For many people, the idea that someone could have a food addiction is an absurd notion. Some can just not comprehend that a person could be so obsessed with food that it could lead to addiction. However, recent studies and research are throwing much more light on this disorder. Much of this research covers areas such as brain imaging and the effects of compulsive over-eating on specific regions of the brain.
Experiments that have been performed on both humans and test animals have highlighted that, in some cases, the same parts of the brain that would be triggered by highly addictive substances such as ecstasy or cocaine are also activated by food. In almost all of these cases, the foods that triggered these pleasure centres of the brain were highly palatable food.
Highly Palatable Foods
Highly palatable foods can typically be described as those foods that are enriched with fat, salt or sugar. In the same way that certain drugs can trigger brain chemicals such as dopamine, so to can these foods. Once a person experiences the feelings of intense pleasure that comes with increased dopamine transmissions, he or she starts to feel the compulsion to continue eating.
These signals from the highly palatable foods can override other signals of being full or satisfied, which ultimately results in overeating. Individuals who display common signs of food addiction are at risk of developing a tolerance to food. This means that they can eat larger quantities but feel less satisfied with it.
Limited Food Eventually Leading to Food Addiction
Ricky Gervais has recently come forward to speak about his food addiction, which left him overweight and unhappy. He has said that as a child, his working class parents struggled to make ends meet and were just scraping by, so he was very limited on what food he could actually eat due to this. Once he was able to fend for himself, Gervais found that he had developed a huge appetite, believing it is this that led to his food addiction.
This can often be the case for many children not fortunate enough to have platefuls of food placed in front of them or to otherwise be able to pick and choose what they would like to eat. Many adults who were in such a situation often over compensate as they take advantage of being able to fend for themselves.
Ricky, with the help of his partner, decided that it was time to shed the pounds he had put on so easily over the years. With exercise and healthy eating, he has managed to lose an impressive forty pounds, and he says he has never felt better.
Symptoms of a Food Addiction
As with many other addictions, an individual with a food addiction will display various signs that may indicate he or she is battling an addiction. The following are just some of the symptoms commonly displayed by food addicts:
- Secretly eating
- Continually eating until feeling physically ill
- Spending significant amounts of money on food
- Sleeping disorders such as insomnia
- Headaches and migraines
- Chronic fatigue.
Any of the above symptoms can indicate a food addiction. If you are concerned that you or a loved one may be suffering from food addiction, seek professional medical support. Do not attempt to ignore the problem, as many do, as it will not go away by itself.
Effects of a Food Addiction
The implications of a food addiction in one’s life can be extremely damaging, and sometimes it can get to a stage where it is actually life threatening. Similar to other addiction such as a drug or gambling addiction, if left untreated, a food addiction can wreak havoc and begin to slowly but surely consume the affected person’s life while creating damage that is sometimes untreatable.
A food addiction can result in many unwanted and adverse consequences on the body. The following are some of the physical effects that can be experienced:
- Heart, kidney or liver disease
Many of these effects can be extremely damaging to the health and wellbeing of an individual; some can also rapidly change one’s appearance. This can result in the onset of psychological problems that in and of themselves can also have a detrimental effect on a person’s health.
If there is a lack of support, an individual battling a food addiction can feel extremely low, and there are an array of mental side effects that can sometimes be experienced. This includes:
- suicidal thoughts
- panic attacks
- emotional detachment
- low self-esteem.
If you think that you or a friend/family member are displaying any of these symptoms, it is essential to seek immediate professional help to tackle these issues.
In conclusion, a food addiction is one that can often be underestimated. There is a common misconception that those who are battling a food addiction are just ‘greedy’, which is just not true. A food addiction is an illness, the same way that the flu is, and the individual cannot always control food consumption or the effects that come with this. Nevertheless, with the correct support, treatments are available to overcome a food addiction.
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