You can be addicted to drugs, alcohol and dozens of other things, but did you know you can actually be addicted to food, too?
Well, you can.
Food Addictions – A Very Real Problem
It may sound crazy that you can be addicted to something your body needs to live, but according to a number of recent studies, food addiction is a very real and serious issue.
In fact, some studies have even shown that certain types of foods, like sugars, fats and salts, are just as addictive as cocaine, heroin and other life-threatening drugs.
These food items trigger dopamine, serotonin and other feel-good chemicals to release in the brain, essentially giving your body a “reward” for consuming them. The more you consume, the better you feel, and the cycle begins. You start to eat when you’re not hungry, crave fats and sugars even when you’ve just had them, and a full-on addiction follows pretty quickly.
And like any addiction, the cycle is extremely difficult to break. It can destroy lives and relationship, shatter yourself image and have immense impact on your health, causing weight gain, high cholesterol high blood pressure and, in some cases, even death.
Do You Have a Food Addiction?
With any addiction, there are certain tell-tale signs you can look for. But often, it can be hard to tell whether you’re just addicted, or you’re simply binging. The secret is to look at how often these symptoms appear. A food binge is a once-in-a-while exception. An addiction is a regular or even daily occurrence.
Think you may have a food addiction? Here are some signs that you might have a problem:
- When you eat a certain type of food (salty, sweet, savory), you tend to eat more than you originally planned. (You go back for another serving, you eat the whole bag, etc.)
- You eat those same types of food even when you’re not hungry.
- You go out of your way to obtain those types of foods when you’re out or they’re unavailable.
- You eat those foods until you feel sick or ill.
- You feel guilt, self-loathing or depression about your food habits.
- Eating more or less impacts your emotions.
Like I said before, most food addictions happen with sugars, fats or salts, so if you’re seeing these symptoms with any of these foods, be especially wary.
What to Do About Your Food Addiction
The problem with breaking a food addiction is that you can’t avoid food completely, like you can with drugs and alcohol. You still need food to live, so you must fight your food addictions with good old self control and will power, making sure to limit certain foods and up your intake of others. It can make this addiction especially hard to break.
But don’t fret. If you have a food addiction, all hope is not lost. It is absolutely possible to break the cycle, take control and manage your eating habits in a healthier, happier way. Here are some tips to break your food addictions:
- Meal plan. On the weekend, plan out each and every single one of your meals and snacks. Cook them, package them and prep them, and line them all up in your fridge according to day. This leaves no room for error.
- Stick to it for three weeks. Do this meal planning for three weeks straight – just 21 days. That’s how long it takes your body to break habit. Once you hit this mark, you’ll be through the hardest part, and managing your addictions will be significantly easier on the whole.
- Channel your frustrations. Trying to break a food addiction can really take a physical and emotional toll. Vent your frustrations through a healthy activity, like running, biking or swimming.
- Distract yourself. Keep your mind off your struggle by staying busy. Join a book club, have a girl’s night with friends or volunteer at your local animal shelter. Don’t let yourself wallow in the pain and suffering. Stay positive and keep your head up!
- Get a friend on board. Have a friend or love one with similar food problems? Take the plunge together. Then you have someone to support you when times get tough and hold you accountable when you’re feeling weak.
Remember, a food addiction is like any type of addiction: It will come with some withdrawal symptoms. You may feel angry, anxious or agitated, or you could have headaches and other physical aches when cutting out these foods. Your body has become dependent on them, and it takes a while to get that healthy balance back. Give it time, stay at it and be positive. The symptoms will pass soon!
Have you ever had a food addiction? What foods were you addicted to? Share your stories and tips in the comments.