When you think of the word addiction you think of alcohol and drugs, even sex. No one ever wants to acknowledge that the most dangerous drug anyone can ever be addicted to is food. It is the one drug that you can never completely give up because without it you can not survive. It is the reason why one of the top five topics of discussion in society today is the epidemic of obesity and how it has been on the rise in the U.S. for the past 20 years.
Society is quick to conclude that those who are obese don’t care enough about their condition to really try and do something about it. However, studies are now showing that a possible and feasible explanation for those that have become obese is because of an addiction to food.
What exactly is food addiction?
Simply put it is an unhealthy relationship with food. There is not just one cause and there is not any simple solution. Those with a food addiction have an unhealthy relationship with food and are eating for all of the wrong reasons. They eat for comfort or to numb their feelings of depression or loneliness. They sometimes eat because they don’t feel good about themselves or even out of guilt for overeating. At times they develop an obsession with food for the sheer ability to have control over something in their lives.
Food addiction results in obesity
While society would like to believe that food addiction is something made up simply to excuse the behavior of those obese, there are in fact studies that show that this addiction does in fact have merit. According to Dr. Valerie Taylor, who is an assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral neurosciences at McMaster as well as the director of the Bariatric Surgery Psychiatry Program at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton, compulsive and out of control tendencies to eat play a fundamental role in causing obesity (Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ)).
Of approximately two thirds of the adults in the United States that are overweight, more than 72 million of them are considered to be obese. According to the American Obesity Association, approximately 64.5% of adult Americans are categorized as being overweight or obese. It is a disease that causes at least 300,000 premature deaths in the U.S. every year.
Signs that you may be addicted to food
- Obsessively thinking about food (preoccupation with it)
- The continuous urge to eat
- Eating when you are feeling depressed
- Eating in secret
- Eating when you are not hungry
- Eating food regardless of the knowledge that it’s bad for you
- Feeling guilty about eating
- Unable to stop the destructive eating patterns
Things you can do to curb your urge for unhealthy eating
- Don’t mask your emotion; deal with them head on
- Instead of eating, go workout at the gym
- Do work and keep busy
- Watch television or a movie
- Call a friend and talk about what you’re feeling
For people who are suffering from food addiction it is a constant struggle to battle the urge to eat when they know they are not hungry. The struggle comes in not allowing food to be used as their crutch. To simply acknowledge that they have a problem with food is not going to stop them from eating emotionally. A person with a food addiction has to reevaluate his relationship with food and reexamine the reasons why he is eating uncontrollably.
There is no 12-step program that people who have a food addiction can go to. There are no sponsors and no psychiatric drug to subside the urges to eat. The decision to change the way they relate to food is solely up to them. It is a battle that has yet to be won.