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Can People Really Be Addicted to Food and Eating?

By: , SparkPeople Blogger
1/19/2011 6:00 AM   :  321 comments   :  98,525 Views

Do you ever feel like you just can't stop yourself from overeating? Are there some foods that are extremely hard for you to resist even when you aren't hungry? Is it very hard to stop eating once you've started, even though your intention is to have just a small amount?

If so, you're definitely not alone. But what's going on here? Is it possible you might be addicted to food?

Not long ago, most experts would have said "no." The prevailing wisdom was that people with the right biological susceptibility might get addicted to drugs or alcohol, but food was just not an addictive substance in the same league with, say, alcohol, crack cocaine or meth. After all, people don’t get addicted to broccoli, oatmeal, or chicken breasts. Even though eating certain foods (usually refined sugars and/or fatty, salty foods) is known to increase appetite in some people and/or turn off the satiety signals that normally would tell them when to stop eating, and even though certain psychological problems can lead some people to become compulsive eaters, these problems were not seen as the same kind of thing as a true substance addiction.

More recently, though, the evidence has been painting a different picture…

Studies like the one reported in this N.Y.Times article have shown that people with a family history of alcoholism also may have a substantially higher risk of being obese than people without such a family history. More significantly, recent animal studies have made it clear that rats (our close relatives when it comes to the neurobiology of eating behaviors) can indeed become addicted to certain types of foods, exhibiting the same kinds of behaviors observed in humans with late-stage addiction to drugs.

And most telling of all are new insights stemming from advances in brain imaging technology, which make it possible to "see" inside the human brain and witness what’s going on when people eat certain foods and/or get caught up in compulsive overeating. It turns out that this brain activity looks very much the same, regardless of whether the individual is a drug addict taking a drug or a habitual overeater eating a double cheeseburger with fries.

Thanks to these developments, the definition of "addiction" has been changing a lot recently. It now includes addiction to behaviors that don’t involve use of any substance at all. Many health professionals and researchers now consider it possible for people to become addicted to gambling, sexual activity, shopping, online gaming/internet use, and other such behaviors. The common denominator in all addictive behavior, according to this new perspective, is that in people with a neurobiological susceptibility to addiction, any behavior that triggers a strong response in the primitive pleasure/reward centers of the brain can be heavily reinforced by this pleasure response. Over time, this potent reinforcement can overwhelm the individual's "normal" judgment and self-control processes, and make the behavior very difficult to control. In effect, it's not the external substance or behavior we get addicted to, it's the chemical reaction in our own brains. As this article suggests, we may need to rethink the whole concept of emotional eating, which may not be just about using eating to deal with uncomfortable feelings.

It's possible, I think, to make too much of all this information and jump to conclusions that go too far. There's no reason, for example, to think that all or most people who struggle with overeating, emotional eating, or obesity are struggling with a "food addiction." Nor does having the "addiction gene" mean an individual is automatically doomed to a lifetime of compulsive overeating--it takes the combination of many factors operating over an extended period of time to produce that kind of uncontrollable behavior. And even long-term addicts can and do recover, with the right kind of help and effort.

At this stage, maybe the most important implication of all this research is that eating the kinds of food found in fast food joints and the junk food sections of your local grocery may be a major risk factor for developing problems with compulsive or addictive eating. In his book The End of Overeating, Dr. David Kessler describes how "hyperpalatable" foods high in refined sugar, fat, and/or salt can alter brain chemistry, triggering the brain’s reward systems and generating a neurobiological response that stimulates people to crave more of those foods, even when they are not hungry and don’t need the energy. If you also happen to have a predisposition towards addiction, a diet high in these foods could easily lead to a full-blown food addiction over time. According to this research, even looking at pictures of highly pleasurable foods can trigger an intense urge to eat—a fact that hasn’t escaped food advertisers.

This new science should also tell us, I think, that blaming overeating problems on lack of willpower or some personal character flaw is neither accurate nor helpful. To avoid or recover from out-of-control eating we need to put our energy into identifying the foods and/or situations that trigger problems for us, and coming up with good strategies for helping ourselves control what and how much we eat. That starts with recognizing that we do, in fact, have this capacity.

For some of us at least, what we eat may play a big role in how much trouble we have sticking to a healthy diet and achieving or maintaining a healthy weight. It's not just a matter of how many calories there are in these "hyperpalatable" foods, but also the effects they have on our ability to stop eating when we want and/or moderate the amount of particular trigger foods we include in our diet. This could mean that susceptible people may need to avoid certain trigger foods completely, rather than trying to moderate their intake--just like an alcoholic has to avoid all alcohol.

