Is Food an Addiction?

by Andie Mitchell on January 28, 2014

food addictionphoto by Angelo De Santis

 

I know, I know. It’s been debated. Extensively. In medicine, in nutrition–does compulsive and/or binge eating qualify as an addiction? While both eating behaviors tend to share many of the same traits as other addictions (loss of control, adverse health and social effects, possible genetic components, increased dopamine response, etc.) some feel that the lack of physical withdrawal symptoms disqualify food as a true addiction. Now, I am not a doctor or a scientist, so I am in no way writing this piece to come to a definitive conclusion on the subject, but I do feel food should be treated like other addictions.

 

The thing is: insulting and shaming overweight people is still tolerated by society. Many believe that because a person’s weight is largely within their control, it’s acceptable to criticize those who lack the willpower to stay in good shape. Because the medical community doesn’t accept food addiction as readily as they do other addictions, I think lots of folks might feel entitled to attack people who suffer from it.  A few months ago, there was a hashtag on Twitter dedicated to bullying overweight people called #fatshamingweek. Users tweeted disgusting messages in an effort to “shame fat people into losing weight.” It was an excuse to engage in vitriolic hate speech. What would be much rarer to see is groups being attacked because they have a compulsion to drink alcohol, or to use heroin. Most see those as legitimate medical problems and thus too taboo to criticize people over. I can’t help but think that food, in some cases, should be viewed in a similar way.

 

People who don’t struggle with food mistakenly think that the reason all people are fat is simply a lack of willpower. But some overweight people may indeed have a brain chemistry that makes it much more difficult to stop after one helping, or to skip dessert, say. Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse has stated that she believes food is an addiction very similar to drug addiction. And there have been numerous studies establishing the different brain responses people with food addiction have.

 food addictionphoto by Eva Blue

For years, I went back and forth wondering whether or not I should consider my food compulsions an addiction. I asked myself, asked therapists, If I label them an addiction, do I ever just recover? Does that mean I get over them? I struggled with the answer when I never really did get over them, when the compulsions never seemed to disappear entirely, despite years of living without bingeing. I’d always find myself in the midst of some hard time, wanting to turn back to eating. And not just eating, but eating eating.

To this day I’m not certain. What I do know is that the pull I’ve felt toward food, the desperate need I’ve had to binge eat, has often led me to a total loss of control, a series of negative consequences and then, a downward spiral that I can’t get out of easily. The struggle–sometimes powerfully present and at times barely there–has been with me for my entire life, leading me to believe that at least some part of it is genetically ingrained in me–not unlike my father’s alcoholism, or his father’s before him. Addiction, in my family, is everywhere.

In the past eight years, I’ve done a decent job of managing my maybe-addiction because I’ve treated it–seeking intense therapy and the counsel of medical and psychological doctors, figuring out a way I could not only live with it, but get to the heart of the reason I wanted to binge eat in the first place. All this because I don’t simply want to survive the addiction; I want to go on to live a better, fuller, richer life. And like most things, it’s a process. It means mindfulness, emotional awareness, total self-acceptance (even when I slip)–all the days of my life.

 

But that’s just me.

 

I’m not writing this to absolve food addicts of personal responsibility when it comes to weight and health. Just because you or I struggle with a compulsion doesn’t mean we get to throw up our hands and give up. Like any addict, it’s important to recognize the problem and seek help. Consult with medical professionals and figure out a treatment plan that works for you.

 

What do you think: Is food an addiction? Does it even matter to label it?

{ 53 comments… read them below or add one }

Laura @ My Friend's Bakery January 28, 2014 at 3:17 pm

I do think that for some people it most certainly is an addiction, as referenced in your last post with the diet pop comments. Wow!
But, I don’t believe that all overweight people are addicted to food. It’s a very fine line that we walk when we lump all people into one category. Unfortunately, the media and many outside forces do just that. Is it right? No. Does it happen every day? Absolutely. Is there a way to fix it? Yes, one person, one mindset, one opinion at a time.
Thank you for sharing your story and for encouraging discussions which are sometimes hard to initiate.

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J January 28, 2014 at 3:23 pm

This must be a sign. Here I was contemplating the idea that I just may have a sugar addiction. I was debating whether I should label myself with the word sugar-addict. I know that when I eat heavily sugared items I go crazy. I can end up on a week long binge session. During the times when I find enough will power to make it through the restrictive phases of this or that diet, I feel sane. I feel free. I feel no cravings pulling at me. But as soon as I allow myself “just a little cake” or “just one cookie” I plummet back into that dark place. That shameful place where all I can do is eat and eat and eat. I hide the evidence because I know what people’s reaction will be if they knew that I had just eaten 20 cookies in one sitting.

When I came here today (half expecting to see your last post about soda) I was surprised to see this topic.

I have to say that I now believe that some people, me included, are actually addicted to sugar. I don’t know what caused it. I don’t know all the biological reason why I struggle to stop eating sweets. But I do know that my body reacts to sugar like it reacts to no other food. For me sugar is a drug.

