5 Steps to Take Control of Food Addiction

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5 Steps to Take Control of Food Addiction

Addiction does not always have to involve an addictive substance or drug. It can involve excessive behavior such as compulsive eating too. While scientific studies in the area of food addiction is still in the beginning stages, many experts believe that addiction to food really isn’t about the food.

To elaborate further, foods do not have addictive properties that make someone depend on them, unlike chemical substances. Food addiction has more to do with how a person behaves around food, what they think about food, and the way habits are formed with food. The habits are the real source of the addiction.

EATING OUR EMOTIONS

Food can become a way to cope with emotional matters, and the repetition of this coping mechanism can breed an addiction. By using food as a means to deal with anxiety, stress, grief, and the like, the body becomes conditioned to crave that process to feel relief.

People often associate pleasure with foods that contain fat, sugar and salt. As innocent as it may seem, this starts at a young age when candy and soda are given as a “treat” or “reward” for good behavior, good grades or birthday. Research studies have shown the reward centers of the brain to light up and release dopamine when pleasurable foods are consumed. Could this be that we’ve conditioned our bodies to react this way?


READ MORE > 6 SCIENCE-BACKED REASONS WHY WE EAT OUR CRAVINGS


THE SLIPPERY SLOPE OF FOOD ADDICTION

Someone doesn’t just decide that she wants to feel out of control with food. Instead, it’s often a slippery slope that leads a person into an addiction with a particular food. Below are some of the warning signs and common traits among people suffering from a food addiction:

  • Changes in mood
  • Labeling food as “good” and “bad”
  • Restrictive dieting
  • Eating in secret or sneaking food
  • Feeling out of control with food
  • Rewarding/treating yourself with food
  • Thinking about food all the time
  • Feeling unsatisfied even after meal times
  • Weight fluctuations and/or difficulty managing weight
  • Body dissatisfaction
  • Feeling disgusted, guilty or upset after eating
  • Feeling stressed or tension that is only relieved by eating

HOW TO OVERCOME FOOD ADDICTION

Recovering from food addiction is a process, and one that’s worth taking to find freedom from food. Taking the power back from food often requires a team approach in order to make a full recovery. Here are a few steps to take to help someone recovering from food addiction:

1. DEVELOP A HEALTHY RELATIONSHIP WITH FOOD

In traditional 12-step addiction-based recovery models, addicts are challenged to remain abstinent for healing. However, with food addiction, one can’t simply abstain by not eating, as food is essential to life. Thus someone suffering with food addiction must learn how to eat properly again by establishing a healthy relationship with food.

2. SET BOUNDARIES WITH UNSAFE FOODS

Typically, trigger or “unsafe” foods are removed from the diet and boundaries are set so that managing these foods in a healthier way can be relearned. If someone binges on ice cream when he or she is stressed, it’s best not to keep it in the house. Eliminating the temptation until he or she can eat ice cream again in a balanced way is a safe option.

3. FOLLOW A STRUCTURED MEAL PLAN

A person suffering from an unhealthy relationship with food can get on the right track to recovery by following a meal plan and normal eating pattern. This helps the person set safe boundaries with food, and feel satisfied so that there is not a physiological need to eat. It’s more tempting to be out of control with food when there is physical deprivation.

4. LEARN HEALTHY COPING STRATEGIES

Address reasons for turning to food to cope. Identify healthier coping mechanisms and strategies so that one can begin learning healthier means of dealing with emotions.

5. SEEK PROFESSIONAL ADVICE

Beating a food addiction is a process that doesn’t happen overnight; it often needs to involve a registered dietitian and licensed therapist that specialize in the area of disordered eating. These professionals will help a person suffering from food addiction implement appropriate strategies, and provide accountability and sound advice.

Recovery from a food addiction is achievable. If you or someone you care about is suffering, share this article, provide reassurance, and encourage him or her to find professional support.

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  • diamond778

    For me a lot of these things i learnt by trial and error and sometimes instinct but it is great to see someone list it comprehensively here. I would add if you feel a craving eat a little bit and eat very slowly and savour the taste. Great article overall.

  • skigirl82

    The structured eating plan helps me a lot. I also log everything to My Fitness Pal. I have to basically have no food outside my diet at my house otherwise I’ll eat it. Just lean meats, vegetables, fruits, and protein powder…and I have to go to the gym daily. I went to visit my parents for a week and I literally ate everything. Back home now and getting back on track. Lack of structure completely destroys it for me.

    • Doug Bennett

      I have the same problem. Just this past weekend my daughter and her boyfriend were here and I had lots of food for them. I ended up eating most of the ice cream and the second helpings they never got to. Felt so good to get back on my plan and get to the gym today. I need the structure for success.

  • nope.

    I’m sorry but nothing beats therapy. There is nothing that you can do to beat any addiction if you don’t find out why you are turning to food, drugs, etc. You should have listed therapy as number one and it seems that you shouldn’t even have even made this list since it is blatantly obvious you don’t know how it feels to be under the clutches of addiction, if you did, you would have known the brain needs to be fixed first and most importantly.

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    • Techno Spice

      I turn to food because food is delicious.

    • My post didn’t even get on the site because I pointed out the major research relating to addictive properties of most “edible food-like substances” that make up the major offerings of grocery stores.

      • Rod Beasley

        I read all the posts oooh! some are pretty hostile..I have cut out all sugar (some criticise sugar substitutes so I mix them up) I am still losing weight down 50 pounds and not going back up for a year. Have added walking a mile+ a day to try and help the weight loss….&
        keep my blood sugar down. Even type 2 Diabetes is an insidious disease ….if I lose 50 more pounds I dont even have to take metformin or blood pressure meds as my body normalizes. Good luck
        everyone ….do what you love in life more than food.

  • dcgingerpeach

    Sugar is highly addictive.

    • frgough

      No, it isn’t. But you are hardwired with a craving for it since it is required to live.

  • Bill

    What is cleansing when you decide to start a healthy diet routine?

    • Liz

      Cleansing is very important. And has helped me and countless others tremendously with cravings, energy, mood, sleep & fat loss. It’d be my pleasure to share more on this topic with you. Feel free to email me – LizVilla111@gmail.com 🙂

  • Serena

    You mention that food does not have addictive properties. That is completely wrong. There is plenty of research showing sugar, fat and salt all have addictive properties and good companies have scientist that make food as addictive as possible.

    • Bella

      You are so right. I read an article about a new study on rats that found that Oreos were more addicting, and created a stronger chemical dependence than cocaine.

      • jenn

        Maybe that’s what it showed but I never heard of anyone robbing their own mother to get ores or getting shot over oreos. Cociane is a completely different thing. Eat a bag of oreos and then do a gram of Cociane and tell me which one you want more of. Lol

        • Love

          You are right they are two different things. People eat junk everyday and it isn’t illegal. I wonder which one is more deadly… Hmm.

        • spikedirt

          I’m not a drug addict so I can’t relate exactly. I used to smoke though when I was young (and often broke) and have skipped meals to buy cigarettes. Eventually you want food, even if it’s oreos, more. That’s the thing about food that the article correctly pointed out. I could cold turkey the smokes. Not so much with the food. Final thought: Sugar is evil.