I don’t consider myself a full-blown food addict, but I do know that I can't easily control how much of certain trigger foods I'll eat once I've started eating. If it's there, chances are very high I'll keep eating until it's gone. I either need to avoid these foods entirely (no more Italian sausages for me), or make sure I don't have them around the house in large enough quantities to cause trouble—no more kidding myself that I can make a big pot and get several meals out of it. I stay away from fast food places and restaurants that serve huge portions of things I like a lot.

What do you think? Does the idea of "food addiction" make sense to you? Are we living in a food environment that makes it harder than it should be for many people to actually be fully responsible for their own choices? Do you have to avoid trigger foods completely, or can you moderate your use of them?


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Comments

  • 271
    This information is spot on with my experience. It makes total sense that I might have the 'addiction gene' as both my parents abused alcohol for years. My 'drug' of choice is sugar, preferably in combination with chocolate. I can stop at one, but it is extremely difficult. Currently I eat a very healthy diet heavy in vegetables, fruits, whole grains and fish. But my trigger foods are the difference for me between maintaining my weight and losing weight. Thank you, Dean Anderson, for this informative piece. - 1/28/2011   12:47:14 PM
  • 270
    There are certain foods I refuse to buy because I cannot sleep if they're in the house...I HAVE to get up and eat them - all of them. Pinwheels is one of those foods. (Pinwheels are the graham like cookie with a large marshmallow on top and the whole thing is dipped in chocolate.) So I think recognizing you have a problem is the first step to getting over this. (Sound like AA? LOL) - 1/28/2011   9:35:30 AM
  • 082059
    269
    It's funny - I feel like I am totally addicted to food. I quit smoking a year ago. I have done nothing but pile on weight. I don't really have the finances to go out and buy the "right" food. It's amazing how the "wrong" food can often be the least expensive and the longest lasting. When I was on Atkins - All of the food cravings stopped. But there came a time when my whole system seemed to be screaming for carbs - It's a hard diet to stay on. It's unfortunate there isn't a herb or vitamin or medicine of some sort to help you forget to want to eat. Will power is great and the decision to diet is great but when you have so many constraints it's difficult to figure out how to move forward. Yes, I am a food addict - now what? - 1/28/2011   7:43:50 AM
  • CBOCIAN
    268
    I've known that I react to food differently than other people. I have obsessive thoughts about food even if I'm not eating and I know there are foods that cause "fireworks" in my brain when they end up in my mouth. I have gone to Overeaters anonymous which has been helpful. Your article certainly helped to reinforce what I've known. Photos and suggestions of certain foods stimulate thoughts of eating for me. I know I have a much easier time and feel much better about myself when I avoid those trigger foods. Thanks for sharing your article. It really is empowering. - 1/28/2011   1:25:22 AM
  • AMYG5025
    267
    Wow, thanks for such an interesting article and so many thoughtful comments! I'm sure there is much more we will learn in the future about whether food addiction is indeed a real mental disorder. I found many of the points in this article and the comments intriguing and personally relevant. I come from a family with a history of addiction (alcoholism and overeating) and I had never heard that females from alcoholic families can be prone to carbohydrate addiction. This certainly casts a new light on my difficulties stopping eating sweets and carbs once I start. I can also really identify with many people here who have noticed that when they eat healthy, it's easy to keep eating healthy. But once you allow a few treats, it's a rapid downward spiral. I refer to it as riding the sugar highs and lows! I appreciate that some of the posters have recommended different books on this and various related topics. I will definitely be adding them to my reading list. Thanks for a great article and comments, I love getting a shot of inspiration from other Sparkmembers! - 1/27/2011   9:09:20 PM
  • 266
    I believe this to be true. I seem to have more trouble on certain days of the month, or one week and weekends are trouble for me. It seems I never get full some days, I just keep eating one thing after another all day and feeling worse and worse that I am spiraling out of control. I want to stop, but actually putting on the brakes takes more will power than I possess!! - 1/27/2011   6:07:33 PM
  • JUJUDODDS
    265
    I do believe, for me, there are trigger foods that can cause me to eat without a great deal of mindfulness. Cookies, potato chips, etc. all are trigger foods and I try not to keep any around. Nice to know my intuition may have been correct. Plus, wasn't our bodies hardwired through famine and drought to eat high calorie foods when there were some. Makes some sense to me that some folks would over indulge--kind of like instincts. Our bodies just haven't adjusted to having so much food around. - 1/27/2011   3:55:57 PM
  • RBURCHE1
    264
    My family loved me with food, so now as a adult I eat to feel that love again I think anyway. I KNOW this food addiction is real. I didnt realize it was not a recognized addiction! - 1/27/2011   3:51:24 PM
  • 263
    I discovered that I was allergic (my own diagnosis) to sugar, white food, when I refrain eating candies, white bread and pastries, I eat better throughout the day. Is all this between my two ears? - 1/27/2011   2:08:47 PM
  • TOMSPAVING
    262
    I have always thought i had a problem and thought it was due to depression.I can eat a full meal and 5 minutes later start thinking of foo and it gets so bad that if i dont eat my throat starts hurting and if i have a period of time where i might loose a couple of pounds then im hungry all the time and cant stop eating.Now i weigh 360 pounds and cant loose it. - 1/27/2011   1:33:00 PM
  • 261
    I have found this information to be absolutely true for me. When I avoid sugar, white flour and highly processed foods for several days, I begin living a life free of cravings. Over time, I drift back to thinking I can manage "a little." When I start dipping back into these foods, I can track a downward spiral that ends with a binge and feeling miserable. I am still human and can fall into the stinking thinking that says I can "manage a little. " But since I have come to an acceptance of the addiction and the cravings these foods produce in me, I am spending many weeks in a row of living a sane and calm life without cravings. I hope I don't have to keep proving this to myself over and over again. I have tracked it often enough to KNOW that it is true for me. I love living craving-free!!! - 1/27/2011   1:11:14 PM
  • MICHELINE2011
    260
    I am a Research Scientist working in nutrition investigation and I have been fascinated with this area for many years now. There is definitely a case to be made for "food addiction". The evidence is growing steadily. Animal research has certainly identified similarities between sugar consumption and drug addiction. If you're interested in this read Dr. Bart Hoebel's research. He and his research team in the Department of Psychology at the Princeton Neuroscience Institute have studied sugar addition in rats for many years and are leaders in this area of research.

