What, eating food can be addictive? How can this be??!! Eating food is integral to life!
It defies common sense to consider eating as a behavioural addiction or food as a substance addiction for this reason. As well, not all foods trigger a desire to overeat them, nor do
The concept is controversial, as food addiction is not currently recognized as a psychiatric disorder in the DSM-5 or the ICD-10; however, due to the prevalence of clinical evidence and submissions of evidence made by treatment clinicians and researchers to the DSM and ICD Task Forces, the future DSM-6 and ICD-11 may recognize and include them. Clinicians report that eating and food addiction exist just as alcohol, drug, gambling, smoking (to same a few) addictions exist and are prevalent in modern society.
Food addiction can take many forms. It has been named in the DSM-5 as “Binge Eating Disorder” (BED) where a person cannot stop themselves from large amounts of certain foods. Binge-eating episodes are associated with three (or more) of the following symptoms:
- Eating much more quickly than normal
- Eating until uncomfortably full
- Eating large amounts of food even when not physically hungry
- Eating alone because of embarrassment about how much one is eating
- Feeling disgusted with oneself, depressed, or very guilty afterward
Certain foods, particularly highly palatable and processed foods, can be addictive, especially if one feels he/she cannot stop eating them.
Both the eating behaviour and the physical consequences of binge eating can lead to various health issues. Help for food addiction does exist. With proper guidance, one can overcome food addiction and experienced an improved quality of life.
At Jayn’s Addiction, we work with clients to assess for and treat food addiction symptoms. We provide personalized one-to-one assessments using the proprietary SUGAR® instrument which mirrors the DSM-5 and ICD-10 criteria for ‘substance use disorder’ and notes the distinction between ‘harmful use’ and ‘addictive use’. If the client positively assesses for addiction, a holistic and personalized addiction treatment plan is given to the client, including follow up support. As we specialize in addiction assessment treatment, if a client assesses for ‘harmful use’, we make a referral to another qualified professional.
So what are the symptoms of food addiction? Identifying the signs indicate whether there is a problem to be addressed.
Assessment for symptoms of food addiction
S-UNCOPE: Sugar/Flour Assessment **Sugar/Flour – can be any carbohydrate such as pasta, chips, bread, sweets, cookies, soda, ice-cream, pizza, cereal, in combination with fat, salt, etc.
- U = Unplanned Use (Sugar/Flour)
In the past year, have you eaten more sugar/flour than you intended or have you spent more time eating sugar/flour than you intended?
- N = Neglected (Sugar/Flour)
Have you ever neglected any of your usual daily responsibilities due to using sugar/flour?
- C = Cutdown (Sugar/Flour)
In the past year, have you wanted or thought you needed to cut down on eating sugar/flour?
- O = Objected (Sugar/Flour)
Has your family, a friend, a boss or anyone else ever told you they objected to your eating habits?
- P = Preoccupied (Sugar/Flour)
Have you ever found yourself preoccupied with wanting to eat sugar/flour or found yourself thinking a lot about eating sugar/flour?
- E = Emotional discomfort (Sugar/Flour)
Have you ever eaten sugar/flour to relieve emotional discomfort, such as fatigue, irritation, sadness, anger, tiredness or boredom?
If you identify with at least one or more of the symptoms mentioned above, it may be beneficial to consult with a food addiction coach or counselor.
It takes a conscious effort to acknowledge that food addiction is a problem and needs to be addressed. Here are some ways to address symptoms of addiction while getting guidance from a certified and experienced professional.
How to Stop Eating/Food Addiction
Recognize its not “Just a weight issue”
Understand that food addiction is a coping strategy and a deeply entrenched habit that often originated in early childhood. Various biological, behavioural, psychological, and emotional factors contribute to the cause and maintenance of a food addiction. Seeing when and how the addiction started provides a foundation for creating a solution. Our Assessment, SUGAR®, Treatment Plans are designed to provide this foundation.
Know the Triggers
Once you know what triggers food addiction behaviours, you can work to change the behaviours and the thoughts and feelings preceding them. For example, if you reach for a snack each time you feel stress, the stress is the trigger. Since you can’t avoid stress (realistically speaking), you’ll have to find alternate ways to ‘off-gas’ the stress.
Notice your eating behaviours and write them down
Note the food items you automatically reach for. Usually they are processed foods with some combination of sugar/sweeteners, flour, starch/grain, salt, fat, dairy, and/or caffeine.
Also notice when and how you eat – sometimes the eating process addiction is volume related – you could be overconsuming ‘’healthy” foods in large amounts.
Or, it could be a pattern of frequent snacking or ‘grazing’ – this is often referred to as ‘compulsive eating’.
Eliminate addictive foods and eating behaviours
Adopting a consistent and nutritionally dense food plan with succinct meals in measured amounts is a solution to reaching for processed food as a substance and overeating or snacking as a behavioural addiction.
Work with a food addiction professional to develop a food plan that is right for you. Whatever goals you may have (losing/ gaining weight), the primary focus is to arrest the food/eating addiction symptoms. The weight loss/gain will be a secondary ‘side effect’.
Expect withdrawal symptoms
Your body will feel deprived of what it’s been used to for years, and detoxing from processed food, caffeine (and alcohol) can create withdrawal symptoms, including headache, fatigue, cravings, nausea, irritability, sadness, etc. Taking time off work, rest and sleep, plain water, Epsom salt baths, massage, walking outdoors, talking with supportive friends and family, are all critical components of getting through this stage which can last several days.
To Sum Up
Food and eating addiction can be complex and confusing. We understand – we have been there and have lived through it. Every person is unique and has different needs, symptoms and goals.
If you have answered ‘yes’ to at least one of the Assessment questions above, please contact us for a complimentary 30-minute consultation.