We all have a relationship with food; it can be healthy and well balanced, or toxic and all consuming. While the purpose of food is to nourish our bodies and provide fuel for daily activities, the excessive amount of junk and fast food that is advertised and made so readily available to us challenges this purpose.
Catchy slogans, large portions and cheap prices make fast and processed food an appealing offer for a quick fix. The problem is that once you begin eating these kinds of food, you start craving them. The cravings are not only because of the taste or because they filled you up, they also trigger the release of dopamine, a feel-good neurotransmitter in your brain.
Foods containing high amounts of sugar, salt, and fat are the biggest dopamine culprits. Studies have found that for many, the chemical reaction from eating sugary, salty and fatty foods is comparable to the reaction from addictive drugs like cocaine and heroine.
An addiction to food goes beyond the physical cravings; there is an overwhelming emotional component that includes obsessing over what, when, and where to eat. More so, a frequent cycle of guilt, shame, depression, and isolation becomes associated with both the food and the act of eating. Whether you eat until you feel excessively full, keep eating habits secret from others, or make up excuses to rationalize your poor eating habits, it is extremely hard to overcome this addiction alone. You can not escape your body’s need to eat, but with help you can escape the destructive relationship you have with certain foods.
In addition to mental health risks such as depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem, food addiction is associated with serious physical health risks. These can include obesity, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, digestive problems, headaches, malnutrition, chronic pain or fatigue, and arthritis.
Food addiction differs in one way from a drug or alcohol problem: you can’t completely give up food, just certain types. This presents a challenge to those in recovery, because you will constantly be bombarded with advertisements for the foods you used to crave and you will be exposed to them for the rest of your life. In order to overcome these obstacles and avoid triggers, professional treatment can give you the tools to establish a new and healthy relationship with food.