Can People Really Be Addicted to Food and Eating?


By: , SparkPeople Blogger
  :  336 comments   :  126,917 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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  • 286
    I enjoyed this article, I think we do get addicted to things that bring us some relief. My family has an alcoholic history and when I look at that and compare it to my episodes of eatting high sugar and high fat content items until they are gone - it looks exactly the same to me. - 2/5/2011   12:04:53 PM
  • 285
    I feel like I am highly addicted to certain foods. It is so readily available plus the more you eat the cheaper it is. Also many occasions call for endless bowls of food such as family reunions, Church dinners and lets not forget Scouting occasions and other organizations. Birthdays alwas have the obigatory cake and ice cream. It is a never ending situation. - 2/4/2011   12:41:37 PM
  • 284
    I did NOT love this article. Yes, I am addicted to BLueBeLL Chocolate Ice Cream, but other days I am very addicted to everything that doesn't have added sugar in it. I go on Fuji Apple binges and lately, I've been craving salads with Avocados. And there was not a history of alcoholism in my family. - 2/3/2011   8:55:06 PM
  • 283
    I loved this article. Most informative!! I firmly feel that food is addictive - probably one of the MOST ADDICTIVE substances known to Americans. It is cheap, legal and readily available. If we Americans do not take control of our health and our lives - WE ARE DOOMED!!! I am a recovering drug user - and I promise you - this artlcle could NOT be more accurate.

    My hat off to you dear - I wish I was as strong. However, your post gave me new hope and I am again logging onto SparkPeople and starting to take back control. Thank you. - 2/2/2011   11:36:03 AM
    It could be that food addiction is an end result, (with all of its effects on the dopimine and seratonin drug centers of the brain) but this is really much larger than that. Many world societies have centered virtually every event around food (most of it unhealthy) and drink (often alcoholic) which over time are a deadly combination to the human body. Culture (especially in so many parts of the world) is a difficult thing to change. Once you're convinced that food is a normal part of EVERY activity, (if you're raised that way) it's all you know. It's really up to each individual to keep themselves healthy and, in the end, if someone doesn't care enough about themselves (addiction or not) to right themselves, then they have done no one a disservice but themselves and the ones that they love. . . and isn't that a horrible pointless waste. If you're really addicted, get help for it if you really care about yourself and your loved ones. - 2/1/2011   10:09:59 PM
  • 281
    As some posters have indicated, the food response may start out as an emotional response, but what happens is what happens with other addictions, the substance, rather than the hoped for outcome, becomes the addiction; which is why we continue to eat, drink, etc., long after the desired outcome of relief is achieved. - 2/1/2011   12:08:34 PM
    This aritical justifies what I have believed and lived for years. I am a food addict. It does not have to be hyper-anything and I will eat it and lots of it. If I am in the wrong frame of mind, which seems to happen often (ie stress, boredom, and well almost any mood), this will trigger my wanting to eat. Ten, twelve thousand calories a day of almost anything. When I do go off, I do tend to go for high calorie carbs and fats. I have lost 60lbs, put it back on, lost 45 put most of it back on. As this behavior went on yr after yr, I ended up with the start of problems related to obesity, high B/P, insulin resistance, GERD, PVD.... Over a yr ago I gave up most carbs, except veggies and limit my fruits. I have lost 70 lbs and have been able to KEEP IT OFF. I still need to loose 30 lbs and I still binge just not as much and not on carbs. Now having said that, I just went on a binge like I used to binge. I have managed to get myself back on but am looking for ways to take and keep control. I know that when I say that I am out of control that I am really allowing my self to be out of control, but wow the work and feelings of deprivation are extreme, a true body pain. I am going to look into the allergies route but my eating habits are very restricted and have been since I gave up the carbs. I know this will be a life long fight but I am absolutely committed to fighting it. Any other ideas? - 1/31/2011   11:02:32 PM
    When I eat fatty or sweet foods , I'm lost for the day. I don't know if it's emotional as much as additive. I find it hard to get back on track for the rest of the day and feel badly about myself for having eaten it. I want to think I can have just a little and walk away but I don't think I can. - 1/31/2011   1:20:19 AM
  • 278
    I do believe there is a food addiction. I'm sure most of have it to some extent. With so many fast food places and restaurants with large portions, it does make it hard to control the eating habits. It also doesn't help in these hard financial times that it is cheaper to eat fast food than to eat healthy foods.

    I do have food triggers, certain cookies and donuts. There have been times when I'm at the grocery store and I walk by them and pass them up. I tell myself no, and before you know it, I'm in the checkout line and there they are in the basket. I get home and ask myself why I picked them up. And of course, there is absolutely no reason. Once they are in the house, I have a tough time putting them away. Some people can buy a package of cookies and only eat one or two and put them away for days. I can't seem to do it.

    I find I am doing better, once in awhile when I want something sweet, I will go to the bakery and buy just 1 or 2 cookies. It costs more, but at least when it's gone it's gone.
    - 1/30/2011   6:04:53 PM
  • 277
    Yes, I believe in food addiction and think it is one of the main reasons why so many people gain weight back after having lost significant amounts. It has happened to me many times and I have kicked myself for not having enough "will power" to control my eating. It's as if you can't stop once you get started and I think this kind of information may be much, much more helpful than struggling to find what my hidden problems are that cause me to eat. I know what it is...I LIKE it, and too much so!!! - 1/29/2011   12:40:40 PM
    I believe in it. I truely love to eat. I will go out my way and spend decent money on good food. When I was younger, I was able to control my weight just though excerise. But now, I have to totally retrain my way of thinking when it comes to food. And trust me, it's definitely a work in progress. - 1/29/2011   12:37:33 PM
  • 275
    Definitely agree that there's food addiction, particularly when food provides the satisfying, seemingly stress-relieving effect. The hardest part I find is how to consume one portion and not overeat, which is always difficult! - 1/29/2011   9:34:17 AM
    I read that book that they are referring to THE END OF OVEREATING, I definitely thought (just like this article) what they are saying makes sense. - 1/28/2011   6:23:53 PM
  • 273
    I think we are living in times where many people welcome the idea that they are not in control of their choices--it's more comfortable to be an addict than to overcome the behavior. Maybe brain chemistry plays a role, and maybe it doesn't, but I know when I stand next to the snack table at a party and embarrass myself pigging out on delectable chip dip that I have the option to just walk away. If that isn't the case for some people, then I'm sad for them. Nevertheless, information like this can have an unfortunate effect on people who simply won't take responsibility for their actions. Now it's 'I'm addicted and I can't stop'. My daughter said the same thing about cigarettes, but when her incentive to stop became larger than her inclination to blame it on addiction, she stopped. Sorry, I know this won't be a popular opinion, but I don't buy this. - 1/28/2011   6:06:59 PM
  • 272
    this is exactly what I've been saying about chocolate and me. People have always said just have a little piece. I can't stop if I do. Would you tell an alcoholic it's okay to just have one little shot??
    Thanks for putting this out there. I finally feel like someone understands.
    - 1/28/2011   2:30:39 PM
  • 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
    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
    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
  • 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
    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
    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
    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
    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
    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
    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
    I feel like i am totally in that group!!! - 1/26/2011   6:23:51 PM
  • SPARKY1892
    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
    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
    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
    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
    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
    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
    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
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    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
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    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
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    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
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    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
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    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
    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
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    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
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    Sorry! I still think "no." I think to be addictive, there has to be an inherent quality in the 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

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