Thursday, June 14, 2007
Addicted to food?
I have a confession to make. When I was at my heaviest, I was able to sit down and eat an entire medium, thin crust pizza by myself. Now, I'm not very proud of that. It was a horrible way to eat, and I have learned from my mistakes over the years. But I've often wondered why my behavior was so irrational. Why would someone who knows that consuming an entire pizza is nutritional suicide still do it? Who's to say. But I always did it when I was stressed, or sad, or bored. Even though I was wolfing down thousands of calories and hundreds of grams of fat in one sitting, it made me feel good, for a little while. And that was the catch - for a little while. Then I'd realize what I had done, get angry with myself and start the whole process over again.

Was I addicted to food? Were tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese my drugs of choice? Some doctors these days think so - that food has become as addictive to some people as alcohol or cigarettes to others. What a lot of researchers are finding is that obesity, which once was thought to be a condition of the gastrointestinal tract - the stomach - now may be more of a psychological or neurological issue. Yep, that's right: The brain may be the culprit. Certain physicians believe that something in the brain of an obese person reacts to food, just as it would to other addictive substances. Food addiction is kind of a new term used to describe the compulsive or excessive craving for food to comfort the soul. Not only can this addiction be characterized by eating abnormal amounts of food (an entire carton of ice cream in one sitting, for instance) but the foods these "addicts" crave are not very healthy. When was the last time anyone said, "Gosh, I'd love to have a raw carrot right now!" or "I could really go for some steamed broccoli!" Not going to happen. Nutritionists have found that most people who are overweight tend to crave high-fat, high-calorie foods, which pack on the pounds. Studies have also shown that certain people who undergo bariatric surgery turn to other addictive habits after their operation, trading one addiction for another. So it becomes a vicious cycle. How to stop it? Doctors don't know, but they are researching ways to curb these cravings.

Some experts say addiction is not the root of obesity and that food addiction is an overused term. They note there isn't enough research to prove that people are addicted to food and that people who turn to other addictions after treating their obesity with surgery may have addictive personalities, but that's not the driving force for obesity. These physicians say most obese people just don't know how to eat properly. They binge, they cut back, they go on diet after diet after diet. They splurge, feel guilty - the whole nine yards. They're not in control of their eating patterns. Obesity experts find that behavior modification and nutritional guidance usually help many obese patients lose enough weight to help them avoid certain illnesses, like type 2 diabetes and heart disease. So it's really more a life change than treating addiction.

As for my pizza indulgence... I don't do it anymore. With help from my nutritionist and a wonderful gym, I have lost enough weight to leave the obese category. But still there are days when instead of thinking of whole grain cereal and raisins, my head keeps telling me that a nice sausage biscuit would be good. But I know now how to tell my brain that that's not the best thing for me, and instead, I set my kettle on the stove to warm up water for my instant oatmeal.

Do you think you might be addicted to food? Do you think behavior modification is the way to handle obesity? Let us know.
I've lost 90 lbs, put my diabetes in check, strength train, and do cardio.

I have a short list of foods that must never be allowed to cross my lips if I want to stay this way.

My term for these is to call them "trigger foods".

One bite is too much and a boatload is not enough.

Food addiction does exist, but can be managed with effort.
I have said it from the VERY begining and I will say it again. You have to READ the ingredients in YOUR food. Allot of foods out there are designed to make you hungry and want more and to addict you to it. Next time you pick something up boxed or canned read the label and see how many ingredients you can pronounce.
Nope, I've never been addicted to food, but since I've been addicted to other things, I can imagine. When you're having a bad day (or a good day) you turn to whatever it is that you're addicted to! I'm addicted to the internet, among other things :)

Like Phillipe said, read your ingredients! I have Celiac Disease and food could literally kill me. Maybe that's why I'm not addicted to food? I don't know. But Val- I completely agree that behavior modification is the way to go- you have to change your whole mindset or you'll never be able to get over it!
I believe I've been addicted to food all my life. There has been years where I was thin but was houded everyday to eat. Now I'm just fat and can't stop. The fight is too hard. I alway believed the problem was that you must eat every day to be healthy and once you get started it is hard to stop. At least drug and alchol additions don't require you to have some every day so it is easier to leave them alone at least for me.
I am definitely addicted to food. Like you used to be, when I have a bad day or am bored I will eat a whole pizza myself no problem, and wash it down with a 2 liter of coke. My problem now is I've hit 30 and the 400 lbs mark, and now it's extremely hard to get the energy to exercise to lose it and the depression of what I've done to myself only spurs the binge eating on. It's a vicious cycle, and once you get caught up in it, it's extremely hard to break free.
A medium thin crust pizza? Child's play. I ate 5 pounds of ham in one sitting. 5 pounds. Was there any emotion involved? No, I was hungry and just happened to have 5 pounds of ham sitting around.

