Food Addiction Myths

I recently read an article on food addiction that got my blood boiling. The article quoted Tim Noakes, a South African Sports Medicine professor stating that needing food fewer than every 12-24 hours means you are a food addict. Wait. What??? To me, this is like telling someone that although the gas tank in their car will only give them 300 miles, they should really try to push it to 400 or their car is faulty. Essentially, using his logic, you would be shaming someone if they filled up with gas before their tank completely ran out and stranded them on the side of the road. This is what would happen to you if you ignored all of your hunger signals, because they would be there in full force, and just limited your eating based on this erroneous time standard. Then, because your blood sugar was shockingly low, you would overeat. Your brain would be in starvation mode and override any behavior modification you were trying to do with eating. Yes, we are physically dependent on food for survival, but to look at it as food addiction, we would have to extend that to oxygen and water. Food addiction is a very real struggle for people. Fueling our bodies consistently throughout the day helps, in part, keep the triggers to eat compulsively at bay. Real symptoms of food addiction include:

·         A preoccupation with certain foods. You aren’t hungry, but you keep obsessing about eating. Generally the foods tend to be of the high fat and/or high sugar variety

·         You want to stop yourself, but can’t. There is a sense of powerlessness that takes over when we compulsively eat. Our brain dissociates from the experience and often it is like we see ourselves
from the outside looking in.

·         Eating to the point of discomfort. If we start eating when we aren’t hungry, we don’t know when to stop. For many people struggling with food addiction, the stopping point comes when they feel sick.

·         Hiding eating from others. Like many addictions, there is shame in having others know what you are doing, so you eat very differently in public than in private.

·         Continued use despite consequences. You continue to engage in the eating behaviors despite physical, emotional, financial and relationship consequences.

This list is by no means comprehensive, but responding to hunger cues every few hours certainly doesn’t make the list! Food addiction is a very real issue that impacts many people. It isn’t something that just goes away. It isn’t about laziness or lack of willpower. The only way to combat this problem is by addressing the underlying issues that created the relationship with food and continue to keep it in play.

Michelle Lewis

Michelle Lewis

Michelle Lewis has a Bachelor's degree in Psychology from Weber State University and a Master's degree in Social Work from the University of Utah. She has been working in the mental health field since 2001.

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