Mind. Body. Spirit.
Is Food Addiction a Real Thing?
Blog By: Mind, Mouth and Movement: Connecting the Missing Links
By Nancy Lum, RDN and Dawn O’Meally LCSW-C, P.A.
There is ongoing debate among experts about whether food addiction is a real condition. Some experts argue that certain foods, particularly those high in sugar and fat, can trigger the same reward centers in the brain as drugs of abuse. This can lead to compulsive overeating and difficulty controlling food intake.
Others argue that food addiction is not a true addiction since food is a necessary part of life and cannot be completely avoided. They suggest that compulsive overeating may be better understood as a type of disordered eating or a behavioral addiction.
We as long term bariatric and weight loss specialists have a different view on why this is happening. The diet industry tends to cultivate an environment of being good and on the diet 100% or being bad if one strays off the diet. This type of black and white thinking leads to bingeing due to the deprivation that follows many of these low calorie and restricted food group diets. Our patients tell us all the time, “I messed up on my diet, so I must get all the food in now before Monday when I must get back on my diet”. This diet mindset creates the perfect storm for restrict, binge, restrict, binge and concurrent weight gain.
The food industry also figured out how to create an irresistible addictive combination of foods by adding certain amounts of sugar, caffeine, saturated fat, and sodium. These combinations hit the reward center in the brain which sets off a dopamine high and serotonin release response which reduces anxiety and has a calming relaxing effect on people. We therefore feel better temporarily. The brain of course remembers the feeling that these types of foods exude, and it creates a positive feedback mechanism which is very effective in getting someone to purchase and eat these highly processed foods again. This is the reason we can’t eat just one. This makes the food industry very wealthy, so they have an invested interest in creating these combinations to sell these foods.
We concur with Carolyn Coker Ross, MD, MPH that food addiction is a complex issue that encompasses biochemical, medical, psychological, and cultural components. It is important to understand all the factors that drive food addiction. Sadly, we see patients engaging in self-deprecation and self-blame often in our clinical work that just compounds the problem. Through education we strive to empower patients with knowledge and researched based tools and strategies to help them develop a healthier relationship with food.
To learn more about our upcoming food addiction psychoeducational program go to https://www.mbsweightloss.com/event/food-addiction-2-2/#tribe-tickets to get the support you need and will greatly benefit from.