I agree with the psychological addiction to food theory, but don't necessarily think that its abnormal. Remember, back in caveman days we needed to be hungry enough to fight for food and store up enough for times of famon.

I mean hey... who doesn't associate getting ice cream with a pleasant time?

5 pounds of ham. And i bet you think i was full...
At the end of the day, food really is an addiction. Obsessing about the double cheeseburger at McDonald's and how good it would taste is not so different from obsessing about a drug of choice or your next drinking bender. Even as I type, I am thinking how much I am going to enjoy a cigarette when I get off work. I KNOW its awful and I KNOW I should quit, but I don't.

I also think that it is a matter of convenience. I don't make much money, and when it's late and I am hungry, I will more than likey drive to McDonald's and get something from the dollar menu rather that attempting to get a salad or something better for me.

Behavior modification would be successful if eating badly was not replaced by a more unsavory habit. People (like me) who try to quit smoking eat alot more most of the time. I don't want to do that, so I will keep smoking a bit longer.
I am addicted to food. I am not obese (yet) but that is because I am 25 and still active. Why do I think I am addicted to food? I can't seem eat unless it comes from some fast food chain. I want SO badly to eat healthy but when I start to I make it about 48 hours and I cant take the withdrawal symptoms. I get headaches, chills and feel like I am starving even though I may have just ate. I know it is addiction....I can't help myself. I can't say I have tried everything because the flip side I can honestly say I don't know enough about nutrition. This isn't something they taught me in school.

I really want to eat healthy but it literally causes me physical pain when I do. Who can say that isn't a result of addiction?
Food is very much an addiction!

Think about this, when a new food product is created it is reviewed by the Food and Drug administration before going on the shelf. The same department of the government is monitoring food and drugs. This is not for convenience or a way to cut costs it is because Food and Drugs are the same thing. Last week I did an experiment not including fruits, vegetables, meats I found that 95% of retail products at my local grocers contained multiple types of chemicals I have never heard of before! The few product exceptions where Triscuit crackers and some whole products like sugar, rice and flour. Reading the labels on most food you can find more chemicals and elements than most over the counter drugs themselves. I believe it is very safe to say the sooner America realizes that corporations do not care what the food is made of as long as it is addictive enough to keep you buying more then we will see America Slim down off the addiction. The blind truth mostly we are all hooked and the hardest fact of being hooked on any drug is withdraw or (diet) the worst part about getting off the food or (drugs) is the fact that everywhere we look there are ads and promotions to bring you right back in to the addiction.
I do believe that I am a food addict. Fortunately, I have a daily reprieve from my addiction because I am in FA ( I have been in the program 1 year and 8 months and no longer practice bulemia and am now in a normal size body. Best of all, I no longer obsess about what foods I will or will not eat during the day. It's a program that has saved my life.
In my experience food cravings and eating to excess have been a result of a deficit of something else in my body. I find that if I take supplements such as Omega-3/fish oil, multivitamins, etc. that I eat much less and am not continually hungry. As a reference point I am a recovering addict who has also been known to eat an entire batch of cookies in one sitting. Supplements are saving me and I'm finally losing weight because of them.
I have an addiction to carbs. Pasta, bread, any and all things made of potato. When I try to cut back and eat more fresh veggies and proteins I end up getting sugar cravings and eating a box of cookies.

I feel like one of those people who stand outside of the AA building by my house after the meeting gets out, smoking cigarettes.

Just replacing one unhealthy addition with another.
I have been using to track my food intake while I have been changing my lifestyle. I have found that I used to eat about 6500 calories a day and about 370 grams of fat. I am now on a 1400-1600 calorie diet with less than 20 grams of fat. I started walking 30 minutes a day and am now up to 80 minutes and four miles per day on my treadmill.

Yes, I was an addict. Sugary drinks, pasta, pizza, breads made me feel better. Now I am learning to eat differently. I am down from 272 to 223. I have a long way to go, but I know that I can do it with these lifestyle changes!

I have been blogging about my daily journey through my weight loss. It helps keep me focused.

