Eating disorders or more commonly known as food addiction or binge eating happen when a person engages in frequent episodes of overeating.
Food addiction happens over a period when the person derives pleasure from eating unhealthy amounts of food – mostly junk food like processed food which is high in sugar, salt, and fat which often triggers the part of the brain that releases hormones like dopamine, momentarily which makes them feel good.
This often leads to eating beyond feeling full and overrides into a state of “wanting to feel good”
Although we understand that pleasure is derived from food, when a person is addicted to food, they eventually start feeling guilty about overeating which might worsen their mental health.
Food addiction is not only detrimental to one’s mental health, wherein the person might constantly feel anxious, and bouts of sadness and guilt, but it also affects physical health, leading to malnutrition, heart problems, and obesity.
What causes food addiction? Simply put – multiple factors.
Often food addiction is developed as a coping mechanism to deal with various life stressors, but they can also be caused due to biological or social reasons too.
Food addiction can be triggered due to any factor; however, understanding and awareness of the various signs of food addiction can help curb this disorder and stop yourself or your loved ones from any potential harm.
How can you identify if you are a food addict?
- One needs food to have energy and nutrition to stay healthy and live a long life. However, if you gorge on one or more than one food, which is also high in fats, sugar, or salt and eats beyond one’s needs or even if you are not hungry, is a sign of food addiction.
- As mentioned early, gorging on unhealthy food, although comes with momentary pleasure, eventually leads to feeling guilty. This guilt often comes from eating in public places and social settings, where they fear being judged. Therefore, they overeat in isolation to avoid feeling in the public eye.
- People with food addiction often overspend by buying unhealthy food to cope with their emotions.
- Processed food and sweets trigger dopamine which makes us feel good about the experience. However, it has little to no nutrition in them to provide any kind of energy. Due to overconsumption of unhealthy food, you might chronically feel fatigued and lethargic.
- Food addiction can also lead to various mood disruptions like irritability, restlessness, agitation, and difficulty in concentrating. The gut and brain are interconnected to each other. Therefore, what affects the gut will directly affect the brain. Scientifically, this is called the gut-brain axis. The gut produces 90% of “feel good” hormones in your brain. If your gut is not able to absorb healthy nutrients, your brain will feel disoriented.
- Due to losing control over the amount of food consumed people with food addiction end up falling sick as they develop digestive issues. Symptoms like nausea, constipation, abdominal pain, bloating, muscle weakness in the esophagus, and bowel shutdown are very common.
- Food addiction can cause a lot of physical and mental turmoil in life. People who suffer from food addiction often feel ashamed of their relationship with food and tend to isolate themselves from people. Feelings of guilt, and shame lead to feeling anxious and depressed, and they are more prone to suicidal ideations and engage in dangerous activities where they inflict pain on themselves.
If you are battling food addiction, it is understandable that this vicious cycle can cause a roller coaster of feeling highs and lows.
This feeling can make you feel frustrated and hopeless and make you wonder if you could ever have a healthy relationship with food again.
It is important to understand that, if you can recognize the symptoms in you or your loved ones, there is always hope for recovery and healing.
Finding appropriate resources like a good therapist, food addiction centers, and support from people who care for you, can encourage you to heal healthily.
Seeking help can feel difficult and often impossible but the road to recovery and healthy life is incomplete without the right resources.
Sandra is a health blogger based in San Diego, California. She is passionate about living a healthy lifestyle. She loves being outdoors and exploring new places with her husband. She is a mom of two awesome kids and a dog named Luna!