A few decades ago, the
very mention of ‘food addiction’ would raise eyebrows and invite the ire of
fitness enthusiasts, comedians, celebrities and most health experts. That isn’t
so any more. Unfortunately, most people are still blissfully ignorant about the
reality of food addiction
and those who do not have an eating problem tend to ridicule the notion of food
addiction because of their ignorance.
Junk food and fast food addiction is a
growing cause for concern and it’s a crisis that cannot be addressed until we
recognize and acknowledge the problem, just as we would in order to overcome
addiction to an illegal drug like heroin or cocaine.
those who have tried desperately to cut back on their junk food intake, making
resolutions to resist the temptation only to succumb a few hours later, this may
offer some explanation. That this behavior closely resembles the behavior of
smokers who wish to quit should tell you something. As with cigarettes, alcohol
and many other substances, not all people are affected in the same manner, which
is why there are many who are fortunate enough to not develop an addiction.
Nevertheless, in many cases of obesity and food addiction, it would be wrong to
accuse the person of having a lack of willpower, as the situation can be a lot
Studies clearly reveal that processed
foods and junk foods trigger certain neural responses just as addictive drugs do
and the patterns of behavior in persons addicted to junk food clearly resembles
behavioral patterns in cocaine addicts. Additives and other ingredients in
processed foods and junk food, including sugar trigger neural responses that
result in the release of dopamine. This increase in dopamine levels is tied to
almost all types of drug
While this in no way means that
you shouldn’t try to resist that urge to grab a burger or taco, it means that
you shouldn’t berate yourself for your failure; simply dust the crumbs off each
time you succumb, strengthen your resolve and try
Food Addiction among
Food addiction in youth is a major cause for concern because
it’s a problem that is contributing to the growing obesity epidemic and it
greatly increases the risk of lifestyle
in young adults and the workforce of tomorrow.
Teenagers are a lot more prone to risk taking behavior and addiction, which is
why so many teenagers succumb to drug addiction and also find it a lot harder to
break out of.
Like cocaine, certain foods trigger a reward
system and the connection between habit formation and rewards is much greater in
adolescents. In other words, teenagers are a lot more likely to get hooked onto
not just drugs, but junk food and processed foods because of its effect on
reward centers in the brain.
What Kind of Food are the
Youth Addicted to?
Almost all processed foods, including junk foods
and fast foods, contain chemicals and additives that make them addictive. The
human body is not adapted to the consumption of
sugar rich, salty and high fat foods
, and these are actually
the main features of modern mass produced food. While such addictive foods could
include almost every product marketed at your neighborhood retail store from
white bread to those seemingly harmless biscuits, most youngsters are drawn
towards fast foods that give out the appearance of being trendy and modern. As a
result the most common foods that youth tend to be addicted to include donuts,
pastries, ice creams, chocolates, pizzas, burgers and fries. This is of course
in addition to the potato chips, cookies and other savory snacks that teenagers
and adults alike are addicted to.
How to Overcome Food
As is the case with drug addiction, food addiction is hard
to overcome and many struggle to cope. Very few manage to overcome the addiction
and in these cases it’s often more than sheer will power that helps. The support
of friends and family is crucial and having the right frame of mind.
Overcoming a food addiction can be a lot tougher than
quitting smoking or giving up on alcohol and this is also because of social
ridicule and the lack of support. Food addiction isn’t treated as a serious
health hazard and its victims are for the most part accused of being
irresponsible, greedy and indisciplined. In other words, most food addicts find
themselves being mocked and judged.
The truth is there is no
easy way to get over a food addiction. In some parts of the world, especially in
developed countries, people who wish to overcome their addiction and have the
money to shell out, can enroll in rehab centers or camps, where fitness
instructors, counselors and nutritionists help them cope with the problems of
addiction and also help them to overcome the addiction in an environment that is
more conducive to abstaining from junk food as there is not temptation present.
For most people, however, such rehab programs are too
expensive and they need to depend on a combination of methods. Support and
encouragement from those you live with, whether family or friends, is absolutely
essential, but the first step is to acknowledge that you have an unhealthy
relationship with food and need to end your love affair immediately.