I am looking forward to hearing your other readers’ comments.

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Kris January 28, 2014 at 3:43 pm

So, here’s my experience.

Doing something too much doesn’t mean you’re addicted to it. There are real signals that indicate addiction, the most recognizable of which is that it interferes with your life in a negative way. Someone who is too drunk to go to work regularly, for example, or someone who steals from a loved one to fund a drug habit.

Addictions don’t have to be to a substance; in fact, alcoholics in recovery often substitute one addiction for another (shopping or sex, for instance). But I think that there is a chemical reaction that happens when a person is addicted. It’s like depression – they can’t just “snap out of it” or stop doing whatever it is without a lot of work and possibly outside help.

So can food be an addiction? Absolutely. But overeating doesn’t always mean that you’re addicted to food.

Of course, that doesn’t give anyone the right to police another person’s decisions.

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Jen January 28, 2014 at 4:01 pm

Read the book “Brain Over Binge” by Kathryn Hansen.

That will answer a lot of those questions.

Addicts need to re-wire their brains. At it’s very core….it’s really only bad, bad habits that are hard to break. It’s not easy – but it can be if you learn to detach yourself from the food/emotions. (And, yes, I feel/felt I am an addict and am learning this all myself….it’s just an excuse really)

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Margaret January 28, 2014 at 4:34 pm

A lot of those people doing the criticizing are in for a rude awakening when they age. When age slows you down it does not slow down your appetite. I have two aunts who struggled to stay above 100 lbs until they got older. Now one ways 180 and the other has just lost down to 160.

People who do not have a problem often only THINK they have the answer for the people who do. We are not all wired the same and that’s a fact. Those of you who do not have a problem, hit your knees and thank God you don’t instead of running your mouth about the people who do.

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SpareTireAnnihilator January 28, 2014 at 9:50 pm

In my experience, being “addicted” to food is not always as it seems. Someone close to me eats when they are nervous, others eat because they are bored and can’t find anything else to do. A lot of people use food as comfort or a “reward” for getting through a hard day. I’ve seen plenty of people change their diets and lose amazing amounts of weight with no exercise. Society is so quick to label everything as an “addiction” or a “disease” and dismissing it as such in order to promptly begin ignoring it or bombarding people with dangerous pharmaceuticals to wage war on them.

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Lori January 28, 2014 at 9:53 pm

In my humble opinion, it is an addiction. Not necessarily everyone gets addicted. Thats true with all addictions. But based on the research I have read, I do believe it is. Like for example the powerful impact that sugar/salt/fat has on the brain. I believe those types of food are highly adddictive, while vegetables and fruit would not be. There was an interesting episode of Dr. Oz where this man, who authored a book, talked about how these particular food types- salt/sugar/fat, powerfully stimulated a brain and that made for a very addictive response. Like you can eat a bag of chips but if you sat there with a bag of kale – you probably would not eat the whole bag. However, if you had kale chips with salt and some fat sprayed on them…. then probably it would be harder to stop than kale with nothing on it.

I know a very berbose response but it is one of my passions. But on the flip side, some people can get past addictions while others cant. So there is hope… I believe.

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Hootie January 28, 2014 at 10:08 pm

Yes, I believe food addiction is real. I also know that in my 3 month strict hiatus from carbs and fake sweetener and a myriad of toxins due to food that I did have withdrawal symptoms. Severe aches, pains and mood swings. One day about 2.5 months in, I was driving by a pizza inn at 8am and had the thought “Make it happen!” I recognized this thought as foreign. The next day, I was brushing my teeth and I had another foreign thought “Toothpaste is Good! Swallow some.” I looked in the mirror and said out loud “Really, Bitch?!”
After many previous experiencing hearing someone else talk about “the ego” or “the inner child” and having those things resonate, hear I was talking to her! Since then I have found myself pursuing a course of study with anyone talking about this voice, I have other names for her :) brat mostly. At that point, I gained a level of heightened awareness in my inner dialogue that has allowed me more emotional freedom with food.
Marianne Williamson re: the ego: “Between unawareness and enlightenment is the recognition that you are crazy!”
Some who talk about this that I find interesting so far are Geneen Roth, Marianne Williamson, Eckhart Tolle, and the author of suddenly skinny who talks about the brat but also has really unconventional ways to describe life after weight loss in her book, in the following article she sites not an addiction but actual chemicals in the brain as the issue (which brings us back to addiction non?) http://suddenlyskinny.blogspot.com/2012/02/science-says-youre-screwed-work-around.html

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Morgan January 28, 2014 at 10:11 pm

Like most that have commented thus far, I believe that food can absolutely be an addiction, but just because someone has an unhealthy relationship with food does not make them an addict.
One extra thing that I would like to make note of, not to downplay anything that you are saying or to nitpick, is that I have not found it rare at all to see individuals being attacked for being addicted to alcohol or drugs. I am a substance abuse counselor, and I cannot count the number of times I have heard “you’ve lost so much and so many bad things have happened, why don’t you just stop?” Many people in society, and even including close friends and family members of addicts, still seem to know little about the disease and are quick to shame people into thinking they are simply weak.
I think our society as a whole has a long way to go before addiction, whether it be to drugs, to food, to sex, or whatever else, will be looked at in the correct light.

