As the saying goes, “too much of everything is bad“. Despite the fact that food is very important for proper functioning of the body, eating too much or eating the wrong foods can have adverse effects on the body. Eating healthy or losing weight seem impossible for many people as they repeatedly find themselves eating large amounts of unhealthy foods (junks). Just like drug addiction, food addiction is highly detrimental to the overall health of an individual.
Food addiction or eating addiction is a behavioral addiction characterized by compulsive consumption of palatable foods (such as high fat and high sugar foods). Compulsive consumption in the sense that individuals become preoccupied with eating, find themselves spending excessive amounts of time involved with food and generally lose control over their eating habits. For them, such unhealthy eating pattern triggers intense pleasure.
Food addiction is not caused by a lack of willpower but results from dopamine (a brain neurotransmitter) signal that affects the biochemistry of the brain. Dopamine plays a role in how we feel pleasure. It also rewards us for beneficial behaviors and motivates us to repeat them. Eating junk foods regularly causes a release of more dopamine in the brain than normal. This reward and feeling of pleasure encourages susceptible individuals to eat more unhealthy foods. Studies show that food addiction involves the same areas of the brain and the same neurotransmitters as drug addiction.
The symptoms of food addiction include craving and binging on unhealthy foods (junks) without being hungry and inability to resist the urge to eat these foods. Food addiction can pose a serious threat to health, causing obesity, malnutrition, and other problems. Therefore, deliberate measures must be taken in order to deal with it. Treatments focus on breaking the destructive habit of chronic overeating in order to replace dysfunctional eating habits with healthy ones.
Lifestyle changes that may help an individual manage a food addiction include:
• Avoiding junk foods as much as possible.
• Replacing junk foods with healthy snacks which should be consumed moderately.
• Avoiding caffeine.
• Eating balanced diet.
• Eating home-cooked meals.
• Regular sleep and exercise.
• Avoiding triggers of emotional and psychological stress.
• Giving time for a food craving to subside, it cannot just stop abruptly.
Other treatments for food addiction include cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), trauma therapy and solution-focused therapy.