Recognizing and Treating the Signs of Food Addiction

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If you search the internet for the word “addiction,” you’re likely to find many articles about alcohol, hard drugs, and gambling. While drug and alcohol addictions tend to dominate the spotlight, an addiction can form over many different forms of pleasure. Some addictions may be easier to overlook than others because of how harmless they may appear to be in daily life.

Do you ever feel like you can’t limit yourself to just a few bites of a dish? Do you have the feeling of never being satisfied after a meal, even if you are physically full? While this alone doesn’t necessarily mean that you have a food addiction, these and other signs can indicate the presence of a problem. Although food addiction isn’t listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, it can still become a serious issue. Food addiction can entail binge eating, cravings, and a lack of self-control.

The Difference Between Hunger and Cravings

Although occasionally overeating and having cravings may not be sure-fire signs that you have a food addiction, many more symptoms can indicate a problem. If enough symptoms are present at once, it may be time to take action. It’s important to understand the difference between cravings and hunger. Hunger is the body’s reaction to needing nutrition and energy. It typically means you haven’t eaten enough.

On the other hand, a craving is when you have the urge to eat even after getting full. Cravings occur when your brain is looking for something that can release a chemical called dopamine, which plays a part in how humans feel pleasure. It’s relatively normal to have a craving after eating a full meal. Cravings become a problem when they are frequently happening, and they become hard to ignore.

Signs of a Food Addiction

One common sign of food addiction is getting cravings even when your stomach is full. Have you ever noticed that your eating habits may begin with having a single taste of food that snowballs into an entire meal? For some, just having a bite of something can turn into eating much more than initially intended. Having an all-or-nothing approach when it comes to food does indicate a form of addiction. Telling someone with a food addiction to only eat half a bag of chips can be thought of as analogous to telling someone with an alcohol problem to only drink one beer.

When engaging in addictive behavior, a person with food addiction may typically eat until they are excessively stuffed. Like with other addictions, you may feel a strong sense of guilt or remorse afterward; still, that remorse is often not enough to prevent you from continuing the cycle the next time.

Also, like other addictions, if you have a food addiction, you may be inclined to hide your problem. This can entail anything from literally hiding food to consuming meals while no one is around. If you decide to stay away from the foods that trigger you, you may have a hard time following the rules you set for yourself. Your brain will find ways to justify indulging, leading you to end up giving in to your craving. Someone battling a food addiction may consistently struggle with setting rules for themselves.

Some of the short-term issues that junk food can cause include weight gain, acne, bad breath, fatigue, and poor dental health. In the long run, food addiction can lead to obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, dementia, and some types of cancer. If you’re continuing your unhealthy eating habits despite knowing the potential consequences, there may be a food addiction at work.

Getting Help for a Food Addiction

There are nearly as many types of treatment as there are forms of addiction. One common tool for treating addiction is a 12-Step program. While 12-Step programs are most popularly employed to treat alcohol or substance abuse, this approach can help you address food addiction just like any other compulsive behavior. 12-Step programs entail attending meetings with other people who struggle with similar problems. Finding others who have had experiences like yours can give you a greater perspective. You can even connect with a sponsor to help create a dietary plan.

Having a strong support system also makes a significant impact on overcoming addiction. Receiving social support from family, friends, and peers can have a major impact on your ability to recover. There are also programs like Overeaters Anonymous, Greysheeters Anonymous, Food Addicts Anonymous, and Food Addicts in Recovery that meet all around the world. These are especially useful options for anyone seeking help in overcoming a food addiction for themselves or their loved ones.

Food addiction can harm your short-term and long-term well-being just as much as any other addiction. Food addiction is a difficult topic to address, as many who grapple with it may be in denial. A sizable population of people believes that because it’s just food, there is nothing wrong with eating excessively. Overeating can become a regular part of your life without even realizing it. Be sure to pay attention to your eating habits to assure yourself that you are not addicted to food. If you are struggling, remember that you don’t have to be battling drug addiction to seek professional help. Kimberly Center offers many treatment options at all levels, from inpatient treatment to ongoing continuing care. We work with you individually to meet your personal needs and help you achieve your goals. If you or a loved one are concerned that you might have a problem, don’t hesitate: contact The Kimberly Center today at (855) 452-3683.

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