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Sandra January 28, 2014 at 10:56 pm

I truly believe that compulsive/binge eating is a form of addiction. There is a book called Rational Recovery the New Cure for Substance Addiction by Jack Trimpey that quotes “addiction is a voluntary behaviour (such as drinking alcohol or using drugs) that persists against your own better judgement”. I believe that over eating/binge eating also falls into this catagory. As Hootie refers to her other voice Jack Trimpey refers to the voice trying to get you to use against your better judgement The Beast. He teaches a technique called AVRT Addictive Voice Recogniction Technique that trains you to recognise the beast’s voice and realise it is not your own, eventually learning to ignore this voice and make your own choices. This topic is so very interesting to me as a bulimic for over 30 years who now struggles with alcohol. Thank you for always promoting interesting debates for all walks of society.

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Deborah Singer January 29, 2014 at 7:42 am

I think it’s an addiction. It needs to be labeled as an addiction so that those who suffer from it and battle it every day can get the help they need instead of the ridicule. It’s shameful how society still thinks it’s ok to abuse overweight people just because it (society) has a very twisted view of what’s healthy. In fact, healthy does NOT equal thin. Being too thing is just as unhealthy as being overweight! Also how can it be ok to try “shame” someone into losing weight? I am overweight (have been for the last 6 years) and I have been working darn hard to lose the weight, and let me tell you from a former thin person’s point of view, sometimes there really is a medical reason why people are fat or overweight. And the rest of society pointing fingers, laughing and “shaming” people for being overweight is shameful in itself. It’s disgusting!

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Lori January 29, 2014 at 8:34 am

I come from a long line of alcoholics, including my dad, his 2 brothers, and my grandfather. So far, our generation doesn’t have any obvious alcoholics, but there are two of us cousins who are huge. I consider the manifestation of the family disease as my obesity problem. And I’m treating it as an addiction. Monday, I am going to a specialized therapist whose clinic focuses on treating food as an addiction. I don’t need to learn how to lose weight, how to eat nutritiously, how to be healthy for my body. I know all that. What I need is help to find the strength to overcome my compulsions to implement what I know.

I do think that it’s important to label it as such, as an addiction, because the connotation that comes along with it is that it is a disease that requires treatment. It’s like separating the mild depression of normal people, the people who get the blues, from those who require more intense therapy. Everyone has a bad day. Not everyone wants to lay in their beds for weeks at a crack, thinking about suicide. Does that make sense?

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Rachel January 29, 2014 at 8:50 am

Hi Andie,
This is a really interesting post. I wanted to add that the newest edition of the DSM (the manual from which all mental health diagnoses come), which was just published a few months ago, has included binge eating disorder as an eating disorder. In the previous edition of the DSM, BED was included in the appendix as a disorder for further study, but it is now recognized as a diagnosable mental health disorder. Food addiction is not currently recognized in the DSM 5. This is not to say that food addiction is not real, but that there is not enough evidence at this time to support having a DSM diagnosis. The good news is that with the inclusion of BED as an eating disorder, folks can get treatment reimbursed by their insurance, and there will continue to be research on the best treatment options for BED.

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Elizabeth January 29, 2014 at 9:36 am

I use food the same way I expect a drug addict uses their choice drug. To escape. I use it to tamp down my feelings of (for this past weekend at least) anxiety. I’m up 7 and a half pounds of hard fought weight after three hard days of eating crap. It will now take me a couple of months to take it off and feel safe from another fall off the wagon. I’m addicted. No question about it.

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*Andrea* January 29, 2014 at 9:43 am

Great post! I battle with this topic often. My dad is also an alcoholic, so I have read that there must be some genetic component to addictive behavior… but it’s so hard to prove! Also the effects on the brain of forming HABITS could make anything addictive, yet I know alcohol/drugs are very different from food.

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NikiMarie January 29, 2014 at 10:24 am

Wonderful post! I never really thought of this as an addiction, but maybe it should be considered one. I’ve spent 10 years with Weight Watchers and have kept the weight off (mostly) but it doesn’t stop me from wanting to binge. I remember a stressful time (college exams) when I ate a whole box of poptarts (not mine either). People laugh at that story but I remember what that felt like, in my head – it wasn’t funny. 10 years may mean I now know how to help me lose/keep off the weight but I still have issues with food. It’s a work in progress and maybe it’ll always be. It is a mental issue too – people don’t always realize that.

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Kim Farris January 29, 2014 at 10:39 am

We all have bruises!

