What is food addiction?
Food addiction or eating addiction is an often overwhelming obsession with food, the desire to binge or overeat, especially “highly palatable foods” or comfort foods. Individuals struggling with food addiction often feel uncontrollable urges to eat when they are not hungry. Food addiction affects the part of the brain that is also impacted by substance use disorders – the dopamine reward system. Calling this problem an addiction is not merely metaphorical. Recent research has shown that substance use disorder and food addiction both involve the same biochemical processes in the brain.
Food addiction is what’s called a behavioral addiction. This means that you’re addicted not so much to the food itself as to the feelings you get from eating it. Other behavioral addictions include compulsive gambling and sex.
How does food addiction affect you?
Obsession with food can take over your life and create distance between you and those you love. You may find yourself so obsessed with food that it interferes with work or school. Food addiction is often association with body dissatisfaction and a focus on trying to change your body size or shape. Individuals with food addiction may also experience depression and anxiety.
But food addiction is not about food!
Eating can serve many purposes that have nothing to do with the food itself. Often, we eat to manage stress. Many people use food to turn up the volume on pleasant emotions (like pleasure or happiness) or to dampen uncomfortable feelings (like anxiety, anger, or sadness). Someone who’s experienced trauma in the past may eat comforting foods as a way to cope with feelings of fear or to relax even though the world doesn’t seem like a safe place.
What can you do to heal from food addiction?
Your struggles with food and eating are not a matter of willpower or personal weakness. Thinking of food addiction as a disease of the brain, just like substance addiction, can help you look at your own experience with less judgment. That alone can make you feel much better.
Rationally, you know that the hollowness of grief or the pain of a divorce or the brutal trauma of child maltreatment, abuse or neglect cannot be filled with chocolate cake. A big plate of macaroni and cheese won’t truly make you feel safe or loved. But when you’ve spent years eating for the “wrong” reasons, it can be easy to lose track of the proper purpose of food.
The process of recovery from food addiction involves changing your relationship with food. Below, I’ve listed the Food Addiction Recovery Manifesto to help you identify what a healthy relationship with food might entail:
- Binge eating disorder is the most common eating disorder in the United States.
- It affects 3.5% of women and 2% of men.
- This condition affects people of all races, levels of education, and income levels.
- Symptoms can be found in children, adults, and teens.
- Approximately 70% of people with binge eating disorder are overweight.
- Binge eating disorder is not about weight.
- Binge eating disorder may run in families and may be triggered by dieting.
If you’re struggling with food addiction and are ready to begin your recovery journey, schedule a free consult to discuss your individual food and body image issues. Click Here
The Anchor Program is a 12-week ONLINE, non-diet program for people with binge eating disorder, food addiction and emotional eating. Learn More Here