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Can Food Really Be That Addictive?

Friday, November 01, 2019

May I ask you something?. Do you end up eating more than you plan on eating when you eat certain foods? Do you continue eating those same foods even after you are no longer hungry? Do you know why?

People with food addiction struggle every day with the inability to stop eating foods high in carbohydrates, fat, salt, sugar or artificial sweeteners. They also suffer from painful feelings of shame and embarrassment when it comes to these food behaviours.

Have you ever tried to stop or control these behaviours by either completely abstaining from the foods that cause you to eat uncontrollably or even just cut back on those junk foods that your body has you addicted too? Even after several attempts, by now, you may have realized that it’s easier said than done.

Because, even though you rationalize, and your conscious mind "knows" that they are unhealthy, some even being harmful, some other part of the brain always seems to strongly disagree. The reason for this is a part of your brain begins urgently calling for these foods it is no longer getting and you start experiencing the craving for those foods you have recently eliminated from your diet or reduced the amounts.

There are those, however, that don't experience this addiction to food. Their bodies just don't seem to become addicted and so they can easily control the types of foods they eat. While others, unfortunately, don't seem to have a lack of control.

If you are one of these people and despite your best intentions, repeatedly find yourself eating unhealthy foods, even after you've decided, even resolved to cut back or not to eat them at all, is your first thought lack of willpower?

The situation, however, can be much more complicated. The fact is there are ingredients in junk foods; sugars often times being the main ingredient, that stimulates the reward system in the brain causing a release of dopamine. This reward encourages those that are susceptible to eat even more unhealthy foods. This can lead to full-blown addiction, which shares much the same biological basis as addiction to drugs as say, nicotine or cocaine.

How does it work?

When you repeatedly do something that releases dopamine in the reward system, such as smoking a cigarette or eating that favourite chocolate bar, your dopamine receptors can start to down-regulate. In other words, when the brain sees that the amount of dopamine is too high, it begins removing dopamine receptors by decreasing the number of cellular components to keep things balanced.

When you have fewer receptors this triggers the need for more dopamine to reach the same effect. This is what causes people to start eating increased portions in order to reach the same level of reward as before. This is called tolerance.

With fewer dopamine receptors, there is far less dopamine activity. This can cause you to feel edgy, even agitated when you don't get your food "fix." That is known as withdrawal. Tolerance and withdrawal are the hallmarks of addiction.

What can be done?

Unfortunately, there is no easy or simple solution. There is no pill, mind technique or magic cure out there. Some people may need to learn how to control the amounts they eat, while it may be better for others to abstain from these foods altogether.

Dealing with food addiction can often seem impossible. Your brain chemistry is working against you around the clock. So, if you battle with food addiction, my best suggestion is to actually seek professional help. You can also find more helpful solutions here.

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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    Oh, yeah! As soon as I read the question that is your title I said YES.
    33 days ago
    Well said. For sure for me sugar is addicting, as is salt.
    33 days ago
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    34 days ago
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