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Candace January 29, 2014 at 10:58 am

As a Registered Dietitian, I counsel people on behavior change for overeating/under eating every day. I HATE IT when my clients tell me they “lost the willpower”. That is a loaded phrase. When they begin to believe that, they believe they will not ever be strong enough to make a change. I agree that these tendencies should absolutely be treated like addictions, even if they aren’t clinically labeled as such. Admitting you have a tendency to abuse food & owning that it is a behavior you possess doesn’t make you weaker; in my opinion, it makes you stronger. Because you assume the responsibility to try to make a change every day (even if some days you fail) and put your best foot forward to make the next day better than the one before it.

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Aishah @ Coffee, Love, Health January 29, 2014 at 11:29 am

I definitely think it’s emotional and regardless of whether or not it’s an addiction, it’s definitely a behavior that needs to be recognized. It takes a lot of trial and error, falling and getting back up- for someone to gain control. At least that’s what I felt throughout my weight lost journey. It feels like a huge success and relief when food no longer controls how you feel. Now, I get that “high” off of exercise, which I am very thankful I learned. It’s a healthy way to get happy, and lose some lbs :)

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Aerevyn January 29, 2014 at 12:00 pm

Good post. Great questions. I’ve been moderately to morbidly obese for most of my adult life, so spent a lot of time feeling oppressed – because I couldn’t see how to change – by those questions.

Addiction. Here’s the thing. If it’s an addiction, why are so many of us now addicted compared to 30 or 40 years ago? I think each of us has to figure out a way to be successful with food and health, but it’s clearly not just a personal chemistry thing. Because we haven’t devolved or changed THAT quickly.

I tried thinking of food as an addiction – because God knows I can put down a box of whoopie pies if I want to – with Overeaters Anonymous and I have to say it made me miserable. It did not get to my core issues. They believe in thinking of food as fuel only, not pleasures. In fact, they seem punishing. While that may work for some people, it seemed joyless and sad and punitive. The idea of no brie (insert any delish food here) forever wasn’t sustainable. That absolute NO really pressed on me.

I fell into a food program through my workplace that really turns all the diets I’ve done on their heads. Eat ONLY when you are hungy. Eat super slowly, so that your brain registers the food that you are eating and has time to be satieted. And eat the foods you really want. Really. I’ve eaten brie, bacon, burgers, dessert (but I limit myself, happily, to once a week) in quantities that work. One of the genius things about this way of eating is that they acknowledge that child part of us, but work WITH it. Yes, eat the cheeseburger. By giving first to this part of myself, it makes it easier to then limit myself. I am a BIG emotional eater, and this plan has cut this almost to zero. Now that I allow myself to eat things, I actually think about food less. I can’t believe I’ve found something that works. But it does. I’ve been able to lose 66 pounds so far, and I think I can be long-term successful at it. These are just the broad details of the eating plan, but I feel so grateful that I’ve found something that is positive, fun, helps me help myself.

When I found your blog, I was so excited about your joie de vivre, that you can enjoy food, but limit it.

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Kate February 2, 2014 at 5:17 pm

I am glad you are doing so beautifully! The program sounds tailor made for me; is there a name for the program or a book? Thanks!

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Pheralyn January 29, 2014 at 12:03 pm

I can feel your angst over this subject even as you present your thoughtful assessment. But regardless as to what the so-called experts say, food can definitely become an addiction. Sugar addiction is very common among Americans. Food addictions come in many insidious forms, from anorexia at one end of the spectrum and to extreme bingeing on the other end that leads to morbid obesity, and many many manifestations in-between. My hope for you, is that you are able to continue to conquer this illness. Thanks for shedding light on this highly-charged subject.

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Lisa January 29, 2014 at 1:45 pm

I have also tried to figure out if I’m addicted to food, or at the very least, sugar. I just finished a 21-day fast of sweets, and I can tell you that since I started again, I feel that pull that I can’t seem to control. And once I start, I can’t stop (please see the half empty plate of brownies I made last night). I CAN stop when it comes to alcohol, and other addictive things. So yes, I do believe it can be an addiction. And I’m starting to think that for me, quitting cold turkey (turkey? is there turkey?) will help me fight it.

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Aishah @ Coffee, Love, Health January 29, 2014 at 4:04 pm

Ha! I had the same experience with brownies last night, Lisa. Think positive- you CAN do this!

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Florence February 4, 2014 at 11:39 am

Hi Lisa! I’m by no means an expert, but for me quitting cold-turkey only leads to binges. Instead, I’ve found it’s so much better to practicing moderating my sweets so that I never feel deprived. I started off having dessert everyday and then slowly cut back to a few times a week. Often I find just a few bites are satisfying and I can walk away from it. There’s so much misleading advice out there about needing to detox and I’ve only found that sets me up for disaster. Best of luck!

