Obesity is a national health problem today. But, is a person’s weight a matter of personal willpower, genetics, proper or insufficient exercise, or could being overweight be a result of a food addiction? There is new discussion on the causes of being overweight and obesity as the nation’s health professionals look for ways to address the nation’s growing waistline.
Could food be addictive to certain people? If so, what biological or psychological factors might contribute to the problem?
This addiction is complex. Food, like drugs or alcohol, can trigger the release of dopamine in the brain. This chemical is related to pleasure. It creates a positive link between food and emotional well-being. In the addicted brain, food is seen as a drug. It is used to re-create feelings of pleasure, even when the body does not need the calories. Research, such as a 2010 study published in Current Opinion in Gastroenterology, show increasing evidence that food addiction is a result of changes in a person’s neurochemistry and neuroanatomy.
A 2010 study showed that when lab rats were given free access to high-fat, high-sugar foods, their brains changed. The changes in their behavior and physiology were similar to the changes caused by drug abuse. The study authors cautioned against drawing a parallel between drug and food addictions, but their work does point to the fact that there are definitely similarities. It also highlights the possibility that eating lots of bad-for-you foods could heighten your chances of becoming addicted to eating. Just as people take drugs to deaden unpleasant emotions, people can use the pleasure of eating food to stifle unwanted thoughts and feelings. People may spend significant time contemplating food and consuming food even when it brings undesirable results. This too is a behavior shared with the drug addicted.
Further resemblance is mentioned in the pattern of drug addicts who may try to stop taking the substance on their own, met with repeated failure and finally give in to the lie that they are unable to overcome addiction. In a similar fashion, overeaters and the food-obsessed may experience repeated cycles of dieting and weight gain before giving up the effort entirely.
Signs and symptoms of compulsive overeating include:
- binge eating, or eating uncontrollably even when not physically hungry
- eating much more rapidly than normal
- eating alone due to shame and embarrassment
- feelings of guilt due to overeating
- preoccupation with body weight
- depression or mood swings
- awareness that eating patterns are abnormal
- history of weight fluctuations
- withdrawal from activities because of embarrassment about weight
- history of many different unsuccessful diets
- eating little in public, but maintaining a high body weight
- holding the belief that life will be better if they can lose weight
- hiding food in strange places (closets, cabinets, suitcases, under the bed)
- vague or secretive eating patterns
- self-defeating statements after food consumption
- holding the belief that food is their only friend
- weight gain
- loss of sexual desire or promiscuous relations
There is help. Just like a drug addict or an alcoholic don’t try to do it alone. Let OneLife help you defeat your food addiction. At OneLife our mission is to empower you to lose weight and become healthy in mind, body and spirit so we can together make a positive difference in our world.
We are committed to providing the tools, support and encouragement to help you take control of your life both physically and mentally, thus enabling you to become your best self – the butterfly you were born to be.
OneLife Weight Loss & Wellness Solutions
12291 Olive Blvd., Creve Coeur, MO 63141
314 434-THIN (8446)