Food consumption is more than just nourishing our cells, these can also serve to calm emotions and can alter brain biochemistry.
When we think of a certain food that "we have to consume" like a chocolate or a caramel ice cream and our mind constantly insists on getting it, dominating our thoughts and actions, no matter what it implies, then we can consider that we have a "Food addiction"
Food addiction is a pathological disorder; it is defined as a compulsive desire and excessive food consumption.
This condition is not only manifested by the abnormal consumption of food, but by the consumption and desire for foods that are, harmful to the individual, usually high in carbohydrates and fats.
Only in recent years there is equal acceptance to the fact that people can be addicted to food in the same way, as to alcohol and drugs.
When any substance is ingested by the body regardless of its potential harm or there is an excessive need for that food, it is said that that substance is abused, people become psychologically and mentally dependent on certain substances, in this case food.
You only need to answer a few questions to determine your addiction:
• Do you eat when you are not hungry or when you feel sad or depressed?
• Do you eat in secret or eat differently when you are alone than when you are in front of others?
• Do you consume unusual amounts of food and then purge yourself with vomit or laxatives to get rid of the excess?
• Are there foods that are harmful to you, but do you eat them anyway?
• Do you feel guilty after eating?
If you can answer yes to any of these questions you are very likely to be addicted to food.
Food Addiction — Causes and Manifestations
Food Addiction, like any other, is a Loss of Control. The individual understands that their way of eating is harmful, but continues with this destructive behavior.
The phenomenon of food addiction is both psychological and physiological.
Controlling our intake is a problem especially in today's world where we are surrounded by foods that are designed to meet needs that go beyond hunger. Therefore, excess weight and obesity have recently become an epidemic and a serious health problem.
When glucose levels drop in the body, the body sends the signal to the brain and if this signal is not addressed, then it begins to become an increasingly urgent need, until we get to the point where the body desperately seeks something to eat . If we add to this the emotional part linked to comfort foods, our thoughts are aimed at high-calorie foods and excessive and uncontrolled consumption of these.
The environment can alter the genetic expression so that many of the foods today can trigger genes that were latent in the past and that promote this insane relationship with food.
Certain foods when ingested can produce effects similar to those of narcotics. These chemicals mimic natural pain suppressants, endorphins, and have been called "exorphins."
The emotional experience with certain foods is another cause of addiction since there are pleasant memories linked to that specific food and seeing it, smelling it or just thinking about it connects us with that emotion that makes us look for that specific food, and consume it without control especially in situations of stress , loneliness or depression.
Food addicts come from all ages, races and genders. They might be overweight, underweight (bulimia and / or anorexia) and some have a normal weight. All of them are united by their obsession with food. Their lives can become miserable; they count calories compulsively, and many times they eat without enjoying it.
In general, men are less emotionally connected to food and their cravings are more related to foods high in fat and alcohol which raise the endorphins that act as an analgesic and provide pleasure.
For women food acts as a big hug to the brain, when it is out of balance due to boredom, stress or personal problems. This female search for comfort foods high in sugars and fats is also related to fluctuations in the hormonal system.
The synthesis of serotonin and endorphins are modified during the menstrual cycle and after menopause.
With any small change or imbalance in the brain biochemistry, the mind starts seeking for that pleasure in food because it needs it’s emotional medicine.
Usually people who have a food addiction are obsessed with weight and therefore they live on a permanent diet.
Usually in food addicts there are periods of "Binge" that are followed by guilt and by periods of restriction known as "Diet." As this cycle repeats people may vomit, exercise excessively, take diet pills or laxatives to try to reverse excessive calorie intake. The result of these behaviors is a greater imbalance in brain biochemistry that increases cravings.
Food Addiction - Is there hope for recovery?
Food addiction is a serious condition with many adverse health effects. Obesity, psychological disorders, diabetes and a few gastric abnormalities.
Of course, the first step to recovery is awareness and acceptance of the problem. Individuals should identify what are the detonating foods that cause symptoms and desires.
There is no easy way to combat food addiction; Intense discipline will be required to modify eating patterns and lifestyle. A manageable exercise program should be adopted along with dietary changes that can be maintained. Ambitious attempts to change eating patterns abruptly or lose weight quickly are rarely successful in the long term.
The physiological and psychological dependence of food can be overcome when the individual recognizes that he does not have the power to fight them by himself.
The best way to treat this condition is to seek for professional help, a multidisciplinary team such as a Dietitian working together with a Psychologist would be of great benefit.
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