    To better help people with true food addiction we have to be able to identify them and that can be tricky. How do we know if someone is an addict or simply an overeating? I think we are still in the early stages of being able to identify "food addicts", but researchers at Yale's Rudd Center have developed and published the Yale Food Addiction Scale (YFAS) which is being used in projects around the country and the world (Gearhardt, Corbin, & Brownell, 2009). This scale was developed to identify individuals with signs of addiction towards certain types of foods (i.e., high sugar, high fat).

    I know we will continue to see a lot more research in this area as we try to find better ways to reduce our drives to overeat or overindulge in anything for that matter.

    Thanks for a great article :-) - 1/27/2011   1:06:35 PM
  • 259
    A very timely blog for me - and also one that confirms my suspicions. I "Let" myself have what ever I wanted for two days - Christmas Eve and Christmas Day - then found I could not stop! The cravings were horrible and I honestly thought I'd go crazy if I could not have another piece of fudge or bowl of chips. After the eating, I'd soon feel like a failure and worthless and looking for more chips or cookies. Many, many times I wanted to just give up and give in. It has taken me almost a month to really feel that I have successfully gotten back on track. I will NEVER do that to myself again. I may have a sweet from time to time - but in controlled portions. And writing it all down so I know just what I'm eating. - 1/27/2011   12:24:53 PM
  • 258
    Food addiction is real. I've seen it in my family. My family does Also have alcoholism, & obesity as well. I didn't know what it was growing up, but my mom had a huge problem of binging & crash diets. My aunt did too until she changed her lifeste & became a vegetarian. My sister especially has struggled with
    food. She's had trouble with compulsive overeating. She's a
    member of Overeater's anonymous. She's sensitive to carbs &
    sugar. By weighing & measuring her food, & avoiding most
    simple sugars she's able to lose weight. She still struggles, but
    this program really helps her maintain some control in her life.
    She has a sponsor for support too. I would be very skeptical to
    believe in food addition too. However, research & my own
    family experience has led me to believe that it is a real & valid problem. I struggle some too , but not to the extent of others on my family. For me it's certain carbs. & trigger foods that I have problems with. I also need to avoid emmotional eating. Hopefully awareness of this problem will lead to more research, & people finding avenues to help them. - 1/27/2011   12:08:03 PM
  • ESKROB
    257
    Of course food is an addiction. That's why so many men and women around the world are members of Overeaters Anonymous, just as people attend AA meetings if they're alcoholics. For most people, simply giving up foods that cause cravings is too hard to do alone. OA provides support to help members find recovery in a totally non-judgmental way. Lots of anorexics and bulemics find recovery too, because it's all the same disease -- one in your head that has physical symptoms. So glad this article is finally helping everyone know they're not alone in their inability to control their eating. We can all use a little support! - 1/27/2011   11:54:24 AM
  • SCHOOLMOM81
    256
    I think this is very possible. Unlike any other type of addiction though, You HAVE to eat. You don't physically have to smoke to live life, but you do have to eat. This is where I have a hard time. And I will do good for months without having a problem, and without completely depriving myself. But then it's like a switch! One day that one hershey kiss is no longer one...... It's half the bag, or one every ten minutes. The brain before mouth filter goes away completely. And it's not like I'm even hungry half the time!