I like your blog and read it frequently.
I believe that as with any addiction, there are situations that trigger the craving. For me, any emotion with set me off.. Happy, sad, angry, estatic: I needed food to deal with the feelings. I have even celebrated losing weight with a doughnut. And there are certain foods that leave me craving more food. If you have an addictive personality, it is very easy to allow any addiction to take over your life, food included.

I was able to figure out what are trigger foods for me after joining weight watchers, where I lost 76 lbs. Then, because with that program, you can eat "anything", there were more trigger foods that I had to identify and eliminate from my diet, if I wanted to lose more weight. For example, Chicken is a trigger food for me, which is very strange I think, so I just don't eat it anymore. Just like I don't eay potatoes, rice or pasta. I try very hard to eat more natural food, like fruits and vegetables, beans, whole grains and nuts, which is difficult because I eat out a lot. In addition, I have traded my food addiction to a gym addiction.

In order to break the addiction, you have to figure out what sets you off and what foods feed the addiction and either eliminate that from your life, or find another, healthier addiction, like walking or playing with your kids, talking on the phone to friends. There is something out there that will make you just as happy as that ice cream or doughnut.
I'm not addicted to food but I do have a weakness for eating potato chips of any kind even though I know how bad they are. I don't deny myself from eating anything but I do moderate how much of the bad stuff I eat in proportion to the healthy as well as maintaining an active lifestyle. I completely believe behavior modification is one of the answers to prevent or reverse obesity. I also believe that some people may need therapy to help them not use food as a crutch for whatever emotions they're experiencing daily or as a reward system.
I think information overload contributes a lot to people eating poorly. Eating the "right diet" is extremely confusing when you look on the shelf and see one diet that says you can something but another says not to. Who is right? There are diets for people with renal insufficiency, diabetes, high cholesterol, etc, but what is the regular, everyday diet for a healthy adult? How about for children? I think people know what sorts of foods are bad for them, but there is too much conflicting information about the best way to eat.

That's not to say that I don't think food addiction exists; smoking cessation is "behavior modification," and there's no question that smokers are addicted to nicotine. Like any addiction, it will take a lot of hard effort to overcome.
Ten years ago (when I was 9) I was capable of eating an entire family size can of Cream of Chicken soup with half a box of croutons in one sitting. It's no wonder I was thirty pounds overweight. I've since managed to get into the normal weight category but my binges and addictions still flare up every now and then.
To addicted anonymous - it really does sound like addiction. Try cutting down on fast foods gradually by making sure you pick up a salad as well as your hamburger or sausage or whatever and eat smaller portions of the fast food. Try to reduce the amount of sugar (ice cream, soft drinks, cakes and pastries) and eat some real fruit instead sometimes. And have you seen an allergist? Gluten intolerance and dairy intolerance produce some unpleasant withdrawal symptoms (both physical and psychological) when you're trying to change your diet over - I speak from personal experience. But if that's your problem you'd need some professional advice. Hope you make it!
If you want to give up fast food, watch the movie, "Supersize Me," over and over. That should cure you; it did for me!

