Addiction is a controversial topic in nutrition science at the moment. Some researchers say food can’t possibly affect the brain in the same way as truly addictive substances like drugs and alcohol, while others make good cases for the opposite.
In fact, a very recent study published in the Archive of General Psychiatry found that chocolate milkshake can have similar effects on the brain as cocaine. It’s thought that substances containing high amounts of fat and sugar might ‘hijack’ some of the pleasure pathways in the brain, prompting a craving for a repeat of that enjoyable response.
Unfortunately, cravings for high-fat, high-sugar foods inevitably lead to weight gains and increase the risk of heart disease, high blood-pressure and diabetes – problems most of us would rather avoid.
So how do you know if your love for junk food is more than just a ‘sweet-tooth’? Check out the following five signs of food addiction…
1. You think about food all the time
If you spend your morning at work fantasising about lunch, then spend the afternoon feeling guilty for eating too much, then you may have a problem. Perpetually thinking about your next meal, obsessing over calories or feeling guilty for over-eating is worryingly close to how an addict might feel about drugs.
2. You want to stop but can’t
You probably know that eating large amounts of junk food will make you fat and ill eventually. Often, education is not the problem. We all know what’s good and what’s bad for us. The problem is, many of us simply can’t help ourselves. If you wish you had the control to stop eating the foods you love – perhaps to have a bikini figure, or perhaps to reduce your risk of illness – but you can’t do it, then you might be dealing with more than greed; you may be addicted to food.
3. You eat in secret and lie about what you eat
Eating in secret and lying suggests you’re ashamed of your eating habits. Keeping your eating to yourself is indicative of deeper emotional problems related to food and could be a sign of a food addiction.
4. You keep eating even when you’re full
If you regularly eat so much that you feel sick, and even then keep eating, then chances are you are eating for different, more complicated reasons. Perhaps you do it for comfort, perhaps you simply can’t get enough of the taste. Again, this points to a food addiction. However, if you purge after binging then you are advised to tell your GP.
5. You eat for emotional reasons
Do you feel inclined to tuck into a pile of biscuits after a stressful day at work? Do you rely on tubs of ice cream to get you through sad break-ups? If so, you might be eating for emotional reasons. Chemicals in high fat and sugar foods often trigger a surge of the feel-good hormone serotonin, making us feel temporarily relaxed and happy – offering a momentary escape from life’s problems.
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