      • Exadyne

        Similar studies have been done on rats and rice cakes showing rats get “addicted” to rice cakes. You aren’t a rat.

    • frgough

      Sugar, fat, and salt are vital nutrients for life. If you eliminate them from your diet, you die.

      • jesse ficarra

        That’s not the point Serena is making, the point is they are addictive. Not that you should remove them from your diet.

      • Amy

        Sugar is not essential. Eventially your body turns everything to glucose and stores it for energy so you don’t have to eat sugar to live.

        • Pam

          Don’t forget about the millions that big food spends on taste fillers that create cravings so you will eat more. Then top it off with a bunch of high fructose corn syrup and your off to the races! In my opinion there is a link between HFCS, GMO’s, and all of the other crap = obesity! Don’t get me started on Round Up, that is sprayed everywhere and in our water.

    • Exadyne

      Sugar, fat, and salt can all be used to make foods hyper-palatable. That isn’t the same as addictive. It doesn’t generate a physical dependence, other than the general concept of you need to food to stay alive. You won’t suffer physical withdrawal from hyper-palatable foods. That would be like an alcoholic saying they’re addicted to beer but not wine coolers.

  • Mindy Goldberg

    I haven’t gotten past the second paragraph of this article as it is incorrect. Numerous studies have shown that the effect sugar has in the brain of a food addict solicits the same neuro-response as drugs do for a cocaine addict! While yes, food is usually the “symptom” and not the “cause” behind a food behavior/pattern, it most certainly is a legitimate addiction/disease of BOTH the body AND mind!

    • frgough

      Sugar is an essential nutrient for life. If you eliminate it, you die. One of the main tasks your body does during digestion is to extract / manufacture sugar from your food. Mother’s milk is loaded with sugar. And fat.

      • Lauren

        Don’t be ridiculous. You can’t compare mothers milk to refined sugar. Mjgfsu is saying we take on sugar in excess. People on average eat double the amount of sugar we did last century and it is leading to so many diseases! It has been proven to cause addiction similar to what cocain users experience. Nobody said you can live without sugar, but get your sugar from fruit, or breast milk if your into that sort of thing… Your statement is (seemingly) belligerent propaganda.

        • Exadyne

          Who eats double? Which people? Average American probably still eats less sugar than say the longer lived Okinawan, particularly as a percentage of diet.
          Refined sugar is still the same sugar molecule, it can’t activate different parts of the brain (and no it doesn’t work the same as cocaine, that’s a gross misrepresentation) than natural sugar can, that’s not how molecules work!

      • jesse ficarra

        It’s still addicting though…

      • Leslie Hawes

        Different types of sugar act differently; body responds differently.

        • Dorothy

          It’s unfortunate but the only way I seem to lose weight is reward and punishment. This involves someone else weighing me at a class every week and me sticking to approx. 1300/1400 calories a day with as much walking as I can do each week. Nothing else really works for me.

        • Exadyne

          Depends. Fructose, lactose, sucrose, galactose, and glucose are all different sugar molecules with slighlty different reactions in the body. Fructose in fruit undergoes the same chemistry in the body as fructose in a soft drink made with high fructose corn syrup.

      • Leon Shelhamer

        Concentrated sugar is the issue. Not sugar in general. The body is meant to break foods down into simple sugar (glucose). Giving the body already broken down sugar causes all sorts of health problems. The body can make glucose out of far, protein, complex carbohydrates. We do not need and should not eat concentrated sugars.

      • Lynne S

        Sugar is not essential to our diets it’s a poison and should be avoided

        • puppy

          What do you think fruit is? Fruit is sugar and fiber. The fiber balances the insulin. When you eat an apple the sugar is slow released Ito your body thanks to the fiber. Do you even science?

      • laughingwater

        Carbohydrates (sugars and starches) are not essential in the human diet. The human body can produce sugar through a process called gluconeogenesis when it needs to. The human body can not produce fats and proteins, however. Hence, fats and proteins are essential micronutrients. Carbohydrates (sugar and starches) are not.

        • iz

          Carbohydrates can be divided into simple and complex. It’s the simple, refined carbs that need to be avoided. Don’t forget that veggies and fruits belong in the carbs category. We need them for energy and fuel. It’s the rate at which our bodies convert the carbs into fuel that matters. That’s why complex carbs are important.

          • laughingwater

            So we were taught, and so I believed for many years.
            But the truth is, in the end, the body converts carbs, even complex carbs, into sugar. For years, I avoided simple carbs like the plague. But still, in time I started getting symptoms of hypoglycemia. And I was hungry all the time. A high-carb diet (even with complex carbs) seems to
            put more oxidative stress on the body. Hence, there is a greater need for more antioxidants. There seems to be less oxidative stress on a low-carb, high-fat diet. An example illustrating this, was a 1928 experiment, in which arctic explorer Vilhjalmur Stefansson ate only meat, animal fat, and other animal byproducts for a year. Surprisingly, he was in good condition at the
            end of the experiment.

            I am not a meat eater, but I’ve learned through personal
            experience that grains and most fruits don’t work for me anymore. I love veggies and eat them every day, but not
            the starchy ones. For fruits, I have lemons, avocados, and olives. Thankfully, I can tolerate dairy, nuts, and seeds. I do indulge in an occasional light beer or glass of wine, but I factor their carb content into my daily allowance.

          • Exadyne

            Using energy generates oxidative stress, it is the nature of living. There’s nothing magical about fats that avoids it, the chemistry, when getting down to pure reactions with oxygen and fat or carbohydrate on one side, carbon dioxide and water on the other, is pretty similar.

            Frankly, the longest lived people in the blue zones all eat a fair amount of veggies, fruits (the Okinawans potentially dozens of varieties), and little animal fat.

        • Exadyne

          The human body can produce fats. It cannot produce all forms of fats or fats at the levels to keep up with demand without dieting, but it can indeed make fatty acids.
          Protein contains the element nitrogen. Unless we start affixing it from the air, the only way to get nitrogen for protein is from protein.

          • laughingwater

            Yes, of course you’re right. Excess carbohydrates are converted into body fat. My bad. Converting fat, including body fat, into ketones to burn as energy is not easily done for a glucose-adapted body (which most of us have). Drastically reducing carbs and upping the fats eventually makes that possible. Evidence-based medical research indicates the human body needs dietary fats and sufficient protein, but dietary carbs are not necessary. Look at the Masai in Africa, who consume only meat, blood, and milk. They have perfect teeth and no chronic ailments. They are taller and in better health than their grain-eating neighbors.

      • Maximus

        Of course you need some sugar. The problem is that the typical American diet consumes 100x the sugar someone would need in a day. That overloads the system and turns the sugar into fat.

      • puppy

        Right, we need natural sugars and not processed ones.

        • Exadyne

          Same molecules.

    • Dawn Marie Mac

      Research on rats has shown that sugar is more addictive than cocaine. An important distinction that is lost here is that one doesn’t get addicted to food, but to specific types of food – combinations of sugar, fat, and carbs. The food industry knows this and designs their products to be addictive. Someone who this author might label as a “food addict” does not go for any food (“please, keep that broccoli away from me”) but for specific types of foods – addictive foods.

      • justsayin

        My thoughts exactly!

