FOOD addiction is defined as a chronic relapsing disorder, which involves the compulsive intake of certain foods despite experiencing or understanding of the negative consequences.
There are two main categories of addiction; substance abuse (eg. ice or pain killers addiction) and behavioural addition (sex or gambling).
What’s most interesting about food addiction is that research shows it has the addictive traits of both categories, making it even harder to treat than historical addictions.
Food as a drug? Highly palatable foods such as lollies, chocolate or ice cream; releases the same pleasure producing neurotransmitter (dopamine) and neurological changes as other drugs of addiction.
This maybe why we experience that temporarily “feel good” sensation when we consume these types of foods or why we turn to rich, comfort foods during times of stress and discomfort.
Or could it be a behavioural addiction?
Those addicted to food actually have similar neurological responses to eating as a person addicted to gambling when they gamble, in these types of addiction the suffer often experiences the ‘hit’ from the action rather then the substance itself.
People often underestimate the addictive nature of food, but it is estimated that greater than 75 per cent of people that are overweight or obese may actually have signs of food addiction.
However, people with food addiction can also be of normal weight or underweight and use compensatory behaviours to manage excessive weight gain such as purging, excessive exercising or periods of fasting.
Signs that you may have a food addiction include, thinking about food for more than a hour a day, turning to food during period of stress, eating to the point of feeling physically ill or avoiding social or professional situations because you are worried that you wont be able to control yourself if certain foods are likely to be present.
Treatment: Treatment for food addiction normally involves a team consisting of a mental health trained dietitian, a psychologist and doctor, with additional help from occupational therapists and social workers.
A combination of exposure therapy, cognitive behavioural therapy, medications and nutritional counselling can all help to progress you in your road to recovery.
People often underestimate the addictive nature of food.
It is important that you talk to your doctor if you are concerned. Recommendations you can start right now:
- Have at least three good meals a day.
- Stay hydrated.
- Get enough sleep.
- Eat mindfully. Appreciate the taste, feel and smell of food.