I'm interested in the additives that make food addicting. Can someone list some of them? I believe high fructose corn syrup is one, and it's in everything -- bread, peanut butter, pickles, etc.
I know that I am addicted to food. Food as always been my best friend, whether it be because I was depressed, stressed or overjoyed, I ran to the fridge for my best buddy, mostly chocolate, potatoe chips & a soda. I am in the process of trying to kick the habit. Been to my family doctor & she is trying to help me out with a healthy lifestyle change. What send me over the edge was topping the scales at 222lbs. not a pleasant sight. So now I have stop eating all junk trying to do the right thing. when feeling low, I write in a journal. So far I have shed 15lbs & hoping for a lot more to go. It is hard but with a lot of hard work & a lot of prayer I am going to overcome this addiction and get myself on the right path to any healthier lifestyle.
I was a vegetarian, but I was really a junk food junkie. Cookies and coke for breakfast...cheese crackers as a snack...french fries for lunch with a cheese and lettuce sandwich. In the afternoon either a box of mac & cheese or two veggie hot dogs and some ice cream with my sister. We liked to crumble oreos on top. By dinner time I felt so sick that I could hardly eat any of the perfectly healthy food on my plate, and then ended up back in the kitchen for crackers and cheese spread so I could fall asleep. What is astounding about this was the fact that I was underweight. At the age of 18, I was 5'1" and 82 pounds. I had always had hypoglycemia, but I had never been educated by a dietician regarding how to handle I carried soda with me in case my blood sugar dropped. I had to pass out and go into seizures before my habits changed. I know it's terrible, but it usually takes something to cause a person to hit rock bottom before they can change. Like cigarettes, which I have also quit, food is a stress response wherein the person turns to some activity instead of taking a few deep breaths and facing their problems. Deep breathing as is learned in yoga can make a tremendous difference for anyone ready to take the step towards a healthier body, mind and spirit.
I come from a family that thrives on emotional eating. Having seen the consequences of that behaviour- diabetes, high blood pressure, depression because of excessive weight gain, I have always tried to eat very healthfully. I actually do crave carrots and steamed broccoli, and I have since I was a baby, but I do get irrestible urges for chocolate almost daily. There is chocolate bubble gum on the market now, and that really helps. It has few calories, a great texture, and tastes like chocolate marshmallows!
Hi Hal,
Of course food is an addiction and I believe that we all have it. Food is comfort to the senses. All those delightful, tingling tastes that pleasure us. Comfort food to remind us of happy days, to relieve stress or perhaps to replace something else like sex and cigarettes (not necessarily in that order).
If food wasn't an issue, then we would not have obese people, and people with eating disorders.
Like with anything that is addictive, it is a matter of dicipline, willpower, and self~control. We should eat healthly and slowly to stay youthful and active and always remember that our bodies function on what we put inot our mouths! No excuses! YOU are in control of your own destiny. Honestly, we all need to get a grip on our eating habits in the United States. Most people in the world go to bed hungry.
Food addiction? We should be ashamed to even be discussing this as a problem.

"The secret of staying young is to live honestly, eat slowly, and lie about your age."
Lucille Ball~
I am addicted to food. I've admitted it to myself (half-heartedly) many times, and have managed to lose a few lbs with behavior modification a time or two... but I always slip back into the rut. I think about food all the time. What I'm going to eat next, where I'm going to get it, how I'm going to pay for it so my husband doesn't know..

The funny thing is I'm not fooling anyone! how can you not know!? If I were sticking to the diet like I claim I wouldn't be 260lbs. I wouldn't feel uncomfortable.

I need help. I need to find the confidence to modify my behavior - permanetly. I need to find the will power to change!
Sorry...but there is no research out there that shows that any diet or behavioral modification has any long-term effect on obesity. None. There is research out there that talks about ghrelin levels increasing 25% or more in formerly obese people-- or the fact that exercise affects obese and non-obese differently. Until the medical community (other than obesity researchers who know these things) accepts that obesity is a disease, not a lifestyle, they will continue to blame obese individuals. One of the reasons bariatric surgery works is that it affects ghrelin production.
The problem here is that you seem to be trying to draw a distinction between "addiction" and impulsive, negative behavior - one is a component of the other. Whether or not you're addicted is an elusive assessment that encompasses both physical and physocological attributes. The EXTENT of the negative behavior is a strong indicator of the addiction assessment. As individuals, we could both demonstrate the same negative behaviors, but if I repeat them to excess which causes me to become severly obese then I probably have an addiction problem. Whether that addiction is physical or mental is practically irrelevent to the fact that I would be addicted and my health is at risk. I believe that most addictions contain both components - a physical and phsychological side. You can't successfully treat one without treating the other which is why you see surgery patients transfer their behaviors to other addictions afterwards.
Hi, my name is Angel and I'm a food addict.

I used to be addicted to cigarettes but I gave them up.

I hate hearing people compare drugs, cigarettes and food addiction as the same rules apply when taking control. The point is that you aren't IN control to begin with...

There is also the added part people forget...if you are a drug addict you quit taking drugs...if you are addicted to cigarettes you quit smoking...a food addict can not quit eating. Eating you have to do to live.

Yes, you can control what you eat, but if you are what I would call a Pure Food Addict it really isn't that easy. My addiction isn't sugary treats, it isn't pastas and breads. My addiction is to food. All food. Vegetables, fruits, cereals, carbs, meats, etc. EVERYTHING.

If I could just quit eating all together it would be much easier...that's how I quit smoking after all.
I'm definitely addicted to sugar. Although I'm not at all overweight, I am fully aware of the physiological consequences of such behavior, but I do it anyway! The sad part is that the more I try to quit, the more I think about it and the more I crave food.

I wonder about the stigma of obese physicians...
Only someone who doesn't have the addiction to food would question its existence. People laugh, ridicule, or just think its a matter of not eating those "bad" things, but its very real....and consumes my life.

