A basic necessity of life, food is any nutritious substance that humans or animals consume to gain energy and promote life growth. Humans use food beyond its nutritional value as a means of social engagement and a source of pleasure. Food is the foremost choice for every occasion, such as a special event, birthday celebration, promotion party, or if it’s only a craving. While nutritious food has infinite benefits, people crave junk and processed foods, which soon turns into food addiction.
When this unhealthy habit or uncontrollable urge to consume junk food increases, it is also called compulsive eating. According to the National Centre for Eating Disorders, one in two people seeking weight loss has a compulsive eating disorder, which accounts for about 12 million people in the UK. Severe food addiction can cause negative behaviors, such as anger, sadness, and stress, for which the treatment options like addiction therapy can help. In addition, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – 5th Edition (DSM-5) doesn’t include food addiction as a disorder, but it is similar to substance abuse and has gained legitimacy in several studies. In this article, we will discuss its signs and treatment at food addiction rehab.
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Signs of Food Addiction
While food addiction disorder doesn’t qualify for a person who eats occasionally or gets a craving once in a while, there are at least five symptoms you cannot ignore. These symptoms ensure that you will know when to look for help with food addiction. They are:
Craves for Food Despite Being Full
Craving is an urge to eat something even after having a fulfilling meal. According to studies, 90% of people get cravings, but it doesn’t mean they have a food addiction. For example, despite having a chicken, steak, or veggie platter for dinner, people may crave dessert. It is pretty common but if it happens often and satisfying the craving or ignoring them becomes hard, it may be an indication of something else.
In the UK, Chocolate is the most often craved food.
Eating Much More Than Usual
People with food addiction or developing an addiction may crave or eat much more than intended. For example, they cannot stop at one bite of chocolate or one slice of cake. One bite turns into 20 and one piece turns into half the cake. People with food addiction don’t know moderation. It is next to impossible.
Feeling of Guilt
Despite trying to control the consumption of unhealthy foods, when a person finally gives in to the craving, they may experience a feeling of guilt. Some people feel like they are cheating or doing something wrong. However, these unpleasant feelings fail to stop them, and they repeat the same pattern.
Every addiction disrupts the normal functioning of the brain. Hence, people try to avoid their substance of choice, make rules to stop themselves, and fail to follow the rules repeatedly. When a person with food addiction is faced with a craving, they find new ways around the rules to satiate the cravings. It may be similar to someone with substance abuse disorder. For example, a person may think that if they don’t buy a cigarette, they won’t smoke. Nonetheless, they end up smoking from a friend’s pack.
Hiding Eating Patterns
Hiding food intake is another common symptom of people with food addiction. They may prefer to eat alone when no one else is watching, in the car, or alone at night when everyone is asleep.
Treatment for Food Addiction
Unlike alcohol and drug addiction, food addiction recovery is different in one simple way. How? In drug and alcohol addiction, you are asked to stop the use of them completely, while in food addiction therapy, you have to develop a restraint. To help your body to function, you need to eat, hence there has to be a behavioral change. Also, concerning the signs, symptoms, and causes of food addiction, it is a problem that is unlikely to solve without help.
Several options work when it comes to getting food addiction help. Treatments that may be effective include:
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) – CBT is a branch of psychotherapy where patients learn to develop positive thoughts and eliminate negative ones. They are also taught about identifying food triggers and applying learned coping mechanisms. CBT is available in both individual and group sessions.
Nutritional Counselling – Consulting a dietician or food nutrition specialist can help people develop a healthy approach to food choices and meal plans.
Medications – Compulsive eating or food addiction may cause depression or anxiety throughout the recovery process. Medications help relieve these symptoms.
Lifestyle Tips to Overcome Food Addiction
To manage the uncontrollable urges toward certain foods, you may apply certain lifestyle changes, including:
- Drinking plenty of water
- Eat only three meals a day
- Avoid caffeine
- Replace processed foods with fewer caloric alternatives
- Cook meals at home
- Get enough sleep
- Take less stress
- Mindful eating, which includes slow chewing
- Allow a food craving to subside
- Exercise regularly
When to See a Doctor
Anyone who feels that their eating habits are going worse and want help, must talk to their doctor or contact a food addiction rehab. The doctors and therapists help suggest treatment methods and develop new coping skills to build a more positive relationship with food. The right treatment strategies ensure that people with food addiction establish a healthy eating routine through regular exercise and weight loss. While the DSM-5 has not established food addiction as a disorder, the symptoms indicate it. Hence, if you are constantly trying to quit your addictive habits, it is time to find food addiction help.