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Wendy January 29, 2014 at 11:12 pm

It may not be clinically defined as such, but I think food can definitely be an addiction for some people. I’ve experienced the same thing many others have when eating sugar. I told my husband that eating one cupcake for me is like giving a drunk a drink. I just can’t stop. Sugar is pleasurable and once you have some of it, you want more of it. It took (takes) a lot of strength for me to admit I have a problem with consuming too much food. I’m ashamed of myself, but admitting that helped me learn to control myself, at least on most days. :)

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Alice Phillips January 30, 2014 at 8:48 am

The short answer is yes. Just because people who suffer from it don’t have physical withdrawals like say heroin addicts do, doeskin make food any less addictive. People with food addictions are usually seen as piggish and gluttonous, which is not the case. Society can be cruel and unfair when it comes to people and food (and ultimately weight).

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Karen January 30, 2014 at 2:00 pm

I think it is possible to be an addiction. I have never really thought of it but I know some in my family cant just have one or two cookies, they end up eating all of them in a day or two. it could also just be a lack of will power for some. for myself, I have learned to indulge my cravings periodically and that helps to curb them. if there is cake in the house I’ll have a bite or two with lunch and a bite or two with dinner. if I want chips, i’ll get a bag and make sure to make it last at least a week. or if it’s a special occasion i make my favorite foods and indulge and enjoy every bite but then go back to normal afterwards. it’s enough to satisfy but not to overindulge and it keeps me from having a huge amount of bad food on a regular basis. I’ve tried to just cut out the bad but always end up right back eating that food but eating it to a point that it’s a crazy amount. labeling food as an addiction might help to put some people into the right mindset to deal with it and to help them understand it better.

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christine davis January 30, 2014 at 2:55 pm

Such a great question! for ME, food gets me high like drugs or alcohol would be for some people. Not necessarily eating the food mind you but getting a new recipe, shopping for it, cooking it and SERVING it to people heightens my mood. Like way up there. Really high up there LOL…I just got over the holidays where I killed myself making food for people. Spent alot of money and time I didn’t have to make said food. Why? Because people were so appreciative and it made me feel NEEDED. And then the praise they gave me maintained that high for weeks every time I’d run into one of our friends. it’s a sickness. Obviously there is something lacking in my life if I’m craving the attention like this. I’m well aware of it but sometimes I just can’t help myself. On the flip side, I’ve over eaten all my life, did the binge eating, hiding food and ended up weighing 300 lbs at 5 4. Of course I love food!! I joined weight watchers a year ago and starting working out at the gym and I’ve lost 65 lbs. I feel wonderful! I still have those times where I eat bad food but get right back on the wagon with the next meal. For me, it’s all about balance.

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Vanessa January 31, 2014 at 4:37 am

I think food can be an addiction, but I don’t see that as a reason to justify obesity etc. In studies, it shows that if we all had the chance to eat ad lib we would get fat. Teaching a little self control is all it takes. It is simple, but NOT easy :)

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Kathy January 31, 2014 at 5:45 am

Hi Andie,
I assume you are in the US? Did you ever get or see the Jamie Oliver programmes where he looked at nutrition in schools in the US? It was fascinating….he did the same in the UK & tried to change school dinners.
I do think that a lot of the issues people have with food are developed at an early age….I walk past a shop on the way to work that is close to a school & can’t really believe what kids are eating! also a kebab/chip shop near the school has portions of chips laid out ready for school kick out time so they can keep up with demand! It’s scary & the knock on effect for adulthood is somewhat inevitable…..everything that is bad for kids/adults is generally convenient & cheap! anything that is good isn’t readily available & is expensive!
Sorry….I may have gone a bit off track with this but do think it is relevant! Great blog btw.

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Dubbs January 31, 2014 at 1:34 pm

Not all overeating is an addction, but food can be absolutely be an addiction. And addiction is a disease. But having the label of disease does not take away responsibility to try to get better or to be healthy. At the root of all addiction is a cause. It may be buried very, very, deep in the subconscious, but there is something in there that causes the addict to want to escape a healthy balanced life, even if they’ve never known one. Addicts can escape in alcohol, in drugs, through self harm or eating disorders, or through food; making themselves larger so as to create a physical barrier between them and the world. No one cause of addiction is the same, and none are wrong or right. Its so easy to build a lifetime of experiences and excuses around that cause. But through doing the work, the hard and difficult work that goes far beyond dieting or weight loss surgery, an addict can find peace within themselves and no longer need to escape through means that do not serve their higher good.

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Haley January 31, 2014 at 4:29 pm

Andie, thank you, thank you, thank you for writing this. I am an overweight woman in my late twenties who has struggled with emotional eating and food addiction for years. I have often questioned this idea of food being an addiction and struggled with how insensitive people are to the issue. I feel like my years lately have been very dedicating to recovery and making others aware of reality of the issue.
I realize that it is something (like an alcoholic or drug addict) I will struggle to overcome for the rest of my life and I want people to acknowledge the work it takes to overcome addiciton no matter what form it takes.
I can say too that I’ve experienced withdrawal symptoms myself. I recently completed Whole30, which is a program that eliminates sugars, dairy, and grains from your diet for a whole 30 days. It’s meant as a detox and body reset. Though it has taught me discipline and respect for food, I can say the first and last weeks were the toughest. Constantly battling with my own brain about whether I just had to have that cookie or piece of pizza and experiencing the “hangover” from the detox alone as my body repaired itself.
Even today, I experienced a relapse where I couldn’t seem to control an urge to eat. It was discouraging to me. But, all I had to do was remember what I had learned, acknowledge that one day can’t undo 30, and accept that slips will happen.
Anyway, thank you for tackling this issue. It’s encouraging to read stories like yours that are so honest and real.