      • Tara Hope

        Yes, that’s it exactly Dawn Marie Mac. And thank you for pointing to the research.

      • Exadyne

        Good thing we’re not rats. They also show similar responses to rice cakes, but no one rights articles about how addictve rice cakes are, funny, huh?
        Cocaine chemically actually forces dopamine release along with several other neurotransmitters.
        In comparison, dopmaine is released in anticipation of rewards, it isn’t even activated by food or anything desired, but rather that expectation that food or another pleasure will happen.

        • Loobi

          I’m actually quite addicted to rice cakes (not joking!), they are my way of not eating something sugary…

        • puppy

          Sugar activates the same receptors in your brain as cocain, look it up. That is why it is JUST AS ADDICTIVE as cocain. The neurology is the same.

          • Exadyne

            I have looked it up, and quite a bit about it. By your logic and understanding of how neurology works, cheating on your wife is the same thing as having high blood pressure because low vasopressin. Or exercise is just as addictive as heroin or at least morphine because endorphins (endogenous morphine is the actual origin of the name), which is why everyone is out there running off that sugar anyway (oh wait, they’re not).
            To add to it, even on the purely chemical side, you’re actually wrong. While all food (not just sugar, ALL FOOD) activates anticipation and contentment in the dopamine and serotonin pathways, it has, to my knowledge, no effect on norepinephrine, while cocaine is a norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor. So no, the neurology is not the exact same.

          • Lindsay Zeni

            For the author to make the blank statement “food doesn’t

            have the same addictive properties… chemical substances”, was wrong. Studies have proven that people can have the same exact reaction to food as drug addicts or alcoholics do.

          • Exadyne

            No, studies haven’t shown that. I’ve read the actual studies and not the silly headlines or poor journalist pretending to understand science summaries in popular news articles.
            1. The most popular studies spouted here are done on rats. You aren’t a rat, I presume. I know I’m not a rat. A lot of research looks interesting in rats and turns to utter garbage on humans. If it wasn’t the case, I’d be enjoying building muscle with no effort taking conjugated linoleic acid, but I’m not so I don’t.
            2. Various addictive substances have different chemical effects. Heroin and morphine act as endorphins. Cocaine acts as a dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor. Alcohol is alcohol.
            3. Food is not a reuptake inhibitor, but all food involves dopamine and serotonin (but not, not reuptake inhibition and not norepinephrine like cocaine despite the comparison) – all reward pathways involve dopamine in the anticipatory phase, perhaps all learning. Do you call all learning an addiction? Good, continue to take a hit here.
            4. Exercise involves endorphins – endorphins actually comes from endogenous morphine because morphine and the receptors it binds to were known before we knew the actual substance in animals. Do you say that exercise is addictive like heroin and morphine? Shouldn’t that be countering the sugar addiction everyone purports to have.
            5. Vasopressin is a neurotransmitter that lowers male infidelity, and also lower blood pressure. Do you call cheating on a spouse the same thing as hypertension?
            6. Chemically, your body reduces sugar in “addictive” foods to the same sugars it reduces the carbohydrates in vegetables to. Yet we don’t see people claiming they’ll eat broccoli in a pinch for their sugar addiction, while actual alcoholics will drink hand sanitizer when put in rehab. This shows it isn’t based on the sugar molecule, nor a chemical thing, but a learned behavior. Review #3 for a word on learned things.

            It is flat out not the “same exact reaction”. Even from a purely reductionist perspective of neurotransmitters, there are different neurotransmitters involved in all those things.

  • Merrilyn Tattersall

    It’s all about the taste! If Greek Yoghurt didn’t taste so damn good I would not need to eat 2kg bucket of it each week…help!

  • Abby

    You put labeling foods as “good” and “bad” as a sign of food addiction, then in the tips talk about “trigger” foods and not allowing yourself to eat them. Likewise, that would be a restrictive diet, which you also put into the sign of addiction. Your article doesn’t provide any real help and makes little sense. “Develop a healthy relationship with food” doesn’t offer any real help.

    • foursixtwo

      Thank you for this comment. The kind of contradictory advice presented in this post is so not helpful. Calling ice cream a “trigger food” instead of a “bad food” isn’t fooling anyone.

      In addition, a meal plan – ANY meal plan – is a restrictive diet to someone who can’t stop overeating. It’s necessary if you’re obese, but it is a restriction. And again, calling it something else is not fooling anybody.

      • jennifer

        Totally agree!!!

        • Leon Shelhamer

          I believe the author simply meant that restrictive dieting could be a sign.

          I will agree to article is a bit incomplete. However I’d edifying the concept of food addiction is rather progressive and very helpful.

      • Taryn

        I would like to share something here not as someone disagreeing but just shedding some light on this opinion. There really can be a difference in labels such as “good and bad” or “trigger”. Knowing that there are no “”good” or “bad” foods is important. Broccoli can’t make your dreams come true and ice cream isn’t going to call you names and hurt your feelings. It’s about control and knowing how much of each food is a healthy amount and learning to read your body and your appetite. “Trigger” foods are not bad foods and differ per person. My trigger food may be baked goods like cake/muffins while someone else’s may be cheeseburgers or potato chips; once you let yourself have them you may begin having thoughts about your next one or begin struggling to monitor your consumption etc. No foods are good/bad but some may be a trigger to make you fall off track and begin binging or feeling out of control.

        • Rolly

          I wonder if you think being ‘triggered’ to eat more and gain weight is a good thing or a bad thing?

          To me it implies its a “bad food”. It never implied it was going to embezzle funds from my bank account or cheat on me. It meant as far as food goes – this food is not a good way to fuel my body.

          But your post really does hit home to the idea, that different people see the world differently, so almost no advice is going to help everyone. I think the author probably had words that are useful to some, while not useful to others.

      • Tess

        As someone who has struggled with an eating disorder (binge eating and overexercising) for over 30 years, and who has had really good professional help, I dont’ have a problem with the phrase “trigger food.” Just as an alcoholic wouldn’t want a fully stocked bar in their home, I don’t want foods that are a temptation to me in my home. I’ve learned to see food as fuel and to
        use distractions to keep me from binging, when I’m tempted. Everyone is different, but for me the temptation never leaves. My weight and muscle mass have been within a normal range for the past 3 years. I’m healthy from following the advice of my physician, dietician, counselor, and trainer. I need a lot of accountability to say on track and they provide it. (Just like AA provides accountablity to an alcoholic.)

        • Tammy

          I have some kind of food problem, I guess it’s an food addiction I don’t know where to turn. I spend so much time losing weight just to gain it back in no time. Lifetime weight watchers member, Prescripton diet pills. I’m so upset with myself. Where did you start?

          • Tess

            I went to my family doctor and she referred me to a weight loss specialist, counselor, and nutritionist–all were also doctors and luckily within the same complex as my family doctor. Take it easy on yourself. Food addiction is very hard to break because we all have to eat every day! I wish you the best!

    • jennifer

      These were my sentiments exactly. This article offered no real advice on how to cope with food addiction or the first thing about how to even start to get help…. Really bad articke.

    • Rolly

      I tend to agree with you as well. I read an article that touches on all the catch phrases, but doesn’t offer any real advice, as far as I can tell.

