Food Addiction – Are You a Food Addict?
Food addiction is a contemporary term used to describe a pathological disorder; the compulsive, excessive craving for and consumption of food. This condition is not only manifested by the abnormal intake of food, but the intake and craving for foods that are, in themselves, harmful to the individual. While society and the medical profession have readily understood alcoholism and drug abuse, it is only in recent years that there is an equal acceptance of the fact that persons may be addicted to food in the same way. When any substance is taken into the body regardless of its potential for harm or in excess of need, that substance is said to be abused. Individuals who abuse substances in such a way are addicts; these persons become physiologically and mentally dependent upon certain substances, in this case food.
One need only ask themselves a few key questions to determine his or her addiction:
- Do you eat when you are not hungry or when you feel low or depressed?
- Do you eat in secret or eat differently in front of others than when you’re alone?
- Do you consume inordinate amounts of food and then purge later with vomiting or laxatives to get rid of the excess?
- Are there foods that are harmful to you, but you eat them anyway?
- Do you feel guilty after eating?
Food Addiction – Causes and Manifestations
Food addiction, as with any other addiction, is a loss of control. The individual understands that their way of eating is harmful, but continues the destructive behavior. The phenomenon of food addiction is both physiological and psychological.
Many individuals have what may be termed “food allergies.” These are trigger foods which when ingested cause negative symptoms and changes in the body but at the same time provoke cravings. The individual, for instance, the diabetic, may be made “sick” by the intake of sugar, but will still continue to crave it and eat it in excess, with adverse effects. Studies are also continuing regarding certain proteins in milk and wheat which when ingested produce narcotic-like effects. These chemicals mimic the body’s natural painkillers, endorphins, and have thus been termed “exorphins.” Individuals may be suffering from depression, low self-esteem or loneliness; they will find a high when ingesting large quantities of food or certain foods such as salt or chocolate. The immediate high gives way to a sick feeling or guilt, leading to more depression. Because the addict is out of control, he or she will turn once again to the same eating patterns in a conscious or unconscious effort to feel better.
Food addicts come equally from all age, race, and gender groups. They are overweight, underweight, and some of normal weight. They are linked by their obsession with food. The obese individual suffers humiliation due to excess weight; they may be lethargic and sedentary unable to move around freely. The underweight person may be bulimic; though they eat obsessively, they are so afraid of becoming overweight that they will induce vomiting, take laxatives, or exercise compulsively to prevent weight gain. They may also alternate with periods of anorexia, refraining from food to control their weight. The person of normal weight while appearing normal may be obsessed with food, constantly thinking about what to eat or how much they weigh. The entire subject of food is a misery to them; they count calories compulsively, eating without enjoyment.
Food Addiction – Is There Any Hope for Recovery?
Food addiction is a serious condition with many adverse health consequences. Obesity, psychological disorders, diabetes, and gastric anomalies are just a few.
The first step to recovery is, of course, the realization and acceptance of the problem. Medically, individuals must identify which foods -- the trigger foods -- cause allergic symptoms and cravings.
There is no easy way to combat food addiction; it will require intense discipline in modifying eating patterns and lifestyle. A manageable exercise program should be embraced along with dietary changes that may be maintained. Ambitious attempts to change eating patterns abruptly or to lose weight quickly rarely have long-term success.
The physiological and psychological dependency of food can best be broken when the individual recognizes that they are powerless to combat it alone. They must look to God, who alone is able to provide help and healing in this and all areas of human helplessness. “For I am the LORD who heals you" (Exodus 15:26b). God is as much concerned with our physical well being as He is with our spiritual relationship to Him. As an individual seeks Him, he will find health and healing and recovery. “Dear friend, I am praying that all is well with you and that your body is as healthy as I know your soul is” (3 John 2).
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