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Emil February 2, 2014 at 1:40 pm

I was addicted to chips! Potatoes of corn, almost every flavor that comes! I mean it was way easier for me to give up cigarettes and drinking than chips. To this day I can easily go past the alcohol stand in a supermarket but I look twice at the chips section.

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Jen February 4, 2014 at 8:04 am

I absolutely think food can be an addiction – and, like others have said, not everyone who is overweight is an addict.

Personally, I think I am more of a carb/sugar addict. When given only the choice of protein and veggies, I have very few cravings and can “eat responsibly” without even thinking about it.

Throw in some bread, chips, chocolate, etc, and my whole outlook changes. No matter how much fun I ham having, or how many distractions i have, my brain will stay stuck on that food.

So, I guess I think that food addicts come in many forms (figuratively and literally!). Great discussion article!

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Florence February 4, 2014 at 11:36 am

This post was so interesting for me to read. Having struggled with compulsive eating I too have wondered is it an addiction, am I crazy, etc. I blamed myself 100% before realizing the genetic component (it runs in my family, as do many other addictions). Just recently a friend said, yeah but don’t you have control over what you put in your body? She didn’t want to be mean, she just truly didn’t understand how I could feel so powerless to it. It’s often a daily struggle for me and some weeks are better than others but I definitely feel it’s an addiction.

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Jill Adams February 4, 2014 at 3:00 pm

I personally feel I struggle with food addiction, I’ve struggled with my weight my whole life! I also have other physical issues, 6 years ago I became an amputee due to a car accident. After my accident I was determined to get my life back to as “normal” as possible, I felt it was important to recover in a positive way and as quickly as possible. I was back to work in 6 weeks, I went through my physical therapy like a champ, I use a prosthetic leg and worked through the pain of training my “stump” to bare all of my weight and wear the prosthetic. But when it comes to weight loss, I can not get a handle on it. I compare my amputee journey to my weight loss journey because I’m not a weak person who can’t work through hard times, but when I get the urge to eat, really eat, it is a battle I fight in my head for hours! I cry, I get angry, I get mean, I get emotional, and then I give in and feel better for the time I’m eating, then comes the guilt and negative self talk. I freaking learned how to walk again in less than a year! Why do I have such a hard time dealing with food?! I know about dieting, I know about eating healthy, the calories in, calories out…but I struggle daily.
I read this post by Matt Walsh: http://themattwalshblog.com/2014/01/31/inspiring-message-of-the-day-obesity-is-not-a-disease-and-you-do-have-free-will/
And I thought, this man has never dealt with true “food addiction” or maybe any kind of addiction, for me my struggle hasn’t been about not choosing the right food and have zero will power, my struggle feels deeper than that… Is food an addiction? Hell yes! Can it be overcome? Hell yes! In my case I’m going to have to muster up more strength to overcome my addiction I guess. In the mean time, when I walk around town people judge me for being lazy and having no will power. I’ve read your blog, and reread your blog, and absolutely love your perspective, and I’ve made several of your recipes too! Thank you for sharing.

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April February 4, 2014 at 3:49 pm

Beautifully written :)

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Nichole C February 4, 2014 at 4:14 pm

My parents are both smokers, and my mom has struggled to quit for years, on and off…when she describes the cravings she has, or how having a cigarette with her morning coffee are habitual. THAT is how I have felt my entire life with food! It was like when my mom explained her nicotine addiction, she was speaking for me and my struggles with food. But we need food to survive, so is it “addictive”, I am not sure. I think the way it makes certain people feel is the addiction, whether it be a positive or negative reaction…its definitely not an answer I have, but oh how I have felt “addicted”, at times. Great post, chickie!

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Mariana February 4, 2014 at 7:20 pm

English is not my language, so please forgive the bad writing.
Is food an addiction?
How could you describe a situation like this: thinking first thing in the morning about how much calories you have eat the day before? Not be able to taste meanwhile cooking because this will lead to an uncontrolled overeating? I used to be terrible unhappy when I was overweight, and it was just for the feeling of unworthiness because I was not able to find the way to stop eating. I didnt do a lot of things for that reason.
After losing 60 pounds and running everyday I am on my ideal weight, but… I feel the tick tick bomb is inside me, because food always will control my emotions. I wish I knew how to act with food every moment. I am “figthing” since I was 12 years old. Now I am 45… And I dont think there is a “hidden cause” inside me. I think when a behaviour is repited, it just go alone…solution? Anyone has a solution? I dont know how the obesity problem could be solved in this present days…

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Fiona February 5, 2014 at 10:53 am

Food will probably never be considered an addiction like smoking, alcoholism or taking drugs, and I’m not even sure that it should be. It may really provide a similar way to cope with circumstances as other substances, but it’s way harder to define the limit. Alcohol, cigarettes and drugs are things that we were all told that we should steer clear of, but we obviously can’t say the same about food. Maybe we teach and we’re taught about junk food, but that is just not enough. As humans, we are programmed to behave in a certain way when it comes to food, but the thing that we refer to as “food addiction” probably starts to take deeper roots in childhood.

