In the world we live in today, food addictions are increasingly becoming a common problem. It is no surprise or secret why this is happening – we are increasingly consuming unhealthy diets, which in turn is increasing our vulnerability to various diseases sat younger ages compared to before. Healthy food does not seem to lead to the same problem, so combining unhealthy diets with sedentary lifestyles, it has led to the increase in 'lifestyle diseases' at increasingly younger ages.
Even though addiction is commonly associated with drugs, it is also important to remember that junk food can be included on the list. We are increasingly having cases of people binge-eating food, as well as having cravings and lack of control – all similar to drug and substance addictions. In light of this, it is important to know the signs of food addiction, and there are some common signs that occur.
You are getting cravings even though you are satisfied
The most important thing you should remember is that cravings and hunger are not the same things. It is very easy to get cravings for unhealthy treats, even after you have eaten a full meal and are satisfied. For instance, you have just finished a whole meal with vegetables, rice and steak, and then immediately or a few minutes afterward, you crave for some soda or ice cream as a dessert.
The thing is, you do not start to sense hunger after finishing a meal because cravings are simply that – urges to eat something else that you do not need. Getting them once in a while is not bad, but if this is something that happens often, then it shows there could be a problem. Cravings are meant to release dopamine in your brain, which is a major part of the reward system that makes you feel good.
You eat much more than you need
You have heard it before – moderation is key, even for the good things in life. However, this statement does not apply to some people – they want as much as possible even in unhealthy amounts. For instance, one bite of cake turns into eating a very big chunk of the cake, or one small bowl of ice cream turns into several servings of ice cream.
All addicts experience this problem. The truth is it is not different from a drug addict who experiments with one glass of alcohol for instance, and it soon turns into drinking a whole bottle. For food addictions, moderation does not make sense, and it never works.
Eating until you feel 'stuffed'
When you have decided to satisfy your craving, you may want to eat until you feel full, especially if you were not full before you started eating.
However, most of the time, it does not stop there, sadly. You want to keep on eating, and you cannot seem to control your urge. When you are finally able to stop, the craving is satisfied, but you recognize that you have eaten too much that you may feel sick afterward, or you feel completely stuffed. This is a form of binge eating, and it is a very common problem, affecting about 36 percent of people with food addictions.
A feeling of guilt after eating, even though you still do it again
As long as the activity you are doing is not correct, you will feel guilty and bad about it because it does not match your principles, previous choices or values. It is a very common feeling in addicts, no matter what the substance or behavior is.
The good thing about having a guilty conscience is that it proves you do care about your wellbeing. However, it is still bad because you feel very upset, and it is very uncomfortable – you feel like you have failed yourself by failing to control your urge. This actually ignores what addiction is – it is not a matter of ‘willpower’, it is a disease.
If you have attempted to use your ‘willpower’ to overcome food addiction, it is not going to succeed, because the problem is deeper than that. You have higher chances of giving in to cravings and have a guilty conscience. That leads to you repeating that behavior over and over again, and being caught in a vicious cycle of blaming yourself – which makes the problem worse.
Making excuses in your mind
A common hallmark of food addictions, in general, is the attempt to justify the behavior by telling yourself statements like ‘everyone else is doing it’, or convincing yourself you are strong enough to overcome the addiction without extra help.
When you are attempting to stop eating junk food and you get an intense craving, it is like two forces fighting in your mind to see who wins. That leads to choices such as ‘cheat days’, or convincing yourself that you will give in ‘just once’ and then you will not have that substance or food again.
During times like these, it is important to know if you will or will not indulge in your craving. You start to come up with excuses for why it is good to give in for that moment, only to find yourself binge eating afterward.
You cannot set solid, long-lasting rules for yourself
When you have an addiction, you will have issues with trying to bring it under control, such as setting definite rules for yourself. It is similar to the problem of following through with New Year’s resolutions – the reason why many people fail at setting rules, so they give up.
Cheat days also fall under this problem – and unless you have someone who can hold you accountable, you will not make much progress with overcoming the food addictions, leading to even more problems. For instance, you decide to have one cheat meal a week, but the progress you have made the rest of the week becomes eroded when you eat too much healthy food on your cheat day.
Overcoming food addiction is just as difficult as a drug like Vicodin abuse detox because it involves re-wiring of your brain and teaching it to wean itself off these foods. You will need help to overcome the problem, but it first involves recognizing you have a problem and then doing something about it.