      With that said, it might be helpful to someone else. I think with this subject, people have to use whatever knowledge sounds good to them, realizing it can only motivate some, and others won’t find it helpful.

      Last year I went from the category obese, to the category overweight, by losing 50 lbs. I’ve maintained that weight loss for six months, and now I’m ready to start losing again. What worked for me last time, and I plan to do again, is I absolutely did restrict my diet. I find absolutely nothing fun about diets that don’t restrict food intake. Even while I admit this demotivates some – it motivates me. Also, even if I know its probably just a personal preference of mine, I label certain foods ‘super foods’ and I eat those. I like to label some foods ‘not food’ like if a food is primarily made of flour and sugar, like a birthday cake, I consider that either ‘not food’ or ‘poison’.

      I’m really extreme with the labelling, but this works for me!

      • Jo

        i admire you that you were able to make a commitment and stay with your goal

      • Suze

        If you are not a food addict these concepts will be completely alien and make no sense to you. If like myself, a recovering food addict it is a mantra. We are talking apples and oranges in this featured topic. Normal approaches to food do not work nor make sense to a food addict nor do the concepts I and other food addicts that have or recovering from make sense to someone who handles food and all the processes about it in a “food rational way.”

    • Guest

      Yeah, please tell us the *how* of developing a healthy relationship with food, not just to do it. That’s not helpful advice at all.

      I really dislike articles that use these phrases but don’t offer any advice on how to implement. It’s frustrating.

    • Kelly Linton Freestone

      read Intuitive Eating. It takes that “healthy relationship” and expands. My life has been changed by that book and I will never diet again. I have gained a healthy relationship with food and started respecting my hunger, and fullness. I would explain Intuitive Eating as “Freedom”. Because you are normal. If we restrict our bodies, we WILL overeat. Then we will feel guilty and wonder why we can’t trust ourselves with food! Well, you are normal. So was I! I can’t tell you how happy it made me to realize that I am normal! Check it out, I beg you!

    • Rick C.

      To me, a trigger food is specific and I get it. It’s those particular foods one especially can’t control themselves around. There are lots of foods that are high in fat and carbs and low in nutrition (some might say “bad” foods), but I think each person has specific ones they just can’t control. I can really enjoy ice cream in general; but put a certain flavor or two in front of me and I’ll keep eating until I’m way overstuffed.

  • cfraun

    Number 4: Learn healthy coping strategies. Like what?! You give no examples or advice on this point, and to my mind this is the most important point. Not helpful.

  • TattieM

    I spent about a year breaking my food addictions. I finally feel free. I had to cut out all sugary foods for about 8 months before I stopped missing it and even after a year I will relapse if I eat sugar. Weird thing is, pure maple syrup doesn’t bother me at all although I’m still careful with it. I also eat a lot of fruit. I even blend frozen fruit to make my own “ice cream” on an almost daily basis. I cut out cheese and all dairy because it was a trigger for me. When I cut out meat I perfected my diet. I crave nothing, love eating healthy, I’m losing weight and finally feel in control of myself and my eating. I eat a plant based, whole foods diet and couldn’t be happier. I’ve noticed myself being much more calm and having more energy.

    The person who wrote this article sounds like they have absolutely no idea what they are talking about. Of course food is addictive beyond just our habits. I found out right away that refined sugar makes me crave more sugar AND it makes me eat more of all foods. When I realized that, I knew I needed to quit it forever. The reason I failed so many times before was because everyone made me feel like I needed to be able to have “just a little” to be happy and normal. I guess there are people who can eat one piece of pie and not go crazy but I’m not one of them and I’m okay with that now. If you avoid those foods long enough you won’t miss them and they won’t even taste good when you try them again. You can pull yourself out of a food addiction but not with an article like this one.

    • soshiny

      Sounds to me like if you’re eating blended frozen fruit which is high in natural sugars to make your “ice cream” on a “daily basis” it sounds like you have switched addictions.

      • Cami Wright

        Natural sugar in fruits is metabolized differently because of the fiber in plant foods. Fruits also contain vital vitamins and phytonutrients that nourish your cells, it’s completely different than white refined cane sugar, which has no nutritive value and only adds calories.

      • TattieM

        You’re missing the point. I’m totally in control of my eating now. No going to “dark places” with food. No hopeless, what is wrong with me feelings. I’m not overeating anymore. I’ve lost the nervousness that comes with eating and the bottomless pit feeling. Now I understand what “full” feels like. I couldn’t do that before with foods I was addicted to. I know it is hard to understand for people who’ve never been there.

        • Liz

          That is really great. Congratulations. Such a wonderful feeling of freedom I’m sure.

          • TattieM

            Thank you! It is. It has given me the encouragement I needed to change other things in my life as well.

      • Leslie Hawes

        And TATTIEM is “losing weight, has more energy and is calmer, happier” .
        Sign me up for that addiction! Duh.

      • bobolita

        But it’s a healthy choice.

        • TattieM

          I was always told it was my fault. I wasn’t making enough healthy choices but how can a person do that when the foods we eat were made in a lab to be addictive? Ever heard the Lay’s slogan? You can’t just eat one? They made sure of that with something they added to it. Some foods make you want more. Food should satisfy you. Real foods do. Fake foods don’t.

          My change was gradual. First I swore off sugar for a year and then at the end of that year I decided to get rid of anything else that made me feel bad or out of control. It’s been a year and a half and I eat what I want, which is all real foods, because my wants changed. I don’t count anything or write anything down. I just nourish myself with real food. Now I CAN make healthy choices.

          • Gholli

            Congratulations! I am not really overweight, but it is because I fight the sturggles daily. I have gone for months without sugar and never broke my taste for it. I am somewhat encouraged and discouraged that you have gone a whole year and say it took about 8 months :). I think I need to give this another go, as I get so tired of constantly struggling to keep my weight in check. Thanks for sharing your story.

  • John Jacob jingleheimer

    Everyone who replied with what they do is a “food addict” according to this pointless article. All this read did was make me question the intelligence of the person who wrote it and made me want a burrito.

  • Mo

    I put in as much effort in this comment as you did in research for this post. Give the people some real content!

    • Leon Shelhamer

      Haters go’ne hate

  • J Mark Fescemyer

    I battle food addiction every day. For me it’s boredom and relieving stress after driving all day. Food was a mechanism to release the stress and boredom. It’s so easy to fall into the trap. I now have a structure to my eating but I have to stay very aware of what I’m eating and how much because that craving to pig out is always there.

  • Pat Imbimbo

    I believe you are wrong in stating that some foods are not addictive TO CERTAIN PEOPLE – just like alcohol is. Sugar, flour and wheat are the three main addictive foods for people who fall into this category- and NO, you will NOT DIE if you don’t eat these foods.. I know this is true because I have lived it – on the food addicts food plan I lost 196 pounds in a year and a half and never felt better in my life. The food plan is a plan of normal foods weighed and measured, that one can live on for life. People who think this applies to them can access the books THE BODY KNOWS, and also FROM THE FIRST BITE by Kay Shepard, a nutritionist specializing in the field of food addiction.

