After writing a number of articles about how certain individuals shed more than 100 pounds by altering their diet habits, I sought to investigate how people reach their oversized shape in the first place. An alarming statistic that I discovered shows how common obesity is: more than 1 in 3 adults in America are obese.
Obesity is more than just being overweight. It is when your body mass index (BMI) is 30 or higher (you can find out your BMI using a BMI calculator). There are many factors that contribute to obesity, and scientists believe that food addiction may play an important role in it.
In the U.S., food addiction occurs in 7% of women and 3% of men. For women between 45-64 years of age, they have an even higher occurrence of 8.4%. In recent years, the scientific community has begun to study food addiction more closely because of its serious, and sometimes fatal, consequences. A documentary “Addicted to food: Sharon’s story” about Britain’s fattest woman Sharon Mevsimler who died of a heart attack due to food addiction that went untreated.
What Is Food Addiction?
Food addiction is an behavioral condition characterized by the obsessive eating of hyper-palatable foods like those rich in fat, salt, or sugar. It strongly affects mental health via the reward processes of the brain, which take control and make it difficult to control eating habits.
Like addictive drugs, highly palatable foods trigger feel-good brain chemicals such as serotonin and dopamine in a person and, naturally, they seek more of that. The early stages of the condition usually come in the form of cravings, and it grows into an addiction when food activates the reward system in the brain despite detrimental consequences that it causes.
Symptoms and Signs of Food Addiction
The Yale Food Addiction Scale is the first diagnostic criteria of its kind to identify people who are exhibiting signs and symptoms of food addiction. It was developed by the researchers at Yale University’s Rudd Center for Food Science & Policy.
According to this scale, there are at least 8 common symptoms and signs of food addiction, and they include the following:
1. Food Craving Even When Full
Craving and hunger aren’t the same thing. You don’t feel “hungry” after eating a fulfilling, nutritious meal. Craving certain types of foods is pretty common, too. However, if craving occurs often, and you have problems controlling yourself, then it may be an indicator of food addiction. Such cravings are not about needing energy or nutrients; it is your brain seeking a dopamine kick from the reward system.
2. Gorging on More Food Than You Can Tolerate
Consuming a excessive amount of food that exceeds your body’s capacity is another symptom of food addiction. This is an addiction behavior where one loses the ability to stop eating even when the person’s body cannot tolerate anymore or feels ill.
3. Hiding Consumption of Food
Trying to conceal or hide food consumption is another frequent symptom of food addiction, which can manifest in eating alone or late at night when the afflicted person cannot be seen or in the act of hiding food from others with the intent to eat in private. This behavior is driven by a feeling of guilt and shame over the behavior.
4. Reduced Social Interaction
Another symptom of food addiction is its negative impact on relationships and social life. People with food addiction may avoid social relationships or have problems at work or school; they may avoid social events, lose interest in activities they used to enjoy, or become isolated from family members and friends.
5. Experiencing Withdrawal Symptoms When Abstaining From Eating
People suffering from food addiction may exhibit withdrawal symptoms such as feeling stress, anger, or depression when they are unable to satisfy their need to eat. Some persons go as far as canceling their plans for the day as a result of such feelings.
6. Loss of Control
This refers to losing control over how much, how often, and where eating occurs. People with food addiction struggle with self-control and fail repeatedly at setting rules for themselves. They may set rules such as eating one piece of cake a day but fail at it every time because they have problems with cravings.
People suffering from food addiction can seek help from medical professionals or contact the National Eating Disorders Association.
Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.