call wellness center

Wellness Resources

Body Positive Works Holistic Wellness & Health Blog

Food Addiction 101 What You Need To Know

Last Updated: December 12, 2023

Can one truly be addicted to the overconsumption of food also known as food addiction? This is a topic that has gained more awareness in the past few years due to the changing views on food.

While food is essential to our everyday survival and wellbeing, it is important to remember that it can also cause serious health concerns just like any other addiction (drugs, alcohol). Food is not only used to provide our body with the proper nutrition, but also causes instant gratification in the way it tastes, smells, and the memories it brings up. But when it comes to being over consumed, the simple reasons for eating are overlooked.

Those suffering from food addiction do not turn to food for the most basic function, instead, they are reacting to their brain’s craving for more. Certain foods such as those high in fat, sugar, and/or salt may trigger chemical reactions in the brain that other food does not. These reactions cause the individual eating to reach a “high” similar to the one addicts seek from their substance of choice. This “high” that is reached simulates the brain’s reward center.

The more food addicts eat, the more they are dependent on reaching that “high” that they obtain from their trigger foods. This becomes harder and harder to reach ultimately leading them to a vicious cycle of always seeking happiness. Food addiction at its core can lead to various negative side effects and should be treated

Why does someone become addicted to food?

  • Biological reasons
  • Hormonal Imbalance
  • Abnormalities in the brain structure
  • Medication side effects
  • Addictive personality
  • Psychological reasons
  • Victim or survivor of a traumatic event
  • Processing of emotional or sexual abuse
  • Healthy coping skills have not been developed
  • Self-esteem issues
  • Inability to experience grief or loss

How do you know if you or someone you know is addicted to food?

  • More food is consumed during a meal than originally planned
  • Food is continued to be consumed even when not hungry
  • Eating occurs to the point of feeling ill
  • If something is not easily accessible, it is obtained even if it means traveling to do so. ● Constant worry about not eating certain types of foods and/or working about cutting down certain foods.
  • Eating in secret so others are not aware that you have consumed food ● Decreased energy, chronic fatigue
  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Headaches
  • Digestive disorders
  • Suicidal ideations
  • Spending a significant amount of money on buying certain foods for bingeing purposes

Can food addiction be harmful? Like any other addiction, food addiction can have many negative physical side effects and consequences on the body.

  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Digestive Problems
  • Malnutrition
  • Obesity
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Chronic pain
  • Sleep disorders
  • Reduced sex drive
  • Headaches
  • Lethargy

What can be done if you or someone you know believes they are addicted to food?

  • Acknowledge that there is a concern regarding food.
  • Find someone specialized in Food Addiction to confide in.
  • Talk to a therapist, let them know your concerns that revolve around food. ● Work with a nutritionist to help develop appropriate meal plans
  • Find a support group/ 12 step program. Like other addictions, support groups are available to assist.
  • Enroll in a live-in treatment center. These are good when constant assistance is needed.

While Food Addiction may be scary, it is important to understand that you are not alone in this battle. There are many professionals that are available to help guide you through the process of identifying and overcoming the battle with food. It is also always important to access your own personal support system. Let them know your concern with food and explain how they can help you through the process. Help is available and should be utilized to ensure that a positive relationship with food is established.