  • ctpreviti

    I enjoy My Fitness Pal, however a lot of these articles are just awareness not actual follow-through methods.
    I’m curious who is the print editor that allowed this to be published without helpful curbs or work out methods to encourage yourself to stop on your own- at home, work life and daily temptations.

    I have a few trigger foods and I’m learning to drink a couple of glasses of water prior and have a bite or two and throw it away; and wash your hands & mouth.

    I have started pushing myself more and how to avoid ingredients in food, IT DOES TAKE TRIAL & ERROR, temporarily lapse in judgement that’s how I grow and move past my addiction and stop beating myself up about it- curb the dwelling and tomorrow is a new day.

    • Leslie Hawes

      Positive help, positive help, positive help to the tenth power. Good examples.
      Thumbs up.

      • ctpreviti

        What positive help or advice can you offer?

        • Leslie Hawes

          None at 4:45am.
          The ONLY thing that has ever worked for me is to write all ingested foods down , know the calorie count and see the empty calories taking place of something more satiating. I hate writing even 1 more morsel down on that paper.
          But i LOVE TO SINCERELY APPLAUD THOSE WHO HAVE GOOD IDEAS such as your post.

          • TattieM

            I never could write things down. It made me nervous and then I’d want to quit. If I have a list of things I’ve eaten for the day I would always look at the list to determine if I could eat something else instead of looking inside myself for true hunger. What helped me was to eliminate any food that was bothersome to me. I started with refined sugar since I felt that was my biggest problem. Almost a year later I was ready to do something more and I threw out dairy because it left me feeling bloated the next morning. Then, when I felt comfortable with that, I started eating more vegetables and fruits and less processed foods. This made me feel better. Lastly, I threw out animal products just to see what happened. After a couple weeks of that I couldn’t make myself eat meat. I never once intended to cut out meat forever but now it turns my stomach to think of eating it.

            So that’s how I came to eat a whole foods plant based diet and although it looks really strict, it doesn’t feel that way to me at all since I’m just eating what I want and my wants have changed. It’s so much easier to make healthy choices when you’re not being drawn to addictive foods. I’m careful with all processed foods because it’s hard to know what’s in them. I don’t count calories or fat or carbs. I just look at the ingredients to see what it is made of and try to eat mostly whole foods. When I go out (maybe once a week) I may eat something not so good for me but I never eat the problem foods. Never sugar or dairy or meat. I know those bother me and it takes a long time to get them out of my system so I avoid those always. I may have a big veggie plate cooked with oil, which is something I don’t usually do at home. It’s not good for me to have a lot of oil but it’s not a trigger for me and that’s how I treat myself when I go out. I’m happy, I’m healthy, and I’m in control. That’s the goal for me and eliminating any food that gets in the way of that goal is the only way for me to accomplish it.

          • Leslie Hawes

            I applaud your success. I aim for a plant base diet but am struggling. The SUGAR.
            I also had no intention of cutting out ALL but I am there with the dairy. Occasional cheese, yoghurt but I pay for it.
            My body talks loudly to me on meats as well.
            I will keep watching and veering more towards plant foods. I have little successes along the way.

        • TattieM

          I tried but got censored. Maybe someone else can help.

    • bobolita

      This is what we wanted to see thanks for your experiences and info. I know when I read the list, my thought was maybe I only think I have a food addiction, but I do, and know it. I can throw all the candy and desserts, but I here is no bringing them back in after I’ve detoxed. Addictions don’t go away. One snickers and I am once again sloppy ding down that slippery slope! We have to understand this really is just like being an alcoholic and always on guard and aware.

      • TattieM

        You’re absolutely right. I thought going a year without refined sugar would reset my body somehow and I’d be able to eat a little without going nuts. Not true. It’s been a year and a half and one dessert would probably make me go crazy. I have absolutley no desire for it anymore since I can use other things that don’t bother me. I found that 100% maple syrup doesn’t have the same effect. I don’t know the science behind it and I don’t care. I just don’t eat foods that bother me. But now I make my own desserts sometimes with whole grains, ripe bananas, and a tiny bit of maple syrup. There’s nothing I miss anymore. Took about 8 months to get to that point though. I will forever be on guard because I will never go back to my old way of eating.

        • JaneeSue

          This is so true. My friends always say just have a small portion of cake etc. would they offer a small drink to an alcoholic? I have gone 6 months without refined sugar and then fallen off the wagon with one small portion of something sugary.

          • Rolly

            I totally agree as well. I consider cake to be poison, and I don’t want a small portion of poison.

            The problem with my old food choices is they led to overeating.

            I mostly only eat ‘super foods’ now…just a collection of foods I believe to be healthy – Quinoa, Blueberries, Brocolli, Almonds, etc.

            And I never eat a piece of cake – that has flour and added sugar, two things I consider to be “poison”.

            Maybe this doesn’t work for everyone, but since it works for me, no way am I going to stop doing it. It took a long time to find a successful formula.

          • Exadyne

            The idea of alcoholics having to have complete abstain originates with Alcoholics Anonymous and their faith based belief in abstaining from things entirely as a having religious power. There is far less actual scientific evidence about if someone who is an alcoholic is better off with complete abstinence.
            It also ignores the concept that you can remove alcohol from the human body, but you cannot stop having sugar in your body and live. You cannot create physical withdrawal from sugar (other than dying), and there is no difference between refined sugar, dietary sugar, and gluconeogenesis sugar in your system of the same type of sugar molecule.

          • TattieM

            It doesn’t take much, does it? Have you tried a little bit of maple syrup? It doesn’t have the same effect on me that white sugar does. This allows me to have desserts when I want and I don’t overeat them. I get absolutely no cravings from eating some maple syrup on occasion.

        • Exadyne

          A year and a half didn’t change things because it isn’t a physical addiction, it is a learned behavior, one it seems you didn’t work via pure avoidance. The research tends to indicate that complete avoidance usually is associated with increasing temptation and more binge-style behaviors, not less. Chances are you’d be far better off practicing portion control and eating the foods you like on occasion.

          • TattieM

            You obviously didn’t read all of my post. It doesn’t bother me if I have NONE of it. It does bother me if I have SOME. I’m not tempted at all unless I eat a little of it. That’s my argument with this article. Portion control with trigger foods does not work for everyone which is why so many people fall off the wagon. I never fall off the wagon. Haven’t had sugar in years and don’t care if I ever eat it again. If I went back to eating “my favorite foods on occasion” like you said I’d be ten pounds heavier and the cravings would be unbearable. I’ll not go back. And I have seen research that indicates this same finding for fatty foods. Portion control makes sense it just doesn’t work for everyone. I know that’s hard to understand but if you’ve never been knee deep in chocolate bars you probably won’t anyway.

          • Exadyne

            If you truly had not had sugar in your body in years, you’d have been dead years ago. Also, you claimed maple syrup doesn’t affect you. Maple syrup has the same sugar molecules in it other desserts do. That’s pretty good evidence of it being a psychological thing. In comparison to an alcoholic, have you heard of alcoholics that can handle wine coolers but not beer, or vice versa?
            Portion control is a far more effective strategy for the majority of people than abstinence. An inability to achieve portion control indicates an unhealthy relationship with food, not a physical addiction.