Clinton, TN
To Karla:

I'm confused by your comment "there is no research out there that shows that any diet or behavioral modification has any long-term effect on obesity." Modifying one's behavior (i.e. start and continute exercising)and changing one's diet (and I don't mean going on a fad diet) does change a person from being obese or not. I've seen it happen with a friend of mine and since I do go to the gym almost daily, I've seen it happen with a guy in one of my exercise classes. Both of them made the decision to change their life because they were tired of being overweight. My friend weighed about 240 pounds when I met her 4 years ago. She asked for my advice because she saw how I am able to literally eat everything (all in moderation of course!)yet stay slim. I told her the diet must change and she must become active for life. She started riding a bike daily after work and going to the gym with me. She also changed her diet by eating more fruits and vegetables and cutting down on the amount of processed canned foods and junk food. Within a year, she has lost over 50 pounds and has kept it off. It is possible to lose weight and keep it off without surgery if you choose to change your behaviors.
I found myself binging and went to a Eating Disorder Clinic at Johns Hopkins. It was there I learned a lot about what caused my binging. I'm now eating "normally" and including in moderation those foods I binged on. No binges so far.
Hi, I too am a food addict-
I weigh 130lbs and am 5'4. I am trying to lose an additional 10-15 (Never lost all the baby weight from 4 years ago). I would out very intensly 6 mornings a week and eat very healthy all day-until something triggered. I do not know if it was feeling sad I where I still was weight wise, or what but the second I started to put something in my mouth I could not stop it could be a whole bag of chips, gallon of ice cream or tortillas with melted cheese etc. It really caused strain with my husband because when he found out he was so mad, because of all the time he tried to help me with my workouts and eating since It had been months and I still wasn't see progress. That when I confessed the overeating a one sitting during the day I tried to tell him it was like him being addicted to a pack and a half of cigarettes. I just couldn't explain to him that once I started I could not stop and then I feel horrible once I did stop. I am glad to hear there are other people struggling with this and it is not just me. jenn
If you've ever fasted, you know that food is definitely more addiction than need. There are no hunger pains, only a game with your own mind trying to trick you into eating.

let's face it-- if something feels good, we're going to consume it to the point of abuse. you're not human if you don't.
To Anonymous:

Apparently I'm not human since I don't gorge myself on food that I love like chocolate, beef jerky and a few other items.

We all have choices - take responsibility for what you put into your body.
I binge eat on an intermittent basis and initialy thought my obsession with food was due to a lack of restraint. I never really associated gorging down unhealthy foods with mental instability, but it has become blatantly clear that when depression hits, my cravings rise.
This is an extremely emotional topic, so I just wanted to add one more thing. If you find yourself becoming overly defensive, you're likely in denial. Eating is a personal issue, and no one can make you eat a certain way; you have to make those decisions yourself. If you have difficulty exerting the self-control to modify your diet and exercise, then SEEK HELP. If food is an addiction, try to eat slowly and actually savor the food. Become a real foodie and relish every nuance of flavor! Pay attention to how you feel AFTER you eat something, instead of just while you eat. Make a list of what you eat and how much. You don't have to show it to anyone, but just remember not to lie to yourself. Your health is at stake.
I used to be addicted to food. I am 5 foot 2 and at one point, I was almost 300 pounds. One day I realized, I'm killing myself, backed off of the ice cream and sodas, along with chips and candy bars.
I admit, I am still over weight, but then again, I was uneducated in the proper ways of nutrition. Even now, I read everything that pops up. I haven't been to a doctor or had a gym to help me.
Anything a person wants to do, they do, it's just a matter of the degree they wish to push what they want.
I used to be 300 pounds, I'm only 5 foot 2. I am still addicted to food, but it's an addiction to fruit, particularly cantalop. After spending most of my high school years over weight, I learned how to change my lifestyle, not only what I eat, but how much, how fast, and when.
Food is an addiction, just like smoking or other drugs. Learning and taking the time to change the habbits helps.
Also finding alternatives for emotional eating is a big plus. (Though sometimes when things get very stressful, I still crave my chocolate ice cream, without it, I become distructive the the house)
its the 'high fructose corn syrup' making you feel like you want to eat =it's in (ALMOST) everything we eat HERE in the usa since the mid 1970's. iF YOU ARE SERIOUS ABOUT LIVING A LONG LIFE = read the ingridient's of everything you eat. If it's got 'HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP' IN IT or one of it's many alias's...DO YOU HOMEWORK PEOPLE!!!!
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