Eating healthy and losing weight seems downright impossible for many people.
Despite their best intentions, they repeatedly find themselves eating large amounts of unhealthy foods, despite knowing that it is causing them harm.
The truth is… the effects of certain foods on the brain can lead to downright addiction.
Food addiction is a very serious problem and one of the main reasons some people just can’t control themselves around certain foods, no matter how hard they try.
Food addiction is, quite simply, being addicted to junk food in the same way as drug addicts are addicted to drugs.
It involves the same areas in the brain, the same neurotransmitters and many of the symptoms are identical (1).
Food addiction is a relatively new (and controversial) term and there are no good statistics available on how common it is.
This is very similar to several other eating disorders, including binge eating disorder, bulimia, compulsive overeating and having an “unhealthy” relationship with food.
Processed junk foods have a powerful effect on the “reward” centers in the brain, involving brain neurotransmitters like dopamine.
The foods that seem to be the most problematic include typical “junk foods,” as well as foods that contain either sugar or wheat, or both.
Food addiction is not about a lack of willpower or anything like that, it is caused by the intense dopamine signal “hijacking” the biochemistry of the brain.
There are many studies that support the fact that food addiction is a real problem.
There is no blood test available to diagnose food addiction. Just like with other addictions, it is based on behavioral symptoms.
Here are 8 common symptoms that are typical of food addicts:
- You frequently get cravings for certain foods, despite feeling full and having just finished a nutritious meal.
- When you give in and start eating a food you were craving, you often find yourself eating much more than you intended to.
- When you eat a food you were craving, you sometimes eat to the point of feeling excessively “stuffed.”
- You often feel guilty after eating particular foods, yet find yourself eating them again soon after.
- You sometimes make excuses in your head about why you should eat something that you are craving.
- You have repeatedly tried to quit eating or setting rules (includes cheat meals/days) about certain foods, but been unsuccessful.
- You often hide your consumption of unhealthy foods from others.
- You feel unable to control your consumption of unhealthy foods, despite knowing that they are causing you physical harm (includes weight gain).
If you can relate to 4-5 of these, then you probably do have a serious problem with food. If you can relate to 6 or more, then you are most likely a food addict.
Although the term “addiction” is often thrown around lightly, having true addiction is serious business.
I’m a recovering alcoholic, smoker and drug addict with a history of many rehabs, jail more often than I can count and several trips to the emergency room due to overdose.
After I had been sober for several years, I started to develop an addiction to unhealthy foods.
Full-blown addiction. Nothing more, nothing less.
The reason I’m telling you this is to demonstrate that I know how addiction works.
I’m here to tell you that food addiction is the same as addiction to drugs… exactly the same.
The symptoms and thought processes are completely identical. It’s just a different substance and the social consequences aren’t as severe.
Food addiction can cause physical harm. It can lead serious diseases like obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s, arthritis and depression, to name a few.
But you have even bigger reasons to quit than some unfamiliar disease in your distant future. Food addiction is also ruining your life… today.
It breaks your self-esteem, makes you unhappy with your body and can make your life a living hell (like it did for me).
The seriousness of being a food addict can not be overstated. This is a problem that ruins lives and kills people. Literally.
There are a few things you can do to prepare yourself and make the transition as easy as possible:
- Trigger foods: Write down a list of the foods you tend to crave and/or binge on. These are the “trigger foods” you need to avoid completely.
- Fast food places: Write down a list of fast food places that serve healthy foods. This is important and can prevent a relapse when you find yourself hungry and not in the mood to cook.
- What to eat: Think about what foods you’re going to eat. Preferably healthy foods that you like and are already eating regularly.
- Pros and cons: Consider making several copies of your “pros and cons” list. Keep a copy in your kitchen, glove compartment and purse/wallet. Sometimes you will need a reminder about why you’re doing this.
It’s important to NOT go on a “diet.” Put weight loss on hold for at least 1-3 months.
Overcoming food addiction is hard enough as it is, by adding hunger and additional restrictions to the mix you will just make things even harder and set yourself up for failure.
Now… set a date, some time in the near future (maybe this weekend or next week).
From this day and onward, you will never touch the addictive foods again. Not a single bite, ever. Period.