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How To Deal With The Eating Disorder - Food Addiction?

Written by Dr. Jatin Bhide on Sat, 02 December 2023 — Fact checked by GHBY Team

Key Highlights

  • The first step to will always be recognition and acceptance. One must be mindful if someone near to them is going through the same and be sensitive and understanding.  
  • Eating disorders and food addiction are almost always a means to cope with some underlying issue that must be found out and addressed.  
  • There are also other causes like genetic predisposition, environmental factors, and learned behaviors, among others.
  • These behaviors must be counteracted by less fattening and harmful foods. While there is no such thing as a healthy food addiction it’s wise to not overdo things and take things gradually here as well.
  • Another essential step that can help in the process is consulting a psychologist or specialized dietician.
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We usually toss around the word ‘addiction’ lightly. We say that we’re addicted to the new show on Netflix or to the pastry in our neighbourhood bakery. Somewhere in our hyperbolic speeches, the seriousness of things gets lost in translation.

One such issue is altered eating behaviours which lead to eating disorders. Here, we are going to talk about a serious eating disorder called ‘food addiction’, and also use this article to understand how to deal with addiction to food.

What is food addiction?

Food addiction refers to a compulsive and uncontrollable urge to consume certain types of food or engage in excessive eating behaviors.

It includes a loss of control over eating habits, cravings, and a persistent desire for specific foods. Such food disorders are characterized by a want for foods high in sugar, fat, or salt.

food addiction

Overcoming food addiction is a challenging process, but the first step lies in understanding a combination of biological, psychological, and environmental factors that cause it. It is a concept that has been long studied within the field of psychology and addiction, with researchers outlining multiple signs and symptoms to look out for.

Signs of food addiction

Not everyone who deals with overeating or unhealthy eating patterns is necessarily dealing with food addiction, but such behaviors exist on a spectrum.

A professional must be consulted on noticing some ways of being or signs as follows:

  1. Cravings and intense urges to eat certain foods. These may especially be foods that are high in sugar, fat, or salt.
  2. Unsuccessful attempts to control food intake, or eating excessive food until uncomfortably full.
  3. Continued excessive eating despite physical or psychological consequences. These can be weight gain, health problems, or negative emotional effects.
  4. Feelings of guilt, or shame. Mostly associated with eating behaviors.
  5. Preoccupation with food. Spending excessive time thinking about or consuming food.
  6. Using food to cope or deal with stress, anxiety, or any other such negative emotions.

Dealing with food addiction: Understanding the causes

There can be multiple causes behind such disorders, and understanding the root cause can help you formulate a holistic plan on how to control food addiction in the long run and watch out for warning signs.

Here are a few causes that may lead one to be addicted to food:

1. Genetics and biology

Some individuals may be genetically predisposed or have certain biological factors that make them more susceptible to being addicted to food.

Research suggests that there may be genetic variations that affect the brain's reward and pleasure pathways, which increases vulnerability to addictive behaviors, including those related to food.

2. Brain chemistry and reward system

Certain foods, particularly those high in sugar, fat, and salt, can activate the brain's reward system and trigger the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and reward.  

Over time, repeated exposure to highly palatable foods can lead to changes in brain chemistry and the reward system, leading to cravings and addictive behaviors.

3. Emotional and psychological factors

Food can be used as a coping mechanism to deal with emotional distress, stress, boredom, or other negative emotions.

Emotional factors such as depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, or a history of trauma may contribute to its development, and dealing with food addiction involves looking into the same.

4. Environmental influences

The food environment plays a significant role in food addiction. Easy availability, affordability, and marketing of highly processed and addictive foods can make them difficult to resist.

Advertisements, food establishments, or social situations, can trigger cravings and compulsive eating behaviors which make it difficult to overcome food addiction.

5. Dieting and restriction

Repeated cycles of restrictive dieting or attempts to control food intake can disrupt normal eating patterns and lead to a preoccupation with food.

Although a healthy food addiction is seemingly unheard of, healthy regimens if not adopted well, can also push one towards food addiction. This can increase the risk of developing an unhealthy relationship with food.

6. Learned behaviors

Food addiction can also be learned through conditioning and associations. For example, if certain foods were consistently used as rewards or to cope with emotions during childhood, it can establish a pattern of using food for comfort or pleasure, leading to addictive behaviors later in life.

What kind of foods trigger food addiction?

Foods that have high sugar, fat or starch content are highly palatable. While they are not inherently addictive, their flavour makes them easy to compulsively eat.

