Signs You May Be a Food Addict

Signs You May Be a Food Addict

Do you struggle to control your intake of food, especially junk food or sugary foods?

Have you tried different weight loss programs but have been unsuccessful?

Food Addiction is real and this is evidenced by more and more research in both animals and humans.

Food Addiction is a complex issue and involves highly palatable foods such as ice cream, chocolate and burgers.

Food Addiction is complex as it involves many factors including:

  • Senses – sight, smell etc.;
  • Brain chemistry;
  • Brain wiring;
  • Body chemistry;
  • Palatable Foods;
  • Genetics, and
  • Psychology – Numerous psychological aspects including emotion, stress, memories, and impulsivity.

Symptoms of Food Addiction

Addiction to food and eating disorders is becoming more common throughout the world.

It affects both men and women.

Many adolescents, teens, young people and adults suffer from food addiction and eating disorders, and so many suffer in silence.

Like every addiction there are several aspects, and for everyone, the symptoms and signs will be slightly different and can include:

  • Physical;
  • Behavioural;
  • Emotional, and
  • Social.

Physical Symptoms

When you think of a Food Addict, you may think they will be overweight or obese but this is not always the case.

Most Food Addicts will be obese or overweight, but some may be a normal healthy weight.

Food Addicts may have these physical symptoms:

  • Overweight or/ Obese;
  • Metabolic health problems including high cholesterol, pre-Diabetes, Type 2 Diabetes;
  • Crave foods that are highly palatable e.g. junk food, soft drink, chocolate;
  • Eating when not hungry;
  • Bloating or digestive issues;
  • Feeling exhausted and hungover in the mornings (difficult to get out of bed);
  • Decreased energy or fatigue;
  • Sleeping issues;
  • Difficulty thinking and concentration –‘ foggy head’
  • Signs of withdrawal when highly palatable food or drink is unavailable e.g. headaches, shakes, irritability etc..

Behavioural Symptoms

  • Inability to control intake of food;
  • Eat large portions;
  • Eating until over full or until feeling sick;
  • Choose unhealthy or junk food over healthier options such as fruit and vegetables;
  • Sneaking and/or hiding food;
  • Spending a lot of money on food;
  • Planning when, what and where to buy the next ‘hit’;
  • Numerous unsuccessful attempts to quit or give up junk food, and/or
  • Constantly looking for “fast fixes” i.e. latest weight loss programs and diets.

Emotional Symptoms

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A Food Addict usually has underlying psychological issues that have led to them seeking fulfillment and satisfaction from eating.

A Food Addict might have certain feelings about their eating habits and behaviours, and also their weight.

There is a distinct cycle related to feelings and eating.

The cycle starts with using food to ‘feel good’ and provides a temporary high and can be for either reward (e.g. having a good day, getting through a stressful day, ‘cheat day’ when on a diet) or to dampen negative feelings.

After eating the following negative feelings may be present:

  • Guilt;
  • Shame;
  • Worthlessness;
  • Depression;
  • Helplessness, and
  • Hopelessness

Social Symptoms

A Food Addict’s social life is affected by intense obsessive thinking about food.

Due to the emotional symptoms of Food Addiction an addict may start to avoid social interactions and become less outgoing.

When they do go out they tend to eat in private, or be more interested in the food than the actual event they are at.

Food Addicts often hide and eat in secret.

Could You Be a Food Addict?

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In the last two (2) weeks have you experienced any of the following:

  • Felt sick from eating too much food?
  • Gone out of your way to obtain certain foods?
  • Eaten in secret?
  • Felt a decrease in your energy?
  • Had difficulty concentrating?
  • Headaches if you didn’t eat junk food (including sugary drinks)?
  • Had digestive issues such as bloating, constipation, diarrhoea?
  • Felt guilt, shame or depressed about your relationship with food?

If you answer yes to 4 or more of these questions you may have Food Addiction.

We recommend seeking help from a professional to overcome your Food Addiction and create long-term success.

Food Addiction treatment needs to follow a similar method as do other addictions, using a combination of therapeutic approaches, to attain a successful recovery.

Food Addiction – How Does It Start?

Food Addiction – How Does It Start?

Food addiction is literally being addicted to food!

Addictive foods are those comprised of high levels of refined carbohydrates, sugar, salt and fat.