    And then it becomes personal.... It's a personal flaw in me that I can't overcome this issue. It's a never ending cycle that I am sick of! - 1/27/2011   11:49:09 AM
  • 255
    I can totally see how this could be true. - 1/27/2011   11:17:44 AM
  • 254
    Actually it does make sense but that suggest to me that, like any other addict, we need to be more respondible to for ourselves even if it means obtaining outside help. Most of us can't do everything by ourselves in these situations. And in my opinion we should not be ashamed to ask and get support.
    Now whether we are living in a food environment that makes it harder than it should be...Well, I don't see any changes anytime soon. So, it is best to once again take respondibility for yourself, which may mean find support if you are unable to do it alone. We need to remember not to be ashame of ourselves or be ashamed of our loved one that may be in this situation. - 1/27/2011   7:42:20 AM
  • 253
    Addiction or no? I surely don't know. I can tell you one thing though if I have been off chocolate (my biggest weak spot) and or cookies, cakes, etc. and I get it into my head that one little sliver of someones birthday cake won't hurt me I'm fooling no one but myself. The only way for me to control this is simply (ha! I say simply but it's not so simple) is to not take so much as one bite. If I do the battle is lost again until I somehow manage to stay off of it again.

    There is a book out there called "The Yeast Connection" by William G. Crook M.D. I discovered it when I was feeling so bad I went to my doctor for help. This has been about 16 years ago now. She had me take the test in the front of the book, and then after she looked at my score she gave me a sheet with a list of things I could eat. This list was also out of the book. It was all natural. I was sick enough to stick to it. I don't remember how long it took but I began to feel wonderful. I was about 39 or so. I started feeling like I was 16 again. I am not kidding. I have 3 daughters who where in their late teens or very early twenties at the time all this was going on. I could run circles around them. I could work all day, go to bed, fall right to sleep and get up refreshed and ready to go again. My bladder worked correctly, my headaches, aches and pains, stiffness, fatigue all went away. No longer was the bathroom the issue if I went somewhere. I did not need to know where the closest one was, as I said my bladder was working as God intended.

    The bad news is that as I progressed the diet allowed me to start putting things back in my diet like fruit and dairy. If I ever get to the point I was back then I will never start adding things back in. Never. I have never stopped adding things back in. As bad as I feel now I still cannot make myself go on that life plan. If I could get on it my cravings would go away. They did before. Food was no longer running my life. What a freedom that is, no cravings, didn't care what I had for supper, not planning supper while I eat my lunch , not having my whole life revolve around food. If only. 8( - 1/26/2011   6:59:17 PM
  • MEGANREHM
    252
    I feel like i am totally in that group!!! - 1/26/2011   6:23:51 PM
  • SPARKY1892
    251
    I think it is more of an addiction to the feeling you get from eating than actually being addicted to food. If I have a packet of biscuits I like in my cupboard, they rarely last more than a couple of days, so I therefore try to avoid buying them in the first place. - 1/26/2011   5:57:36 PM
  • TOPFORM1
    250
    I agree with everything in this last post about what addictions are and getting to the root of the problem.

    I yo-yo dieted for years trying the old "eat everything in moderation route". I always ended up back in the same place. It was only when I understood that I had an addiction to sugar and that my body reacts strangely to that substance, that I realized I had to cut it out of my life to achieve sane eating habits.

    Recognizing that I am an addict also makes me understand the seriousness of what's going on. I'm not just a chubby person who needs to lose some weight. I have to tackle my eating problem everyday with everything I've got, being ever vigilant about what I eat and looking out for trouble signs - or I'm back into full-blown addiction mode.

    I'm grateful I finally got the information I needed, that I am a sugar addict, to understand what was going on with me and know what changes I had to make. - 1/26/2011   5:42:37 PM
  • TAMMIELYNEALLEN
    249
    First, you have to ask yourself, what is addiction? Anything that you can NOT control is an addiction, meaning when your ability to use self control is compromised by your vice! Anytime something is altering the chemistry of your system, you are risking addicitions! Every one is different and what may effect one person one way, may not effect another the same. Your body is meant to heal itself, fasting is one method but, when you force your body to intake something excessively then eventually your body will need not want that substance or whatever it may be! I read a comment that a women said, "even God couldn't help her", he could, he just gave her a free will and unfortunately, that eating has become hers! In order to break free from something, letting go has to be like the blood that runs through your veins. Addictions, are driven by underlyning circumstances, and until you address that, your fighting the wrong battle. The reason, the root, is what must be ripped out. Find the problem and you'll find your answer. God Bless. - 1/26/2011   5:11:10 PM
  • SVENJAH
    248
    What is the result of declaring ourselves "addicts"? Why does that make us feel better? If the article was about heroine, would we be so eager and glad to declare ourselves addicts? Are we finding comfort in having an external source to blame, but then to what purpose? We still have to do the work of recovery:
    "To avoid or recover from out-of-control eating we need to put our energy into identifying the foods and/or situations that trigger problems for us, and coming up with good strategies for helping ourselves control what and how much we eat. That starts with recognizing that we do, in fact, have this capacity." - 1/26/2011   4:18:25 PM
  • TOPFORM1
    247
    I didn't read the article, but I've read several books on sugar addiction and bought a copy of "The Sugar Addict's Total Recovery Program" by Kathleen DesMaisons which I've reread several times .

