How to Tell If You're a Food Addict and What You Can Do About It

What do we mean when we say we're a "foodaholic"? It's confusing because, of course, we're all addicted to food since we need to eat to live. Essentially, we are all food addicts.
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What do we mean when we say we're a "foodaholic"? It's confusing because, of course, we're all addicted to food since we need to eat to live. Essentially, we are all food addicts.

When we talk about being a true "foodaholic," or food addict, what we are really saying is that we cannot control ourselves once we start eating certain foods. The most addictive foods tend to be the high-salt, high-fat, high-sugar foods that appeal strongly not only to our taste buds but also to our brain chemicals. Just like drugs of abuse, say alcohol for example, some of us can drink moderately and enjoy it while others become alcoholics. Food is the same.

In my last blog on the subject, I talked about the difference between being a "foodie," aka a gourmet, and being a "foodaholic." In short, people who love food and can savor each bite and appreciate the subtleties of flavor, are generally not food addicts. They can enjoy great food in moderation and stop either when, or before, they are full.

Food addicts, on the other hand, tend to taste only the first few bites and then go into a food-induced haze. The chosen food is generally a high-fat, high-salt and/or high-sugar food. As long as they keep eating, the high lasts and will last for a few minutes after eating. Generally the food addict will keep eating until they are past the point of full and often to the point of feeling physically ill. They will tell you that they don't remember much of the experience. They will say it was pleasant, but that's about it. Then there is the uncomfortable stuffed feeling and the guilt of having over-eaten the unhealthy food.

Also, similar to alcohol, one can have a food hangover. If you overeat at night, which most foodaholics tend to do, you can wake up sluggish, groggy and still full from the previous night's binge. When I was practicing my food addiction, I'd choose ice cream, cake, cookies, pastry, chips and French fries to eat. That was my evening event. It's not a social thing at all. It's actually very lonely. Most of us don't do this in front of other people.

So, if this describes you, what can you do about it? I cover this extensively in my book, as the answer is complex. It's not one-size-fits-all, and it requires both behavioral change and psychological work to truly get past this consuming obsession. To give you a short answer though, you need to be really tired of the behavior and ready to change. You need to admit you have a problem and you need to be willing to be uncomfortable for a period of time while adjusting to new habits.

See if you can identify when the behavior started and if it was in response to anything troubling in your life. Mine was in response to a series of break-ups and heart breaks. I used food to fill in the emptiness and the weight to hide from men. It was effective for awhile.

Even if you can't identify when it started, or why, you may be able to get in touch with what need the food is currently serving in your life. That information can help you move into the change process. If it's for lack of social interaction, you can change that, for example. See what it is for you.

Change is very difficult. If your eating habits have been in place for a long time, it's not fun to give up the behavior but anyone who has come out the other side, myself included, will tell you it's so worth it.

Here's a quick video for you on food addiction.

For more by Irene Rubaum-Keller, click here.

For more on diet and nutrition, click here.

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