How can you be addicted to a substance you have to consume to stay alive? Is it possible to be addicted to food? Researchers say yes.
When scanning the brain of a food addict thinking about food, the scan shows changes nearly identical to the brain changes of a drug addict or alcoholic thinking about drinking or drugs. Most of the time the food being contemplated by the food addict is rich and calorie-dense, such as pizza, chocolate cake, and ice cream, or pasta with cream sauce.
Another similarity is that food addicts like drug addicts, and alcoholics, have fewer receptors for dopamine, the feel-good hormone. It could be that in order to feel good, food addicts have to eat more in order to reach the same state as normal people.
Overeating leads to the brain overemphasizing the sensation and pleasure of eating by decreasing the awareness of other body parts, then the mouth. Food addicts often go through similar withdrawal symptoms as drug addicts. These symptoms include anger, depression, irritability, and moodiness.
Food addiction can be controlled. Even if you’re not addicted to food the tips below can help you lose weight.
Keep a journal. Writing down what you eat and how you feel when you eat can help you pinpoint danger areas. Seeing what you’ve eaten in a 24-hour period brings home just how much of your life is controlled by food.
Know your triggers and avoid them. Certain foods are triggers to out-of-control eating. If you know what they are you can avoid them. Triggers can also include events, such as holidays, and people. If you know someone irritates you and your reaction is to eat, avoid that person if possible.
Focus on the food. It sounds counterproductive to emphasize food when that’s all you can think about. The idea is to focus on foods that you sincerely enjoy, not just on filling up your stomach with whatever is at hand. Food addicts in some ways have it rougher than other addicts, they can’t just give up food.
Slow down when you eat. Use small plates. Put your fork down between bites. Have multiple courses rather than everything on the table or on your plate at once. Drink water between bites. Take at least 30 minutes to eat your meals.
Join a support group. People who are facing the same challenges as you are can provide the positive support you need. Knowing you’re not alone can boost your morale.
Don’t give up. Your first efforts at controlling food consumption might not be successful, but that doesn’t mean all your efforts will fail. See the positive progress you’ve made rather than the backsliding.