The Mechanics Of Food Addiction

Food addiction is a term thrown around a lot these days. When it first surfaced years ago, experts began a battle about whether or not food could be classified as addictive. Some believed it could not be addictive because we need it to live. As research ensued, it clearly showed that some foods (high fat and high sugar) light up the same areas of the brain as other addictions. The “reward” center in the brain releases dopamine when we are engaged in pleasurable activities. Dopamine is our “feel good” chemical. It stimulates that euphoric feeling that comes with all addictions including food addiction. It also helps you to feel connected to your “drug of choice”. I often make the joke that when someone says they love a cupcake, they honestly might LOVE that cupcake because of the chemical reaction that produces that sense of attachment to food. As we compulsively eat foods such as sugar, it actually lights up this area of the brain and a brain scan looks remarkably like the brain of a cocaine addict. The real bummer in this is that the more we flood our brains with dopamine, the more we need that substance because our dopamine receptors (the mechanism by which we are able to absorb dopamine) actually get damaged and wiped out. This results in the need for more cupcakes to feel the same sense of pleasure. The good news is once we stop engaging in compulsive eating, our dopamine receptors can start to repair. When we engage in emotional eating over and over again, we build a strong connection in the brain. This is why we struggle with dieting, because we never break that connection in the brain. This is where counseling comes into play. By using our evidence based techniques, you can finally change this pattern and reduce the intensity of these urges with food addiction. If you are constantly struggling in your battle with food, call us today. We are experts in changing the relationship we have with food. You don’t have to be in this alone!

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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