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Sara February 5, 2014 at 11:07 am

I believe it is. If drug, sex, smoking etc can be an addiction–why can’t food? I know there are times I can’t get a food out of my head and I can’t kick it until I eat whatever it is I was craving. I’ve been known to open said item in the car before I even get home and scarf it down like a drug. How’s that not an addiction? I want to change my habits so much and yet due to being a new parent and being tired, I keep falling into old habits. Pizza, takeout, etc. I keep saying I’ll meal plan or this or that, but it’s hard! I really do intend to do better, starting with lunch today! Anyway, thanks for posting things like this!

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Phi February 5, 2014 at 12:59 pm

I’m of the opinion that some people live to eat, while some eat to live! There are times I just don’t remember taking my breakfast. I think an important thing you need to do before you begin dieting/fat loss program is to change your way of thinking, otherwise you are most likely to fail and be disappointed.

Great post, Thanks

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Cinnamon Vogue February 5, 2014 at 4:49 pm

Andie I am not sure I agree with you that you should not tell fat people they are indeed fat. As long as you say it nicely without being nasty it keeps pressure on people who are tending to be unhealthy. Just like smokers are increasingly cornered into giving up their bad habits a certain amount of social pressure I feel concentrates the mind. I remember one of my staff a few years ago said I had got fat and I immediately changed my diet and exercise program. I had been eating all wrong due to work pressure but this one criticism focused my mind on the issue.

Yes food is an addiction with horrible withdrawal symptoms. But there is a solution to food withdrawal symptoms. Drinking Cinnamon Tea would be one option as it makes you feel fuller and modulates the blood sugar fluctuations that causes many of the binge eating.

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Valerie S February 16, 2014 at 12:08 am

I have struggled with this very topic for a long time. I don’t know if it’s an addiction or not. We need food to survive. So it’s different than the smoker, the alcoholic, the drug abuser. We have to have food to survive. What my issue is, my stop button does not always work. Once a month, I have that desire for chocolate. So I buy a bag of the miniatures and tell myself that I can handle eating just a couple. Then by the end of the day (often sooner) the bag is filled with nothing but empty wrappers and my entire being is filled with guilt. Is that an addiction? Not sure. I don’t need to eat chocolate every day. I eat pretty healthy usually…well, recently I started eating healthy. And I’m trying to focus on why I binge….I’m angry, I’m sad, I’m whatever. I eat to punish myself. Is that what alcoholics and drug users go through? I drink and I used to smoke pot, but never indulged on them like I do food. Something to ponder. Very good topic and it’s great to see that I’m not alone on this issue.
I would like to address the Cinnamon person….Why do you feel the need to tell a fat person they are fat? Do you think they don’t know? Were you not aware of your weight when your coworker told you were fat? It’s beyond rude to point that out to someone. Fat shaming needs to go away. We are already aware and deal with DAILY the societal pressures of not being the smallest person in the room. Being overweight is NOT like smoking. My second-hand fatness is not going to hurt you. I’m so sick of people wanting to point this out to overweight people. We have eyes, and ears, and hearts….and despite the mass of our skin, it is not thick and words do hurt. And just seeing a crap comment like that makes me want to say eff you and go eat a donut. But I’m not….because I am recognizing these urges in myself and I think I’ll just give you the finger and continue drinking my green smoothie.

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Marti L. February 18, 2014 at 5:58 pm

I am not qualified to say whether food addiction is a true addiction or not. What’s really important though is understanding that the food is fulfilling a purpose on an emotional level. Unlike alcohol or tobacco or drugs, food is necessary for our survival. We can’t just say don’t go near it ever again. As a professional who works with weight loss clients I can tell you that what we are working with here is our emotional misuse of food. Somewhere along the way our brains have become wired to believe that in various situations eating is the highest and best way to cope with that feeling. And we may not even be aware of what that feeling is, and there may be several feelings that our brains believe are soothed by eating. I would recommend working with a professional to understand what needs are being fulfilled by eating and change this pattern, however if that’s not an option, then maintaining an awareness of what is happening can help you get back in control. When you find yourself eating when you are not truly hungry, just notice that’s what you are doing. What are you feeling? Bored, stressed, angry, tired? Maybe you can’t pinpoint the feeling but you know it has nothing to do with hunger? Your brain right now believes that eating will help you feel better. As you know, the purpose of food is to fuel our bodies. Eating when you are not hungry is misusing the food. So ask yourself what would be a more positive, healthy way to change the way you feel? Then start experimenting with these new activities. This is a good way to take back control.