    According to DesMaisons, some people are sensitive to carbohydrates because:
    (1) their blood sugar rises more rapidly than it should when they eat carbohydrates, their bodies then overproduce insulin in reaction to the blood sugar, which then causes their blood sugar levels to drop too rapidly. Their moods and energy fluctuate wildly with their blood sugar levels.

    (2) they have low serotonin levels which lowers their impulse control and causes depression

    (3) they have low levels of beta-endorphin which psychologically causes them to feel isolated and have low confidence and biochemically opens more beta-endorphin receptors. People with more beta-endorphin receptors get a bigger rush from sugar and feel withdrawal from sugar very intensely. Heroin, alcohol, and morphine also activate beta-endorphin. Sugar is a substance. It's a chemical. It has a molecular structure.

    Recognizing that some people are addicted to food doesn't take away personal responsibility. Knowledge about what is going on physiologically and biochemically in a food addict's body is critical in helping him or her choose a course of action to deal with the addiction. It doesn't work to say "just cut back" or "get a grip on yourself" when you're dealing with an addict. I'm sure some very, very few true addicts have stopped cold turkey, but I think it's rare - and I wonder if they don't take up other addictions in the place of the original one.

    I've seen members of my family decide they need to put food down and lose some weight and they do it and move on. They may gripe and fuss and not like it, but it's not a life and death struggle like it is for me. They are not food addicts. I could stop drinking alcohol tomorrow and never look back. I enjoy alcohol. At times, I've overindulged, but it's not a driving force in my life. I am not an alcoholic. But I'm not about to tell anyone that I stopped drinking through sheer willpower so they ought to be able to do the same thing.

    If you think an addiction can be stopped simply by deciding to do so, I don't believe you've ever experienced addiction. I'm not saying all food addicts are doomed to stay forever in their addiction, but it's not as simple as following a food plan and exercise regimen. Most food addicts I've met are pretty intelligent, strong, determined, and accomplished people. They're just as capable as anyone else, if not more than some because of the struggles they've dealt with. They are fighting biochemistry in addition to environmental and emotional factors. And most food addicts I've met are humble. They don't presume to understand others' struggles because they know firsthand that you can't judge anyone until you've walked a mile in their shoes.