          • TattieM

            When I say sugar I mean white sugar. Coconut sugar is also a trigger for me so I don’t use it either. I haven’t tried honey. Don’t need to. I FIXED MY PROBLEM. I’m still shaking my head at your post. I stand to gain absolutely nothing by lying about this. People need to know this which is why I’m sharing. Please show me evidence that portion control works long term. What I do works for me and it has for YEARS. I never lasted more than 10 months on any portion control diet I ever tried. I thought it was my fault. I tried so hard but failed every time. I thought I just needed more willpower because that’s what everyone says. Now I DON’T DIET. I eat what I want but I don’t want those foods anymore because I don’t eat them. I don’t count calories, carbs, or fat. I just eat. When I’d been off of sugar a year and I tried it again I made a batch of cookies that were very low sugar. They didn’t even taste sweet. I ate several and then I was a nervous wreck for about two weeks. Each experiment with white sugar has ended the same way. Two weeks of nervous eating and cravings so now I avoid it altogether. I eat cookies made from maple syrup and have no problems. I don’t know what kind of psychological disorder you’re saying I have but I imagine a majority of the population has it and would benefit from removing white sugar from their diet as well. I now have a healthy relationship with food. If I ate a small amount of white sugar even once every two weeks I would not. I once ate a palm full of sugar coated pecans (spiced pecans) and the same thing happened. Two weeks of nervous eating and cravings. It’s not worth it. If I have too much caffeine I get a bad headache. So now I avoid it. I tried decaf, tea, green tea, white tea, and even throwing out the first cup made from the tea bag. I still get a headache so I removed it from my diet entirely. No more headaches. Is that also psychological?

          • Exadyne

            White sugar isn’t a chemical, it is a color descriptor of all kinds of sugar. You’re listing out what you don’t eat, but a simpler question is, do you eat vegetables, or fruit? Then yes, you eat some sugars. The quantities might be less (or more for some fruit depending on quantity) than some foods you think of as white sugar foods, but it is the same substance. Look in the USDA food database it is based on – they’ll both give detailed breakdowns on fruits and vegetables of the types of sugar in either. Almost all of them contain some sucrose, some glucose, and some fructose. Common table sugar is sucrose. A lot of “white sugar” soft drinks are high fructose corn syrup which is really 55-90% fructose, and the rest generally sucrose.
            The problem is, you think your trials of “white sugar” are experiments that prove something. They’re not real expirements. You KNOW what you’re eating, so you’re NEVER going to objectively remove your relationship with the foods from the equation. Proper psychological experiments involve both the test subject and the one measuring the test to be blind to knowing what the substance is. It is indeed psychological because to say otherwise is to imply your body itself can defy the known laws of chemistry that a molecule is a molecule, regardless of origin. You’re claiming your body can tell that it can identify one molecule based on if it was harvested from sugar cane and refined, and the same molecule inside of a whole food.

            As for caffeine, I don’t know if it gives you headaches or not. Some people certainly do get caffeine headaches even under double blind experiments. That’s hardly controversial. What would be controversial is saying you get caffeine headaches from caffeine pills but not from coffee assuming equal caffeine.

          • TattieM

            “You’re claiming your body can tell that it can identify one molecule
            based on if it was harvested from sugar cane and refined, and the same
            molecule inside of a whole food.”

            Umm, yes. My body is obviously that smart. That’s exactly what I’m saying. 🙂 Next you’re going to tell me all calories were created equal and I can lose the same amount of weight eating junk food as I would whole foods if I just cut the calories back the same. That may be what current science tells you but that’s not how people actually lose weight successfully.

            Look, I understand you don’t agree with me but seriously, until you’ve lost a significant amount of weight and kept it off for years using portion control I’m not seeing any reason to believe you. I have evidence enough for myself in my own experience. I used to be a slave to sugar (and I’ll clarify since you have a hard time understanding what sugar is. I mean the pure white dry sugarcane sugar bought in a four pound sack at the store.) Now I eat my maple syrup cookies happily and can stop after one or two if that’s what I decide to eat and I’m not left feeling nervous or having ANY cravings whatsoever for two weeks like I would with sugar. I didn’t make up these “symptoms”. They’re not just in my head. Sometimes it gets slipped into my diet unknowingly and I still feel the effects.

          • Exadyne

            No one’s body can tell the origin of the same molecule. Almost all modern chemistry is built on the fact that the same molecules are the same.

            As far as calories, they are all the same because they’re just a measurement. Saying a calorie isn’t a calorie is like saying an inch isn’t an inch. Now, not all inches do the same things, nor all calories do the same things because calories only measure energy content in foods with certain assumptions about their absorption. A calorie is just a calorie, but a food isn’t just a food.

            And how people keep weight off as mental strategies doesn’t change how many calories they consumed and what happens every time their input and output is actually test in controlled conditions. Every time a person is checked it does indeed end up being about calories.

            As for myself, yes, I’ve lost substantial amounts of weight calorie counting. I’m 5’8″ and went from 285 to 157.2 this morning. The only reason I’m not doing maintenance yet is I’m shooting for 155 and 10-12% body fat before I stop. If I just wanted to achieve a normal 20-25% body fat, I could have been in maintenance with even more calories to eat for a long time, yet I’ve been fine continuing to eat even less food that I could maintain at for months.

            And it is all a lot easier than any other time I’ve lost weight. I’ve lost 25, 50, sometimes even 90 lbs at points in my life, but never anywhere near as lean as I am now, sometimes from depression, usually from low carb diets. I found every time I followed such restrictive diets I ended up on cycles of cheat days that just got more and more obsessive – I’d spend weekends trying to go from place to place to get in all the carbs I was denying myself on weekdays.
            Now, with calorie counting I have an alright relationship with food. If I truly want something, I work in a reasonable amount. I don’t feel not having something is this big problem that I’ll have to wait off for next weekend to fit it in. Nothing feels that craveable because nothing is a forbidden food.

          • TattieM

            Congratulations on your weight loss. Keep it off a few years and then we’ll talk.

          • Exadyne

            And what will you move the goal post to when I do that? Why would I have a harder time keeping it off for several years when it took several years to lose, and maintaining involves less calorie restrictions, less hormonal signals to stop?
            Quite frankly I don’t intend to stay the same weight, at some point I’ll be intentionally gaining to increase lean mass.

  • Bill

    Recently consulted a dietitian. BIG HELP. Big picture, eat at least 3 times a day. Each meal. Picture a balanced plate, for lunch and dinner on 1/2 the plate see green vegetables ,1/4 of the plate 4-6 oz meat/fish 1/4 of the plate 1 cup of starch rice/potatoes. Think in terms 1 cup measurements. Buy a kitchen measuring device so you know exactly what 1 cup looks like. My plate would have 4-6 cups of green vegetables, 11/4 cup meat 4-6 oz and 1 cup starch say rice or maybe corn. If you eat out it is important to know food catigores, portion size and build your order or eat accordingly. If you want to loose weight, try removing lots of white stuff.bread rice etc and add more greens .

  • Frosty

    This article is sad, a waste of time. Gained nothing from reading this article.

