Food Addiction: A Craving You Can’t Seem to
You may overdose on potato chips or tortilla chips once in a
while, but would you consider yourself to be a food addict?
The answer is important, because it could be the key to determining
what course of action you need to take in order to lose
weight. A number of medical experts say that food addiction is
just as serious as nicotine or cocaine addiction—and can potentially
be just as deadly.
When you suffer from food addiction, you have an overwhelming
desire for a particular food. The desire is so strong, in
fact, that if you are unable to consume that food, you suffer from
withdrawal symptoms such as headaches, nausea, and
depression. Food addicts crave the comfort that a
particular food gives them. They also may engage in binge
eating. Their cravings for food may be both physical and
It should be pointed out that there are different varieties of
food addiction. For instance, there is compulsive overeating,
where an individual goes on eating binges that can last several
days. The addict may sometimes lose weight, but tends to
gain it back again. Symptoms include eating quickly,
compulsively eating alone, and eating when there is no evidence of
Yet another form of addiction is bulimia, in which an individual
overeats, then purges either by vomiting or by taking
laxatives. Signs of this condition include isolating
oneself when eating, trying to consume huge portions of food
rapidly, and being preoccupied with one’s weight.
Food addiction can also come in the form of anorexia, where an
individual attempts to starve oneself in order to achieve an
unrealistic weight. Anorexics tend to be 15 percent below
normal body weight and have a phobia about being fat. They
have difficulty eating with other people and appear to be obsessed
with weight. They may engage in ritualistic behavior involving
food and may suffer from depression.
The good news is that food addiction can be successfully
treated. This treatment can come in a variety of forms.
A food addict may work with a psychotherapist to develop new ways to
deal with food and his or her emotions. The therapist might be
able to identify the source of the individual’s fear or anger—the
reason behind the individual’s addiction. In the
majority of cases, the psychologist will help the individual to
develop a treatment plan which spells out expectations and goals,
both for the short-term and the long-term. In the most
serious cases, an individual may have to undergo in-patient
treatment at a psychological facility. Treatment often
involves helping the individual to return to healthy eating methods,
dealing with the underlying emotional causes of addiction, and
learning effective coping techniques.
Food addicts often follow the tenets of the same kind of 12-step
program used by alcoholics. This involves admitting their
powerlessness over food, their belief that they could be restored to
sanity, and an admission of their faults and failings. In
addition, food addicts often draw strength from support groups made
up of people who have similar difficulties dealing with food.
Just knowing that there are other people who face the same
challenges can be incredibly therapeutic.
It is unclear at this point whether food addiction is a
genetically-based illness. Certainly, however, there is
evidence of eating patterns being passed down from one generation to
the next. In fact, many food addicts may only seek help after
they have determined that their illness could adversely affect their
It is entirely possible that a food addiction can never be cured,
that it can only be treated. In other words, the recovery
period for the addiction can last a lifetime. However, one
should never lose hope of beating a food addiction. With
patience and with time, individual addicts can learn the behavioral
skills which will enable them to keep their weight under
control. Of course, there will be times when individuals will
be tempted to indulge in sweets or excessive carbohydrates.
However, knowing the pain that they will undergo if they continue
their harmful eating habits could be just the incentive they need to
stay the course.