    - 1/26/2011   4:14:24 PM
  • SPINGRRL
    246
    food addiction is real. sugar, refined food, fat and salt can all be addictive with the most addictive being the sugar (simple and refined) and refined foods. refined sugar/carbohydrate acts like a drug and even causes physical withdrawal symptoms upon its total removal from the diet. however, crying food addiction is not an excuse. if a person believes him or herself to be one, there are steps they can take to eliminate the trigger foods from their diet and lose weight. there are recovery programs out there to teach those who want to change how to change but like every other recovery program, there needs to be complete dedication in order to be in sustained recovery. what makes food unique in the addiction world is that humans need food unlike alcohol or drugs. - 1/26/2011   3:20:43 PM
  • LIVEWIRE03IL
    245
    Many years ago, I found research that indicates if alcoholism runs in a family, then the females in that family are more prone to being addicted to carbohydrates. This certainly makes sense to me, and is the case in our family as well as many other individuals I've talked with in my profession over the years. Of course personal choice and decisions affect how this plays out in our lives, but the predisposition is definitely there, genetically. - 1/26/2011   3:07:39 PM
  • 244
    I'm going to start off by saying I did not read this whole article. In fact I didn't get past the first two paragraphs. Why? Because food addiction is no more than an excuse. I thought for a second there that I had an addiction to food, but I have changed my lifestyle and eating less food has been coming to me much easier. I am overweight by about 50 lbs. And it was about three weeks ago that I researched "food addiction" online. I was trying to convince myself that this was my problem and that I needed a doctor and possibly medicine to stop eating so much. Now I realize that it is no more than a matter of self control. All that a doctor can do it tell you what is healthy, and hope that you listen. I am usually open-minded about mental issues... but I strongly believe that food addiction is not a mental disease. We have a problem with obesity in america because we have the wrong idea about food. Food is for nutrition, not taste. Taste is just a plus. We have not always had problems with obesity in this country, and other countries do not all share the same problem. Stop looking for an excuse and start restricting yourself and having self control. It's hard. I won't deny it. But that's how it works. Don't get a therapist... get a personal trainer! That's my opinion! - 1/26/2011   1:56:59 PM
  • 243
    Thanks for the article. It is helpful to me. I know that the principles and steps related to addiction apply to food also. It's all a choice of behavior, but the reality of addiction is real. I call the terrible foods as my "trigger foods". The struggles are absolute, and many people don't understand eating as an addiction. - 1/26/2011   12:15:51 PM
  • 242
    Food addiction does make sense. I know when I have a treat (desserts I like or even stuff like chips) it is hard to stop. We all still have to be in control of our own choices even if restaurants, media etc promote unhealthy foods. I do have to control what I bring in my house. Treats bought for our girls I try to make sure stays out of sight or is something I do not like to keep me from eating those foods and especially overeating from them. The few indulges I do allow myself (dark chocolate) I put away in a place I will not always see and only grab the serving or less (preferbly the later) and put the rest away. I am proud of myself right now. Last Friday I went grocery shopping and got me a new bar of dark chocolate. I have yet to open the package and would love to see how far I can go without eating it. :) Ohh, it is Wednesday. :) - 1/26/2011   11:52:49 AM
  • 241
    I do think that it's possible. While physical addictions such as drugs and alcohol have that physical substance that hooks you, there had to be an emotional need for everything, even for why you started taking drugs, using alcohol, or even the other situations such as sexual relations, online gaming, etc. They all provide some kind of stimulus, which in and of itself fits into the same parameters as drug and alcohol addiction. - 1/26/2011   11:47:07 AM
  • 240
    YES I have been saying this for years. I know it's true. Hi my name is Joyce and I am a sweets, fast food junkie and I need help. I could be driving home and have food in the house think about a big mac and then from then on I want a big mac. there have been times when I would ignore it but the next day I have to get a big mac now tell me that is not a junkie. I am working sooooo hard not to eat that cause once I start it's like I have to have more more more. Hump I feel so shameful. sometimes. - 1/26/2011   11:44:52 AM
  • SHRINKINGBETTY3
    239
    I definitely think that there are such things as food addictions. I like in the article how it said that to combat it we have to remove ourselves from situations that will tempt us and limit or restrict our intake.
    However, I think it's ridiculous for anyone to blame obesity on the "food environment". It's not the fault of the government, the fast food restaurants, the junk food companies, etc. that we are unhealthy. It is our fault. They've preached for decades that fruits and veggies and whole grains should be our diet. This "victim of circumstance" view is what keeps us from taking charge of our own life and changing it if necessary. Just the sort of thing Sparkpeople are known for. :) - 1/26/2011   11:23:05 AM
  • 238
    I completely agree because all I have to do is look at Diet Coke for me and see all the symptoms of an addict but still can't quit drinking it. Food is a comfort and defense mechanism for me because if I am fat then a man won't like me and therefore I won't get hurt again. But I do believe this is true in some things.
    - 1/26/2011   11:21:19 AM
  • 237
    Sorry! I still think "no." I think to be addictive, there has to be an inherent quality in the substance...like alcohol or drugs...that "hooks" you. If food is addictive, some of us would be ice cream addicts; others cookie addicts, and so fortth. Obviously, we are not all addicted to the same thing. The problem is within us & is either psychological or genetic, etc. - 1/26/2011   11:10:37 AM
  • 236
    I knew for years that I was addicted to chocolate and diet cola. However, I never used that as an excuse. I was fully in control when I went to the shops and bought it and put it in my mouth. I tried to cut down for years. That didn't work. I had to go cold turkey and just give them up. I told myself to stop being a wimp. There are many people worse off than me. I am now completely over the addiction and feel much better. That is what stops me going back to how I was before. - 1/26/2011   11:06:15 AM
  • 235
    I am addicted to ice cream. I can't buy it without eating it all. It's best to not have it around the house. All I could think about while reading this was ice cream! I hate commercials! - 1/26/2011   10:38:35 AM
  • MOXIALPHATANGO
    234
    I have been saying this for years...finally scientific proof. Food is incredibly addicting, just like drugs, alcohol, or even exercise. If one can just find a healthier trigger for the same euphoria found with certain foods...hello my name is ..... and I am a food addict. - 1/26/2011   10:37:30 AM
  • BIKINIGIRL2009
    233
    There's another organization I learned about recently called "Food Addicts in Recovery Anonymous" or FA for short--They have no fees, no dues, and no weigh-ins. There website is www.foodaddicts.org . I learned about it while at a Health Seminar. I haven't tried it yet, but I spoke to two women who spoke about their experience--amazing transformations! Good luck to all! - 1/26/2011   10:26:43 AM
  • WOM25760
    232
    As a biologist and an engineer my thought process is to address the system and find the problem and then the solution.