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Emilia Smith February 25, 2014 at 5:43 am

It can be an addiction for sure.
Some people love eating, just because it taste nice, while some people eat just to keep themselves alive.
Sometimes I eat a lot when I am nervous and can’t keep my mind clear. I started to control myself when I am nervous and distract myself with something else rather with eating. It really helps.

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Grazing Dani February 26, 2014 at 9:35 am

If food addiction is not a “real thing,” the food industry is certainly tries its hardest to make it one! This article in the New York Times really opened my eyes to what companies are doing to “get us hooked.” An absolute must read: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/24/magazine/the-extraordinary-science-of-junk-food.html It’s not just about finding the perfect amount of sugar, fat and salt, but the right mouth feel. It’s just crazy!

If anyone is looking to kick their sugar cravings, I did a “sugar detox” (cut out sugar) over Lent last year and it really helped reset my tastebuds and pave the way for lasting changes. I’m doing it again this year and decided to invite other ppl to join me. I’ll be posting weekly plan meals, recipes and tips to help keep you on track. Here is a Q&A you can read to see if it’s something for you: http://grazingdani.blogspot.de/2014/02/sugar-detox-challenge.html

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Mandi March 11, 2014 at 1:10 am

My thoughts:

I do think our bodies get addicted to certain food components (sugar, salt, etc… Deep down, I’m pretty annoyed that I’ve decided not to eat any sweets before bed tonight.) Do people become food addicts? I think so. I’d say I had to be somewhat addicted when I weighed close to 300 pounds, although there was also a great emotional factor involved, too.

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Cathy March 14, 2014 at 3:19 pm

So, at one point I was told you could have two kinds of addiction. One was a physiologic addiction. This was the type of addiction you get from drugs. The one where your actual brain chemistry gets changed and thus you suffer withdrawal. The other one was called a psychological addiction wherein you psychologically feel you NEED something. Wikipedia defines it as such:
” In the APA Dictionary of Psychology, psychological dependence is defined as “dependence on a psychoactive substance for the reinforcement it provides.” [1] Most times psychological dependence is classified under addiction. They are similar in that addiction is a physiological “craving” for something and psychological dependence is a “need” for a particular substance because it causes enjoyable mental affects.

A person becomes dependent on something to help alleviate specific emotions.[2] Psychological dependence begins after the first trial which a person then becomes satisfied and the satisfaction increases with each use. This constant feeling leads to psychological reinforcement which eventually leads to dependence.”

I learned this because I am VERY susceptible to that type of addiction. When I was younger I was a cutter. I couldn’t stop because I was afraid of how I would feel if I did stop. I wasn’t any happier for doing it, but I was afraid of stopping. Currently that is my problem with eating. It’s not even that binge eating or eating junk makes me happy or feel any better but I get afraid of how I’ll feel like if I stop. Like I’ll all of a sudden feel perpetually deprived. I have a diet soda addiction as well that kind of illustrates this point. I was socially awkward and so always having food or drinks in my hand was a way to engage with people without really having to talk. After all, my mouth was busy. But with my mother constantly getting on me about my weight I adapted and started only drinking diet soda because I got the same feeling without the caloric shame. I became psychologically dependant on it and started going to it during any times of stress. Me and my friend even had an episode where we started chain smoking. But I didn’t develop a nicotine addiction. That part of my brain was always taken up by my soda addiction. When I was stressed I wanted soda. Forget cigarettes. So, I probably have gotten way to personal, but I’ve always considered such things addictions. And it really kind of speaks to how you should approach it. Shaming me will NEVER work. It never has. I’ll just cut ties with whoever is doing the shaming. True change has to come from within and as such takes a lot of internal effort. It’s part of why I like weightwatchers. They do try to address the internal struggles.

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Kim March 27, 2014 at 3:19 pm

I think it’s great you are blogging about this. I had no idea this was possibly a condition until recently. I have tried dieting over and over again and it never worked. After finding more information about this and how to get over the “addiction” my goal to loose weight has drastically improved. Check out my blog skinnygirl20.wordpress.com. I have just begun this blog as i’ve began my weightless journey.

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Sandi March 31, 2014 at 6:10 am

There is something seriously wrong with the nearly global attitude that starving oneself to the point of permanent damage or death, is an illness or even a desirable fashion statement, while at the same time considering the flip side of that coin a weakness or character flaw at best, and a reason to despise and discriminate against people at the worst. If you’re an alcohol or drug addict, you’re considered ill and disabled. If you’re an over-eater, a food addict…well, you’re just a fat, lazy pig. What the hell is wrong with you, you slob? The fact that over-eating is often a coping mechanism to deal with some sort of mental, emotional, physical trauma, most often a combination of two or all three, is totally ignored.

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Blendra April 16, 2014 at 11:35 am

Wow. This is a very good post! I can relate. I’m so glad I found your blog, can’t wait to start looking around! (:

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