For many years now, the world has been battling an epidemic that has affected a major part of the world’s population including children and adults; this epidemic has been called ‘Obesity’.
As the attention of health experts and researches was drawn to this new epidemic that has caused a large number of deaths globally, they came across the term ‘Food Addiction’ or binge eating.
Before this discovery, we had been aware of quite a number of addictions including drugs, alcohol, and even sex. However, addiction to food came somewhat as a surprise.
In recent times, we have seen a new pattern of eating where people overeat and overindulge in meals even when they are not hungry. Some persons will eat for virtually no reason; they will eat excessively, and most times unhealthy meals.
If these meal patterns sound familiar to you then you are an addictive eater.
For the purpose of clarity, let us define what Food Addiction is
What is Food Addiction?
The concept of food addiction is very similar to drug addiction. Food addiction affects the same area of the brain that drug addiction does. It also involves similar neurotransmitters and materializes in very similar symptoms.
Food addiction, or binge eating, is an uncontrollable craving for food in its excess, especially in its unhealthy form.
Most people get addicted to food high in refined carbs, flour, or processed sugar. When these foods get digested, they metabolize into sugar and flow into the bloodstream.
How does Food Addiction Work?
Food addiction is a chemical process that takes place in the brain. A number of persons mistakenly assume that it is a mental matter and can be solved simply by not thinking about food, but that is not the case.
Food addiction is caused by the release of neurotransmitters that are hijacked when we eat some kind of meal.
When you eat junk or processed meals, it releases ‘dopamine’, a neurotransmitter associated with the brain’s pleasure and reward system.
This dopamine takes over control of the brain’s biochemistry and makes the eater always want to eat such meals to feel pleasure and a source of reward.
So, as you eat more of these processed meals, dopamine is hijacking a part of your brain until you cannot do without eating such meals.
Highly processed foods and junks, especially those with high sugar and wheat content have proven to be highly addictive.
Some of such foods to avoid include Sweets high in sugar, Burgers with bread, Pizza, Cake, etc.
Symptoms of Food Addiction
Although food addiction is a substance addiction, it cannot be seen in blood tests like you can trace drugs or alcohol. Instead, it has symptoms that display just like other behavioral addictions.
You have to look at outward symptoms to tell who a food addict is.
If you are not sure as to whether or not you are a food addict, here are a few things to look out for.
- Frequent and intense craving for unhealthy food even when you have had a meal.
- Satisfying your cravings excessively when you get the opportunity until you are overfed.
- A deep sense of guilt after overeating junk and unhealthy meals, followed by the inability to stop yourself next time the opportunity arises
- Always finding an excuse for your overindulgence in junk and unhealthy foods (sadness, joy, anger are some common excuses)
- You hide your cravings from friends and family and constantly lie about what you are eating (you probably hide a stash somewhere and eat them when you’re alone)
- Constantly overlooking the dangers and harm associated with unhealthy eating because you don’t want to stop.
- Failed attempts at reducing your cravings or quitting your addictive habits.
If you show any or most of these symptoms, then you should see a health expert as a matter of urgency because you suffer from a serious case of food addiction and it can have dangerous effects on your health and life.
How to Treat Food Addiction
While medical experts are carrying out research on a possible medical cure for food addiction, there are steps you can take to aid your recovery.
- Make a list of foods you crave and are bound to overeat and avoid them. Also, avoid eateries and other places where you will come across these meals.
- Decide to abstain totally from all the meals that led you to addictive cravings.
- Make better meal choices by planning your meal beforehand; get a meal timetable if possible and prepare adequately for it.
- Constantly remind yourself of the reasons you are cutting out unhealthy meals. Make a list of the health risks these meals pose and have them with you always. Anytime you are tempted to go back on your efforts, remind yourself why you should not go back.
- Lastly, visit a medical practitioner for help and advice.