By: Dr. Scott Perryman
For many of us, food is more than a source of daily fuel and nutrition: what we eat and how much we eat also have a direct impact on our health and happiness. Food is often an integral part of social events and holidays. Eating a new or unique type of food can be a memorable, special experience. Unfortunately, more and more Americans are developing physical and emotional dependencies on food, to the detriment of their physical and mental wellness.
Food addiction and overeating are becoming more common among both men and women. In fact, binge eating is considered one of the most common eating issues facing Americans today. If you are someone who has trouble controlling how much they eat, struggles to feel full, or feels anxious about the frequency at which you crave food, you may be struggling with food addiction.
What Is Food Addiction?
Patients may become addicted to certain types of food or may have constant cravings or hunger.
Food addiction refers to when a person develops an emotional or physical dependence on food, usually to the point at which they are compelled to consume more food than is healthy for their body. With food addiction, the pleasure receptors in the brain often become connected to the act of eating. Food cravings can start to take control of a person’s day, even when they are not hungry. When a patient consumes food or the food they are craving, the brain will release chemicals like dopamine, making the act of eating physically and emotionally rewarding. Foods that are high in sugar, salt, and fat have all shown to have highly addictive properties, exacerbating patients’ food cravings and weight gain.
People who are struggling with food addiction may eat when they are not hungry or may continue eating to the point of feeling sick. Individuals with food addiction may experience anxiety when the amount or type of food they are craving is not available.
Food addiction can be characterized by the desire to hide your eating habits. You may choose to eat alone as much as possible. If you feel ashamed about the amount you eat, or the frequency at which you eat, you may be struggling with food addiction.
Signs of Food Addiction
- You eat more food than you intend to. You may feel like you cannot control how much you eat.
- You continue to eat, even if you feel full.
- You may feel guilty about your food consumption. Even though you feel guilty, you find yourself continuing to eat in the same fashion.
- Food addiction can lead to obesity, but it may not in every case. You may be overweight, or you may be at a healthy weight for your body type.
- You get strong food cravings, even if you feel full. You may feel anxious or go out of your way to satisfy these cravings. You may develop what could be considered an obsession with food.
- You hide your eating from others
- You may have an unhealthy preoccupation with your body and self-image
- You have tried but have not been able to stop yourself from overeating or binge eating.
What is Overeating?
Overeating refers to the consumption of more calories than are healthy for your body. Overeating is often tied to a patient’s mood: patients may turn to food when they are feeling stressed or depressed. Patients who overeat may also have issues with their body’s ability to feel satiated or desire food.
Overeating can occur sporadically, such as when eating a large holiday meal, or it can be a behavior we are struggling to control.
While overeating may not necessarily be the same thing as food addiction, the habit of overeating can have a negative snowball effect on a patient’s weight, appetite, and self-esteem. If you are worried that you overeat, call the Whole Health Weight Loss Institute to learn what you can do to restore a healthy relationship with food and your body.
What is Binge Eating?
If overeating becomes uncontrollable, it may be diagnosable as binge eating.
Binge eating is characterized by a loss of control over how much food someone consumes in one sitting. This eating may last for longer than usual, may make the patient feel uncomfortably full, and may take place when the patient is not even hungry. Patients who feel distressed about these episodes and who binge eat at least once a week for three months may be struggling with binge eating.
Food Addiction & Your Health
Food addiction and overeating increase a patient’s risk of developing obesity, type 2 diabetes, cancer, heart disease, arthritis, and Alzheimer’s. Patients who struggle with food addiction also have a higher likelihood of becoming malnourished or fatigued, as well as of developing digestive issues, headaches, insomnia, or pain.
Food addiction can lead to depression, low self-esteem, panic attacks, detachment, and even suicidal thoughts.
Patients can experience extreme anxiety, which can be triggered when they do not have access to the type or amount of food they are accustomed to. Patients struggling with food addiction may struggle to maintain their job or interpersonal relationships. Their eating habits may become a source of embarrassment, leading them to avoid work or social interactions altogether.
How We Can Fight Food Addiction
Food addiction, just like any other addiction, is a serious, real condition which will require external assistance to overcome. Without intervention, the desire to consume food can take over your life and your body. But do not give up hope! With counseling, time, and dedication, you can work through food addiction and weight gain to achieve a healthier, happier outlook and lifestyle.
The highly-trained staff at the Whole Health Weight Loss Institute are here to provide counseling, training, and personally-tailored treatment plans to enable your long-term recovery from food addiction.
Every patient receives a unique, individualized approach to restoring their physical and emotional health. We have great success helping our patients control their weight and diet through nutritional and mental counseling, as well as with personally-tailored fitness plans.
Patients who have gained significant weight as a result of their food addiction may be good candidates for bariatric surgery. For example, patients who have issues controlling their food intake, and have developed obesity as a result, may benefit from a weight loss procedure, like Vertical Sleeve Gastrectomy. A Vertical Sleeve Gastrectomy is a safe, highly effective way to help patients lose weight and regain healthy portion control, due to the fact that the procedure will remove a significant portion of the stomach, including the part of the stomach responsible for producing Ghrelin, a major hunger hormone.
The sources of a person’s food addiction or binge eating can stem from a variety of personal and environmental factors.
We work with every patient to make sure they are well, in all parts of their mind and body. The trained specialists at the Whole Health Weight Loss Institute help their patients understand the thoughts and feelings that contribute to their behavior, as well as enable them to handle the emotions and stress that contribute to their overeating.
Fight Food Addiction: Today, and In the Future
Think you may have a food addiction? Food addiction and overeating can become a negative influence on not only a person’s health but also their work and social life.
Individuals who are struggling with food addiction will benefit from reaching out to a board-certified doctor to discuss their best health solutions. While it takes time to recover from food addiction, and patients never regain their same relationship with food, a return to a healthy, happy quality of life is possible!
Trying to fight food addiction? Consider taking these three steps to help you begin your fight against food addiction:
Unfortunately, foods that are high in sugar, salt, and fat are usually easily accessible and temptingly affordable. Try to keep yourself away from settings and types of food that you know will instigate or enable a food craving.
EAT WITH INTENT
Try to take time to cook your food and make dietary decisions based on your nutritional goals. You can work with a dietician to find out what types of foods will be most nourishing and filling so that you can make sure you are keeping as healthy as possible.
BUILD YOUR SUPPORT GROUP
You are not alone. If you are worried that your friends or family may not be understanding of your struggle with food addiction, we are happy to help you connect with a support network of people looking for similar guidance and inspiration. You deserve to have a happy, comfortable life: food addiction, like any addiction, can be overcome, with the help of dedicated, supportive neighbors and health professionals!
If you think you are someone who has symptoms of food addiction, overeating, or binge eating, call the Whole Health Weight Loss Institute today to learn about how you can reclaim your life and body.