  • Diane

    If I could set boundaries and follow a structured food plan, I wouldn’t be as fat as I am. I was hoping that this article would give REAL advice, not “basic” logic. It’s funny, because last night I was thinking, “I’m addicted to food. I think about it constantly…even when I’m not hungry, I’m planning my next snack/meal.” I think that THAT is part of the challenge. As a society, we make most events/celebrations involving food. It’s not the food addict that is conditioning themselves into this lifestyle. It’s just that certain people REACT to the societal norms in an addictive manner.

  • Emily M

    I have to reply to your sentence ‘To elaborate further, foods do not have addictive properties that make someone depend on them, unlike chemical substances.’ This is 100% NOT TRUE! Fast food companies actually thrive on the fact that this IS true. There is an entire industry out there that studies the effect of salt, sugar, and fat in foods, and works for the food industries to create foods that will be become highly addicting to the population. Why do you think people crave McDonald’s french fries? I found this article demeaning to someone with a true food addiction problem, and really unhelpful. If we could stop keeping “bad” food in our house, don’t you think we would? I don’t know about the rest of the addicts out there, but I find a way to eat even if it is not in my house.

  • pep

    Companies have manufactured foods to be highly addictive while stripping out the nutrition. Cookies, chips, bread, pasta, candy, juice…etc are super rewarding to the brain but will leave you in a binge eating state. Man has harvested the most rewarding ‘foods’ and sells them in bulk – sugar, HFCS, processed oils, white flour. If it comes in a pretty bottle or box it is probably best to not buy it ever. These things will make you addicted to food, fat, and sick.

  • Leon Shelhamer

    OA (Overeaters Anonymous) is a 12 step self help organization that can work wonders to help someone who is interested in food addiction recovery.

  • Bernie

    i am a food addict. I love fast food. I love sweet treats. I eat when I am happy, i eat when I am sad, I eat when stressed, I eat when I am angry. I am 5’2 and weigh 252lbs. The very posterchild of a food addict.
    I spent 2.5 yrs in the hospital because I could not stop putting the wrong foods in my body and messed up my insides. 7 surgeries to fix the problem. Every day and sometimes in those moments when I think lets go for the quick drive thru I literally stop myself and get conscious with the decision. What am I doing? Did I enjoy the pain of those 2.5 yrs. in the hospital? All the pain? the loss of the love of my kids over my inability to tell myself NO! I have to tell myself I love you and your better than this. I every day have to re program myself to STOP THIS INSANITY? Do I slip up and justify to myself my mess up – of course. However, I get back on the right track. This fight with food is 90% mental and 10% physical. You, yourself have to take responsibility for putting the food in your hand and putting it in your mouth. Nobody has a gun to your head. You yourself have to love yourself to say I am going to give you the good stuff because I love me. The treats will happen but not between every meal or after after meal. You can make good choices. You can love yourself to say I am so worth it. There is only one you and I am working daily to get back to 125lbs. I am going to love myself to 125lbs.

  • Roxanne

    Not sure you really did your research on this one. There is wide and growing research that shows that food addiction IS just like addiction to drugs and alcohol in that certain types of food (sugary especially) affect the same areas of the brain, releasing the same “feel good” chemicals in the brain that many with addictive personality types are low on or missing. Your assessment discounts or eliminates the HUGE part that the types of foods we eat play in the whole process: i.e., processed, overly sugared, highly chemicalized foods from the food industry. There is a reason we have FAR more fat people in the U.S. than anywhere else in the world – because we let the food industry dictate what is in our food, instead of being smart about managing and monitoring the chemicals and “crap” that is added. Granted, for each of us it is STILL OUR DECISION to put something into our mouths and eat it. But by ignoring the REAL chemical threat that processed foods have on our lives limits our ability to really deal with the problem, IMHO.

  • TattieM

    “…foods do not have addictive properties that make someone depend on them, unlike chemical substances.”
    What about casomorphins in cheese? Are they unable to prove what many of us already know from our own personal experiences?

  • Ann Marie

    Shouldn’t deny yourself anything. Moderation in all things. If you think a food is forbidden you will go out and have the whole thing instead of one piece. This article is pointing out awareness; other than that isn’t too informative. Seems repetitive actually. If there is something you crave immensely then don’t bring it in the house. “Just do it” like OA says or “bad bad bad person “isn’t helpful at all. OA strips all sugar and flour from your diet; they mean well but create misery and guilt. GMO’s are horrible for our bodies so read labels. It’s a battle we all face since we can’t live without food like we can without drugs or alcohol. A food scale can help with portions. Nutritionists just starve the hell out of you which to me doesn’t make sense. If you are lying awake at night with hunger pangs then you are going to eventually cave in. Exercise, walk or get a dog and enjoy life . Sugar and GMO laced foods are big industry and they don’t care about sickness or obesity. Try to eat clean and healthy and don’t starve yourself. You will end up binge eating if you follow 1,000 calories per day. It’s almost humanly impossible. Nutritionists are a joke and very cruel doctors with great bodies so they don’t care. Eat healthy and move more. And yes, have a slice of your grandbaby’s birthday cake.

  • Holly Martin

    I agree that there is something lacking in this article and would like there to be more meat to chew on. Also the thing with sugar is that what we get naturally from our food is not all bad especially if it is coming from apples, pears, potatoes, corn etc. these are the good sugars but when we use cane sugar or sugar beet sugar it’s is very addicting. This can and will spike your blood sugar while a natural sugar will not spike but will increase more naturally the blood sugar. You can’t eliminate sugar from the diet altogether because our bodies need it for certain functions but we can eliminate the types of sugars that are bad and addicting.

  • Rolly

    btw, thanks for the opportunity to comment on food issues.

    I wanted to riff on one piece of advice from above that is a personal pet peeve of mine “Seek Professional Advice”

    One should never say that without the disclaimer that advice is going to vary wildly.

    I went to my personal doctor, who merely told me to ‘eat right and exercise.’ I was very familiar with that platitude before she gave me that advice – it was basically useless and the advice of someone who was too busy to care.

    So, while I didn’t disagree with the 4 words, I needed something more to make a real change. I had a friend who had a Doctor that had done much more for him, but he was too busy to take on patients, so I sought out yet another Doctor who specialized in treating obesity.

    He even prescribed some serious drugs – and with disastrous results, I’m afraid.
    Basically, one of the drugs he prescribed caused a paranoid episode, but luckily I just dropped the medication and moved on.

    But no real weight loss. What worked for me, was watching a bunch of food documentaries on Netflix and just really changing my attitude about how I view food and the entire food industry.

    Anyway, while seeking professional advice did help my friend (for a while, but he gained it all back) – it’s not what helped me.

    It’s just different for everyone, but I would think any time you give advice about seeking professional advice, you should further caution how ineffective it is, and give some advice for picking the right professional. Ask about their success rate. If their patients aren’t really losing weight, why bother.

  • Karen

    I believe that this author is encouraging people to REMOVE OR DISCOURAGE THE EMOTIVE QUALITY OF EATING. Eat To Live….not Live To Eat.

    This is an article on the Psychology of eating, not the Biology.

  • Ann Marie

    Roxanne. I’m wondering who you were aiming your most recent comment to. I scrolled around; can’t find anyone saying you are wrong. Preservatives and chemicals have a huge impact on food addiction. I agree with you 100%.

