By: Dr. Scott Perryman
Do you think you may be addicted to food?
If you are concerned about your eating habits, don’t worry: you are not alone. Food addiction, binge eating and overeating are more common than you may think! And, thankfully, these habits are not completely out of your control. The nutritional specialists, medical professionals, and counselors at Whole Health Weight Loss have helped countless patients overcome their dependency on food and eating. We have helped our patients free themselves from food addiction and overeating, enabling men and women of all ages to get back to living life at a happy, healthy pace.
To learn more about how you can overcome Food Addiction, keep reading, or contact us to schedule an informative session with one of our weight loss experts.
The Negative Effects of Food Addiction
Food addiction can lead to obesity. When people have food addiction, the rewarding sensation or positive feeling that they experience when they eat can override their body’s ability to feel satiated; as a result, they will likely consume more food than their body needs. This can cause these individuals to become overweight and eventually obese.
Obesity is qualified by a BMI of 30 or above. Obesity can raise a patient’s risk of developing serious health issues, including kidney problems, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.
Food addiction has more than a negative impact on your health: individuals who have food addiction often report feelings of shame and anxiety around their relationship with food. You may find yourself modifying your professional or social behavior to accommodate or hide your eating habits. Food addiction may impact a person’s relationship with their friends and family. If your food addiction has you feeling depressed, detached, or worthless, remember that this is truly an addiction formed by chemical and emotional dependencies. You are not worthless, you are not alone: when it comes to food addiction, there are solutions.
How Common is Food Addiction?
Food addiction, binge eating and overeating are an even more widespread issue today than they were eight years ago.
Food addiction occurs in adults, children and teens. Food addiction is not isolated to obese individuals: a person who is at a healthy weight can also be addicted to food. A 2011 study found that 11% of adults who are at a healthy weight have food addiction, while symptoms of food addiction occurred in 25% of obese individuals. Of a group of adolescents tested, after being presented with the definition of food addiction, 29% of participants self-reported that they felt they were addicted to food.
By identifying the symptoms of food addiction, you can seek help and begin to modify your behaviors. While it will not happen overnight, it is possible to free yourself from food addiction!
Symptoms of Food Addiction
Food addiction can be generally described as an emotional or chemical dependence on food, leading people to consume more food than their body needs metabolically on a daily basis. The brain often releases rewarding chemicals like dopamine when someone with food addiction consumes food.
You may be addicted to food if you:
- Eat when you are not hungry
- Feel like you cannot control how much you eat
- Feel anxiety when the type or amount of food you want is not available
- Feel obsessed with or are constantly thinking about food
- Experience withdrawals from food
- Hide your eating habits from those around you
- Feel guilty or ashamed toward your eating habits.
- Experience strong food cravings, even when you are full
- Are preoccupied with your body and personal image to an unhealthy degree
- Have been unable to stop yourself from binge eating or overeating, despite your best effort
Binge-Eating & Overeating
While we all tend to overeat at Thanksgiving, a habit of overeating can lead to weight gain, impacting a person’s health and happiness. Overeating is characterized by consuming more food than your body needs during a meal or throughout the day. Overeating often is tied to an emotional or stress response.
Overeating can escalate into binge-eating. Binge-eating refers to the act of consuming a large amount of food in one sitting.
If you binge eat at least once a week, and have done so for at least three months, you have developed a habit. While binge-eating is a minor form of food addiction, it can begin to impact your health and happiness if effort is not made to alter your eating habits.
For the sake of your health and your peace of mind, if you binge eat or overeat, consider consulting with a medical professional and nutritional specialist to help you get these habits under control.
How Can I Fight Food Addiction?
You are not the only person who struggles with food addiction! The below three steps have helped thousands of men and women win their fight with food addiction. Take back your life and your body by:
CREATING A SUPPORT SYSTEM
Food addiction is often a form of self-therapy. The habit may form as a way to soothe negative thoughts and feelings. Food addiction can develop due to stress, depression, or emotions related to past trauma. Part of overcoming food addiction is addressing the psychological need that the individual is treating with food. Counseling and support groups will help you identify and work through your emotional need for food. This form of therapy will also help you find healthier ways to directly address and improve your mental state. A support group or a counselor will be a valuable source of continued support and advice as you work toward making meaningful change.
Changing any habit is a challenge: food addiction is no different. Bring your friends and family in on your goals so that they can help you maintain healthy habits and remind you why you are making this change in the first place: to restore your health, sense of control, and ability to enjoy life to the fullest!
IDENTIFYING YOUR TRIGGERS
Many people crave or choose particular foods to overeat. These types of food, and the settings where you consume these foods, are known as “triggers.” For example, if you have formed a habit of overeating fast food, you should avoid these restaurants and drive-thrus completely.
In general, try to avoid sweets and processed foods: sugar, salt, and fat can be highly addictive and make it more difficult to avoid food cravings and weight gain.
CHANGING HOW YOU CONSUME & PREPARE FOOD
Studies show that handling your own food before consuming it has a psychological benefit and can increase feelings of satiety.
Mindful living is key for men and women who want to overcome food addiction. “Mindful living” refers to the act of maintaining an awareness of your actions and mental state at all times. Mindfulness takes time to adopt, but the peace of mind and quality of life it achieves are well worth the effort! Instead of eating when you feel hungry, we encourage our food addiction patients to set and keep regular meal times. There is no need to majorly restrict your diet or go on a crazy “fad” diet that you will struggle to keep. Simply focus on avoiding your triggers and eating meals that you yourself have prepared at home.
Medical Solutions to Food Addiction
At Whole Health Weight Loss, we offer a full range of services to help our patients modify their eating habits in a safe, effective way. Our goal is to help you make meaningful change and adopt healthy habits that you can carry the rest of your life.
If you have gained weight as a result of your binge eating, you may need medical intervention to help you get back to a healthy weight at a safe, meaningful rate. Our medical weight loss services and team of highly trained professionals take time with every patient to create custom, targeted treatment plans.
If you have gained significant weight, you may qualify for bariatric surgery. A weight loss procedure can help you reduce your appetite, learn better portion control, and encourage your body to shed your excess pounds so that you can return to a healthy weight and enjoy improved mobility.
A procedure like a Vertical Sleeve Gastrectomy is a safe, FDA-approved method of reducing the size of the stomach. During a vertical sleeve gastrectomy, 80% to 90% of the stomach wall is removed. The portion of the excised stomach that secretes Ghrelin, a hunger hormone, is also removed. Patients lose up to 75% of their excess body weight within a year!
If you are not interested in a surgical procedure, an Intragastric Balloon is a safe, effective way to reduce your stomach cavity and restore healthy portion control.
An Intragastric balloon is guided to the stomach laparoscopically and inflated with saline once in the stomach. The balloon is removed after six months. Patients lose on average 25 to 30% of their excess weight within the first year.
Real change is possible. If you feel trapped by food addiction, we are here to help. Contact the Whole Health Weight Loss Team to start your personalized health care plan today.