Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Food as an addiction

We all would have experienced that warm cosy feel good feeling from eating. Whether it is a piece of chocolate, or a comfort food that mum cooks, or the simple pleasure of a favorite beverage.

Like anything that give pleasure, one can come addicted to it. Commonly accepted ways of dealing with addiction is cold turkey. Come off the stimulus and stay off it.

However how does this work for food? or sex? or exercise? These are all capable of giving an endorphin hit, all capable of giving pleasure. Therefore it is no surprise that they can be addictive. However the standard abstinence don't work, its one thing to give up drinking, another to give up food.

Interestingly enough the latest International Journal of Obesity is completely devoted to the concept of food addiction, publishing papers from their conference. There are many papers which discuss various physiological effects or mechanisms in relation to food as an addiction. I would just like to quote one paper:

"The termination of intermittent access to sweet substances produces symptoms that resemble those observed during opiate withdrawal."

The bottom line is that everyone needs to take responsibility for their own actions and their own addictions. However in my personal experience much freedom is brought to the situation when one realizes that an addiction, is that just and addiction. Instead of seeing your self as a failure because you can't stop doing a behaviour, one can see that you are a wonderful person, who is the clutches on an addiction. Thus you can address the addiction, as that an addiction, not a flaw in your self.

Also those who have battled an addiction know that there is an addiction cycle. And the secret to breaking the addiction is actually addressing the start of the cycle, with self esteem and thought issues, instead of the end of the cycle with the negative behavior. One this is understood then breaking the addiction cycle is much easier, though it is never easy.

thus I would fully support the recognition that food addiction is real and is just as challenging to break as something like alcoholism.

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