Food Addiction • San Jose Counseling and Therapy
Experts in the field of eating disorders have just begun to recognize food addiction as a viable concept. Food addiction is just like any other addiction in that it is an obsessive and behavior.
Typically, the food addict has an eating disorder, other addictions, and/or psychiatric disorders. Recovery from food addiction involves professional support in the form of eating disorder therapy to acquire tools to facilitate necessary changes.
Signs and symptoms of food addiction can vary from person to person. Some of the most common characteristics include the following:
- Eating in privacy to prevent others from seeing what or how much you are eating
- Avoiding social interactions involving food or eating
- Avoiding social interactions because you are embarrassed or have clothes that fit because of overeating
- Stealing food from other people
- Obsessing over food
- Caring more about food than friends or family
- Feeling ashamed about your weight
- Feeling depressed or sad about your weight or self-image
- Feeling hopeless when it comes to losing weight
- Emotional eating (eating to feel better)
- Eating as a reward
- Eating even when you are not hungry
- Feeling anxious or irritable when you try to stop eating certain foods
Eating Disorder Treatment of Food Addiction
John McDougall, a medical doctor who has dedicated his career to saving lives through diet and lifestyle medicine, poses the question, Is Sugar Really Food Heroin? According to McDougall, Individuals who eat highly refined carbohydrates like white sugar and white flour actually become addicted.
In addition to granulated sugar, McDougall also has also focused on fructose corn syrup, comparing it to heroin and cocaine because all three have been processed in order to make a potent concentrated substance intended for the purpose of intense pleasure. Other concentrated foods, such as refined foods that contain white flour, have this same calorie dense intensity.
The concept of food addiction has long been rejected by the medical establishment. While health care professionals have readily understood alcoholism and drug abuse, they have resisted of the idea that someone can be addicted to food in the same way.
Instead, they have preferred to refer to food addiction as food craving, describing it as an intense desire to eat a specific food, while admitting that it is extremely common and an influence in obesity and nutritional status. Research into eating disorder therapy supports the idea of food addiction.
Research into Food Addiction
Recent research has caused food addiction to undergo re-examination. A study in 2004 found that food craving may be the primary source for all type of cravings, including those found in addiction.
Researchers have employed magnetic resonance imaging to show that food cravings activate the same parts of the brain that operate emotion, memory and reward. These are the same regions of the brain that have been found to be stimulated in drug addiction studies.
The same study also found — as has other research — that monotonous diets can significantly increase the likelihood of food cravings. Food cravings are extremely common with studies estimating that nearly 100 percent of women and almost 70 percent of men report having experienced food cravings.
Additionally, food cravings have been linked to snacking behavior and diet noncompliance, both related to obesity and eating disorders. Most eating disorder therapy will address food addiction because it is typically a feature of many eating disorders.
Therapist Treating Food Addiction
I have been treating people and their families affected by addiction for over 30 years. Just like addictive drugs, highly palatable foods trigger feel-good brain chemicals such as dopamine and the only way to break the addictive cycle is by getting help.