Obsession and addiction to food can be similar to addiction to alcohol or drugs. Food addiction is a disease in which the addict craves refined sugar, flour and fats just as a cocaine addict craves cocaine. Food addicts get a feeling of pleasure and comfort from these foods and therefore continue to seek out the pleasure/comfort feelings. They use food to numb feelings of pain, anger, or depression. The food addict is often obsessed, unable to control the behavior even when they know intellectually of the negative health consequences. The physical craving overrides the power to make better eating decisions. There are several types of food addictions:
Binge eating (compulsive overeating). The binge eater compulsively overeats and is unable to control their food intake. They often try to lose weight by dieting, but often gain back the initial weight loss, plus add more pounds. The binge eater eats when not physically hungry, often feels self disgust and guilt, a cycle which can lead to depression and isolation. Their eating and weight gain can interfere with relationships, work, health and self-esteem.
Bulimia Nervosa is a potentially life-threatening disease in which the addict compulsively cycles between binge eating followed by attempts to prevent weight gain through purging behaviors. The Bulimic individual is often obsessed with body shape and weight, becomes withdrawn and secretive, feels guilt about their obsession, and may experience depression, irritability and severe mood swings.
Anorexia Nervosa is a progressive often fatal disease in which the person is obsessed with controlling their food intake to maintain a thin body image. They often have a distorted view of their body image, seeing themselves as fat, even when they may look emaciated to others. A 15% or more below normal body weight is considered anorexic. Persons suffering from Anorexia often have difficulty eating in public, feel disgust towards food, yet play with or exhibit odd rituals around food. They have an intense fear of weight gain, may be obsessed with exercise, lies about food intake and becomes socially withdrawn. Their lack of food intake deprives the body of required nutrients and can lead to severe health problems and death.
Determining if someone is a food addict is not based on their weight, but rather the degree to which the behaviors towards food have caused a deterioration in the quality of life and health. Food addiction can be treated. Diets and starvation are not the answer. Recovery from this devastating disease requires the person to deal with their feelings of anger, fear and depression, the feelings that are being numbed by the food substances.