    However, for years, I have been unable to control both my eating and what I eat.

    While there are real chemical triggers that control neural function as the article suggests, there is also a social and emotional aspect, as many people have written.

    I am a social and emotional eater...

    Those of us who cannot control the urges know that there are visual triggers as well as others, including stress, fatigue, boredom etc.

    I have just finished a long journey with doctors, tests, and medications, without any success all the while adding weight along the way.

    I knew that I was eating for comfort and couldn't stop. I know that it is bad for me and I thought that I was weak.

    These studies help to confirm what we who expereince this know it is not just as easy as control.

    But there is hope, as a total fluke I starting trying other ways to help myself and was able to relieve my pain with the help of a very special program developed by a physical therapist and a clinical neurobiologist.

    While the treatment is unimportant, what I did find was that once my pain was removed and working with doctors, stopped taking medications. My control is much better. I can exercise now and move and my body is not feeling like I was hit with a bat. I can breathe.

    I have had to take it very slowly, but I have been able to loose 5 lbs in about a month. This hasn't happened in more than 20 years.

    So what does this all mean, it means that I have more good days than bad days. I don't think that I am weak and that weight gain and exercise success may have many more factors associated with it than a person may think.

    A huge part of my eating was to address the pain that I was in. Now that the pain is gone I am better able to control what I eat and how much I eat of it.

    The social and emotional part I am still working on, but this is one piece that is working.
    - 1/26/2011   9:53:25 AM
  • 231
    I understand what you are saying about food addiction as i have struggled with this for years. This is a very enlightening article that spells out the dangers of allowing oneself to get caught up in the addictive behaviors. I find it interesting that scientists can look into the human brain! - 1/26/2011   8:20:39 AM
  • JLANGOLF
    230
    People told me I was nuts 20 years ago when I said the same thing! It is nice to know that I am not alone. My mother was an alcoholic, one brother is a recovering alcoholic, and all of us are either obese or struggle with our weight.

    We were raised to clean our plates which had at least 2 spoonfuls of each item even if you didn't like it (to help us learn to like the food item.) Food was also our emotional crutch. If you had a good day, let's go out to eat to celebrate. If you had a bad day, let's go out to eat to help you feel better.

    I don't blame anyone for my inability to control my eating habits but it sure is nice to know that it is not all just my own character flaws. So now, since not eating is not an option, I will continue to work on portion control and try to avoid the obvious triggers. I will also continue to look for addictive exercise (someone PLEASE point me in the right directtion!) I do SO hate just about anything that looks like exercise! - 1/26/2011   7:53:38 AM
  • FATBOY1999
    229
    I do beleive that tishtishx, you do not have the diesease of addiction. I Have this diesease. I go to AA and NA to help me stay clean. In my area we do not have OA or I would go to that also. I eat at times knowing that it is the wrong thing to be eating but yet I still do. Just like my smoking habit. (one of the hardest to beat). So be kind to the ones that say that they have an addiction to food, because it is real. When my spouce stopped drinking the ice cream took over. He never ate ice cream like that in the 35 years I have known him. Also 25 years ago when he stopped drinking the addiction was buying antiques. We finally found the 12 step programs and they work. We have tried several times trying to stop by ourselves or with the help of God or even rehabs, nothing worked. We have been clean for 3 years now. Now I will try to apply the 12 steps to my eating habits. So yes I do beleive that it is true that food is addicting. Also I have read a book about how some foods can trigger the brain to eat other foods to store fat and vitamins and minerals for the winter(this stems from the cave man days)the book is " Your Hidden food allergies are making you Fat." by Rudy Rivera, MD and Roger Davis Deutsh. A very good book. And watching TV ads is a good trigger, they make it all look good for a reason... to sell to all of us addicts.. food is legal...... - 1/26/2011   12:21:42 AM
  • 228
    This blog, as well as the comments associated with it, are very interesting to me! Coming from a family FILLED with drug/alcohol addiction (on both parents' sides), I've always been very cautious about activities and substances that I know are addictive. There's no question in my mind that I am predisposed to addictive behaviors. With regard to food, I can honestly say I think food is an addiction for some people. I do think I'm addicted to food, but I've never really considered it because I've always heard people cannot be addicted to food.