When you eat sugary foods, the parts of your brain associated with reward and pleasure activate.

Research on rats has also found that high fructose corn syrup (which is an ingredient in many processed foods) causes similar addictive behaviour as cocaine.

Much like with drugs, only some people seem to be susceptible to food addiction even though most people are exposed to the same foods.

Food addiction may also be more common than you think – a study found 5.4% of people surveyed met the criteria for a food addict.

Food addicts have a need to consume foods throughout the day that are considered junk food.

With a high proportion of sugar, fats, salts and/or refined carbohydrates, the foods have low nutritional value and contain few vegetables or fruits.

Some food addicts may only consume 3 meals a day.

While others constantly eat to obtain their ‘high’.

The foods can cause bingeing, therefore large amounts are eaten in a short period until the person is excessively full.

How does Food Addiction start? 

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Addiction to food and Eating Disorders is becoming more common throughout the world and affects both men and women.

Many adolescents, teens, young people and adults suffer from Food Addiction, Disordered Eating and Eating Disorders, and so many suffer in silence.

People who have a food addiction usually have one or more underlying issues that contribute to the addiction.

This could include:

  • Anxiety,
  • Trauma,
  • Grief & Loss,
  • Bulimia,
  • Binge Eating,
  • Depression,
  • Family history of substance abuse, and/or
  • Personal history of substance abuse.

A food addict is most likely to be more susceptible to eating sugary, high in salt or fatty foods as they release the “happy hormone” dopamine, which causes the person to seek the high.

People that are addicted to food may have the following symptoms or signs:

  • Inability to control intake of food;
  • Eat large portions;
  • Eating until over full or until feeling sick;
  • Choose unhealthy or junk food over healthier options such as fruit and vegetables;
  • Sneaking and/or hiding food;
  • Spending a lot of money on food;
  • Planning when, what and where to buy the next ‘hit’;
  • Numerous unsuccessful attempts to quit or give up junk food, and/or
  • Constantly looking for “fast fixes” i.e. latest weight loss programs and diets.

Childhood Food Addiction

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Addiction can be developed and triggered in childhood or adolescence. 

Research suggests that children’s attitudes and beliefs surrounding food, dieting and weight management are associated with their level of overweight/obesity.

These attitudes correlate with that of their parents.

Other underlying causes of food addiction within childhood or adolescence may include:

Stress or Trauma

If a child experiences a stress or trauma, they may be given food to soothe or may turn to food to soothe their emotions.

Overindulgent Parenting

Allowing a child to eat unhealthy foods and/or lots of food without boundaries.

Food Scarcity

Not having enough food and when it becomes available, a child over-indulges.

Food restriction

Being told that certain foods are not allowed, and this makes the child want them more and seek them out.

Poor Nutrition

Many families are time-poor and have lost the art of cooking, so packaged foods, takeaways etc. are easy. Instead of these foods being an occasional treat, they become everyday foods.

Parent with an Addiction/Mental Health Issue

Parents are a child’s role model and provide nutrition. If they won’t eat healthy and provide unhealthy foods to satisfy their own issues, then a child suffers the consequences.

Adulthood Food Addiction

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In adulthood, addiction may start as a reaction to extreme stress.

Signs of stress eating that leads to food addiction can be:

  • Eating when you’re not hungry;
  • Eating to self-sooth;
  • Using food as a reward;
  • Eating until you are over-full or stuffed, or
  • An inability to control food amounts.

The constant cravings and need to search for non-nutritious food is an addiction, no different than the cravings and seeking out behaviours in any addiction such as alcohol, tobacco, or cocaine.

For food addicts the cravings are triggered by the “feel-good” brain chemical Dopamine.

The desire to cure one’s self of the addiction may be strong, but in the end professional support is often needed.

The good news is that food addiction can be cured! 

Unlike drug addicts who will need substitutes like methadone for the rest of their lives, or tobacco addicts who have to resort to patches, food addicts can use their drug as their recovery tool.

They can find healthy, balanced and delicious foods that will not overexcite their brain chemicals and allow them to eat normal portion sizes, without bingeing.

If you need help breaking free of Food Addiction, help is available!

Fit Minds & Bodies Clinic will help you break free of negative behaviours that support Food Addiction and build a life filled with balance, satisfaction, happiness and purpose.