hide your obsessive eating habits from friends and family members?
- Do your eating habits make you feel ashamed or depressed?
- Do you find yourself often eating past the point of feeling full? Everyone eats a little too much on Christmas, but do you find yourself bingeing at almost every meal to the point where you become physically sick.
- Do your feelings of low self-esteem, anxiety or stress compel you to eat? Once again, many people have a bowl of ice cream when they’re down, but instantly grabbing a high-fat or calorie food at the first feeling of anxiety or depression is a sign of food addiction. This is because the consumption of these high calorie foods can trigger the release of brain chemicals that mimic euphoria and happiness.
The treatment for food addiction is two-fold: helping yourself and seeking professional assistance. There are a number of addiction specialists and support groups that cater to food addicts. Also, working with a Registered Dietician is another positive step in the right direction, as these specialists will help you form a more healthy relationship with food. On the individuals end, it’s crucial to learn their overeating triggers and how to deal with overwhelming food cravings. Here are a few ways a food addict can regain control over his eating habits:
- Learning your triggers, and how to stay away from them. For instance, many overeat when they’re bored, lonely or depressed.
- Drinking plenty of water throughout the day.
- Following a rigorous exercise regimen.
- Getting active instead of eating. When you feel a craving arise, get up and take a walk, play a round of tennis or fly a kite with your children.
Many scientists and medical professionals agree that food addiction is a serious, relevant diagnosis that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Instead of feeling ashamed by your addiction, embrace your imperfection and work toward living a healthier, more active lifestyle.
This article was written by Gregg Gustafson who is a consultant for Drug-Rehab.org. has over 5 years of experience working in an alcohol addiction center. Gregg is passionate about helping people fight addiction.