    In my opinion, though, it does not necessarily matter whether the food is highly nutritional or junk food. Again--this is my opinion--food addicts will eat whatever they can get their hands on, whenever they can get their hands on it. For example, tonight, I ate an entire bag of edamame AFTER I ate dinner; I could have easily continued with other healthy foods or switched to junk foods. Here I am, 2 hours later, with a stomach LITERALLY grumbling for more food. (If you saw how many nutritionally-sound foods I ate tonight, your jaw would hit the floor, wondering how I can be hungry 2 hours later.)

    One thing I noticed among the comments was the idea that the article was bunk, and people needed to take responsibility for their actions because addiction is a choice. I have to disagree; there's a big difference between taking responsibility for your actions and having a certain level of no control. For me, there is a physical need for food that goes far beyond what is logical, and it goes far beyond having an extra glass of water before a meal to feel more satisfied. And trigger foods--they definitely do exist--but I also think they're different from full-on food addiction, and I think that both addicts and non-addicts can be affected by them.

    Like drug and alcohol addicts, I think the best way to deal with food addiction is behavioral re-training. I know that's what is most effective for me. Sadly, I've come to realize I'm hungry all the time, regardless of my weight, so I might as well be skinny. :) - 1/26/2011   12:14:11 AM
  • 227
    so you really think that there can be too much of a good thing, yes i think so but it is better to eat too much of a good thing ,then eating too much of the junk
    be careful


    - 1/25/2011   11:59:48 PM
  • 226
    The idea of "food addiction" does make sense to me. Anything can be addicting; it usually depends on the individuals themselves. I do also believe we are living in a food environment that makes it harder than it should be for many people to actually be fully responsible for their own choices. I'm not saying that all the blame goes to the restaurant companies. They're trying to make money, but the commercials and bigger sized meals drenched in grease and condiments are a little much. I used to have to avoid trigger foods completely, but I have been moderating my use of them better. I used to not be able to stop eating chips. However, I haven't eaten my favorite chips in a while, Lays vinegar and salt chips, I put a small amount in a bowl, ate some, but they don't taste as awesome as they used to. So, I was able to resist getting up for another serving of a small bowl of chips! At the same time, the healthier foods I've been eating has been tasting better! There were some that I disliked like whole wheat bread, but it tastes fantastic now! - 1/25/2011   11:51:27 PM
  • KMARKS1965
    225
    They say that you can't eat just one potato chip. This is true. I find it pretty easy to pass on the broccoli though. I think that the taste of something yummy chocolate,sugar, salt stimulates our brains and causes a pleasurable euphoric state. Some is good, more is better, the entire bag of peanut M&M's is better yet. They say that it takes 90 days to form a habit ,good or bad, perhaps. I personally went an entire year cutting out sugar. When I went back to sugar, I just wanted more and more of it. I totally believe that food is an addictive substance and that the pleasure area of our brains is what keeps us from long term success. - 1/25/2011   10:50:41 PM
  • TISHTISHX
    224
    I don't believe this! I thought Sparkpeople was for those who wanted to get healthy by taking responsibility for what they do too and put into their own bodies. Addiction is only an excuse to not take the blame for your own choices. If I pour myself a drink it's because I chose to do so. If I light up a cigarette, again I made that choice. What I eat and how much I eat is again of my own choosing. Of coarse I am going to regret some of the choices I make, we all make mistakes. I am here to learn about the possible consequences of some of my actions so I may make better choices day to day. It's like crime and prison, if I chose to drop a bomb on the white house, I would either be killed or imprisoned. Since I don't wish to die or lose my freedom, I choose not to do so. I'm not going to cop out and blame my health problems on some made up excuse. It's all on me. I take responsibility for myself. - 1/25/2011   10:30:05 PM
  • TOPFORM1
    223
    I quit a pack-and-a-half smoking habit 27 years ago. It was child's play compared to trying to quit compulsive overeating.

    Everything I've set out to do in my life, I've done, with the exception of stopping compulsive overeating. If it were in my power to stop it, I would have done it by now. I take it one day at a time.

    The members of my family can tell when I've binged as soon as they walk in the front door. I act and talk differently. It's like a weird kind of drunkenness, only on food instead of alcohol. I know I'm an addict. - 1/25/2011   10:29:11 PM
  • DASCAGEL
    222
    I read Kessler's book last year for a college research paper. One of the key points he makes is that food manufacturers knowingly tweak the combination of salt-fat-sweet to trick our neurotransmitters (our brain receptors controlling appetite, etc.)into wanting more and more "junk" to satisfy our pleasure receptors. They take the glut of cheap over-processed, probably genetically-modified corn and think of all kinds of things to turn it into. I agree, if someone is genetically predisposed to addictive behavior of any type, the food manufacturers will find a way to exploit it. - 1/25/2011   10:06:16 PM

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