However, any foods that a person finds comforting can lead to uncontrollable urges.

Some examples of these ‘trigger foods’ include chips, fries, candy, chocolate cookies, ice cream, etc.

What's the link between food addiction and the brain?

You must have figured out that since food addiction is related to emotions, somehow our brain is involved. When we eat food, our gut sends signals to the hindbrain about the food we are eating.

This interaction takes place via the gut-brain axis. Food addiction is thought to involve the same chemicals and areas of the brain as drug addiction.

Lifestyle Changes

Overcoming food addiction through simple steps

Food disorders too require time and effort to be put in. Especially when it comes to recovery. It is an uphill battle but comes with a fair share of rewards.

While there isn’t any easy or fast way to deal with it, it’s crucial that one begins with a few simple steps.

1. Self-reflection

  • Take the time to reflect on your own experiences and behaviors related to food. Consider the causes and signs of food addiction.
  • Understand compulsive eating, and learn to identify emotional triggers.

2. Seek professional help

  • Consulting with a healthcare professional, such as a psychologist, psychiatrist, or registered dietitian, who specializes in eating disorders and addiction, can provide valuable insights. They can help zero in on the underlying factors contributing to food addiction.  
  • This also allows for the development of personalized strategies for recovery.

3. Therapy Or counseling

  • Engage in therapy or counseling to explore any underlying emotional issues.  Past traumas or psychological factors may often drive such behaviors.
  • A trained therapist can help one gain self-awareness, develop healthier coping mechanisms, and address any emotional struggles, thus helping one to know how to control food addiction.

4. Education and resources

  • Find out about food addiction and the factors that contribute to it. Read books, articles, or research papers on the topic to deepen understanding.
  • You can also attend workshops to learn from experts about overcoming food addiction.

5. Support groups

  • Joining support groups can give one a feeling of community. Interacting with others who have similar experiences can provide valuable insights and support during your journey.
  • Groups like Food Addicts Anonymous are a great way to start.

Conclusion

Symptoms of food addiction are varied, and can often be confused for something else. It is after all a response to some distressful or trauma-induced issue. For those dealing with these disorders, it is essential to have people around them who can help them identify these signs early on. It is more likely that close friends and family members will also be aware of any events that may cause a predisposition towards this coping mechanism.

Understanding the root causes can help inform treatment approaches and interventions for those struggling with food addiction. Food Addicts Anonymous food plans also help with the struggle that an individual is going through. Ultimately, with help and support at the right time, it’s a condition that can be taken care of well.

Frequently Asked Questions

The first step that you can take in overcoming food addiction is acknowledging it and giving it the attention it deserves. Seek help from a healthcare professional, and build a support system that offers encouragement and ensures accountability. It’s also important to create a balanced diet to counter the effects of the disorder.  

The causes of food addiction are complex and can involve a combination of biological, psychological, and environmental factors. One’s brain chemistry and reward system also plays a part in the same, as well as environmental influences and psychological factors.

Understanding how to deal with food addiction or supporting someone with food addiction can be challenging. Start by learning more about disorders such as these, which will help you provide adequate support. Always approach such situations with compassion and refrain from being critical or dismissive. Encourage the individual to seek professional help to create a healthier environment. Support every effort and explore alternative coping strategies with them that are more sustainable.  

The first step of dealing with food addiction is acknowldeging the problem. Then, seek help from a psychologist or psychiatrist. It’s important to cultivate good eating habits, practice mindful eating, and address underlying emotional issues. Of course, the most crucial thing is to remain patient and committed to these efforts

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Dr. Jatin Bhide

Dr Jatin Bhide is an Ayurvedic doctor with over 16 years of enriching experience in Marketing and Strategy across OTC/FMHG, herbal medicine and Nutraceuticals (Europe) industries. He did his Bachelor of Ayurvedic Medicine and Surgery (BAMS) from Mumbai University, before moving on to do a Post Graduate Diploma in Pharmaceuticals and Healthcare Management.

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2 Comments

  1. ornjittra

    Sat, 11 March 2023, 11 months ago

    Very very good

    Reply
    • orasa

      Thu, 24 November 2022, 1 year ago

      good

      Reply
      • GHBY Team

        Thu, 05 January 2023, 1 year ago

        Thank you for the appreciation.

        Reply

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      Our team of experts frequently monitors developments in the health and wellness field, and we update our articles when new information becomes available.

      Current Version

      Dec, 02 2023

      Written By

      Dr. Jatin Bhide

      Fact checked By

      GHBY Team