If you hear someone talking about food addiction, they are probably not referring to spinach or grilled chicken. Instead, it is the highly-processed, extra palatable foods many of us reach for. Food addiction is not just a sudden craving, it is a serious problem that if left unaddressed, can perpetuate prolonged issues with weight and nutrition.
How do we become addicted?
There is a science behind food and the pleasure center (Hypothalamus) in our brains. For some, eating certain pleasure foods (think greasy, salty, sweet and often carb-heavy) releases a chemical in the brain called dopamine. When dopamine is released and circulated, it makes you happy and unlocks your brain’s pleasure center. The result is a “high” that you get from similar addictions such as alcohol, drugs, sex or gambling. It is not simply a matter of willpower.
Food addiction symptoms
- Feelings of powerlessness around food
- Intention to, or failed attempts to, limit or quit
- Excessive time dedicated to finding food, eating it and recovering from it
- Eating food regardless of consequences
- Excess weight gain with no other related causes
Tips to help manage and overcoming food addiction
- Seek help. A health professional can help you tackle any underlying issues. This will usually be a psychologist, but some dieticians and other health providers may also be qualified to help in this area.
- Think small. Start with small, manageable changes to your diet or eating patterns.
- Eat slowly. Your body needs time to alert your brain when it is full.
- Get moving. Exercise boosts your energy levels and releases powerful endorphins
- Get social. Connect with support groups or others facing similar challenges.
- Be a savvy consumer. Get to know the nutrition labels and facts on your foods
- Set boundaries. Do not buy “unsafe” foods or bring them into the house. This will help you avoid the temptation of eating them because they are available
Food addiction is not a character flaw! It is a complex issue without a simple solution, just like other issues surrounding weight. Your battle is valid, but your journey is ongoing. Be honest with your weight-loss team, and they can help you get the counseling and support that you need.
Be easy on yourself, because you are worth it!
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