  • laughingwater

    The best way to break the carbohydrate addiction is to take up the low-carbohydrate, high fat lifestyle diet. You’ll be surprised at how many calories you can consume, and still lose weight when you go LCHF.

  • symial94

    I agree with all these posts…this article was clearly written by someone who is not knowledgeable or experienced in the area of food addiction. Certain foods (sugar) have been scientifically proven to have addictive properties and anyone who struggles with food issues can attest to this. Obviously emotional issues play a huge factor as well, but at least in my experience, these often stem from the food’s addictive properties. For example, when I first began to struggle with feeling out of control when I ate certain foods, I responded by adopting an increasingly restrictive diet in attempt to gain control. This soon caused me to develop disordered eating habits and subsequently all the emotional issues that go along with that. All this stemmed not from a disordered view of food or emotional problems, but was simply an attempt to overcome the addictive properties of food and gain control.

  • Amberdoo

    I find it odd that the article mentions right away 12 steps programs, but doesn’t mention there is a 12 step program for food addiction. And then the author proceeds to list off ways to basically apply the 12 step approach to turning over a food addiction. Why not say there are meetings, where others who know what you are going thru and have found relief gather to support one another. Her suggestions aren’t novel, and they can’t be put in to effect without real help. Overeaters Anonymous. And there’s a meeting near you.

    • Although I finally figured out what the author was trying to say about a 12 step program in this article, I felt it left a casual and negative connotation to a 12 step program. There is so much more to it than ‘being challenged to remain abstinent’.

  • Ann neville

    I was disappointed in this article, it didn’t give any helpful advice as I hoped it would. I really struggle with sugar addiction, cola and mars bars together and usually more than 1 mars bar at a time! I’m desperate for some constructive help but this just didn’t do it for me.

  • disqus_Lm5zNmw91y

    I found the Solution program (Laurel Mellin) truly healing. I learned the technique about fifteen years ago and still use it today. It changed how I experience life.
    Food addiction is using food to meet emotional needs. These emotional needs must be met. If they’re not met directly, you will find a way to meet the need, whether it’s via food, shopping, alcohol, etc. A set of rules does not meet those needs, but learning how to heal your emotions and meet your needs directly turns that drive to use food to feel better off.
    It’s not free and it’s not easy, but the freedom and joy I have gained are priceless. I wish everyone knew about it. I hate seeing people suffer more than they need to, but I see it all the time.

  • Sugrfree

    The author of this article comes from a very old school thought . Sugar and grain have been shown to be highly addictive. When I was able to stop putting both of these substances in my body, my food addiction, from which I suffered with most of my life, went away.

  • C Jay

    You article follows the common thinking that it is all the person’s fault that they are fat. If they could only control themselves (and set up good habits) then they could eat like normal people. First I am not sure what normal people eat is very healthy for them if we look at the obesity rate in this country. Secondly anyone who has blood sugar problems can tell you that eating certain sugars and carbs puts them on an down cycle where they have to have the food, or some caffeine or a nap. When they eat those foods it puts their blood sugar above normal for a while and then it again goes down even lower the next time and so on, etc

    Your article doesn’t even follow current medical research. There is research to show that certain carbs chemically convert to an addicting substance. The only way to heal the body is to NOT EAT that substance. The body will go through a withdrawal and you will want to eat that food. Eat protein instead and just accept you are going to crave it until the withdrawal is over. But don’t restrict all the healthy foods and especially healthy pastured eggs, beef, chicken, lamb, pork, coconut oil, ghee, vegetables and some fruits (peaches, grapes and watermelon make me hungry and apples and berries don’t so I stick to those).
    Healthy fat satiates! The brain needs healthy fat to function well. I can remember things better now than 25 years ago. I am 77 and am very healthy and don’t hurt anywhere. A friend of mine quit eating sugar and within two weeks her feet stopped hurting. She quit eating wheat and her joints stopped hurting. She is still overweight (but losing consistently) but feeling so much better. When I stopped eating grains I no longer needed a nap.
    I know people who are gluten sensitive who can eat the wheat in Spain and Italy but not here. Our wheat products have been hybridized to have much more gluten than before WW2. Why? Because it makes you want more of it! Therefore you buy more and they make more profit.

  • Birdie

    I find that as a 64 old women, I am on several meds that are uping my weight, psychological meds, osteoporosis meds, lipator , lots of acid reflex meds. Those keep me from losing weight. Plus the usual foods that I am addicted . What is the solution for me. Help help!!!!!

  • MB

    It’s interesting you say, “foods do not have addictive properties that make someone depend on them, unlike chemical substances.” Um, don’t most foods contain chemical substances? Isn’t there documentation about how foods such as aspartame and other chemicals cause addiction? Now, I’m not saying that I don’t agree ith many addictions being behavior (i.e., habit)-based, but I don’t agree that applies in every food-addiction case.

  • Alpine Recovery Services

    Thank you for this post. Many people struggle with this no matter their weight. We think about food all the time, and it’s nice to know when it’s healthy and when the line has been crossed into addiction.

  • jayne190

    I was intrigued by this article, as I do have an addiction to food. I do agree with the premise of the article, but I think the first step in controlling one’s food addiction is to develop a healthy relationship with one’s self. I know it sounds narcissistic, but so often I have turned to food when I am feeling sad or down on myself and the times I feel good about myself, I don’t really turn to food, as I turn to other things that I enjoy doing. And more often than not since I was a tween, I would turn to food because I was depressed and/or anxious. Now that I am on medication to help with my anxiety and depression, I am starting to feel better about myself and more willing to take steps to get healthy and lose weight. Even though the dietitian makes some valid points about how to take control of one’s food addiction, I think how one goes about controlling their food addiction is very personal and honestly while stopping cold turkey for is good for some, its not necessarily the best thing for everybody. Some people have deeper issues than just their food intake.

  • Creative Orange

    Actually food today does have addictive chemical qualities. You look at all of the “food” have to control weight and yet they spike blood sugars, make you salivate for more and are low in fat all together makes food in satisfying. Packaged food is engineer to encourage consumption. The movie Fat Sick and Nearly dead had a woman who was SO addicted to her food she has to spray WINDEX on it or else she would pull good out of the garbage.

    I have removed 90% of preservative found in package food and replaced with either low/non-preservative ingredients to eat. I am more satisfied and can still enjoy some ice cream.

    While yes, there are Stress triggers however people need to be aware of packaged food and make informed decisions about what they eat

    Choose to eat Food, not something disguised as food.

  • kenna44cat

    I often read your blogs from RDs and therapists, and find them helpful, some more than others, and I also do well by eliminating certain trigger foods from my house, like ice cream and even bread. So I found your advice right on, though I don’t think I suffer from a food addiction at this time. Your articles are sometimes too simplistic but always interesting. Thanks for this.

  • Betty Van

    I must say that recording everything I eat is helping me to see just how quickly the calories add up; but short of changing all my friends I still struggle to not tuck into the wonderful spread of cakes etc at tea times as even the savories like sausage rolls are heavy in calories.

  • Vincent Viola

    How about eating just because you like food? Does it always have to be satisfying some deep inner emotion? I don’t eat because I’m sad. I’m a very happy person who likes the way food tastes. I’m sure there are other people around that have an addiction to food because it tastes so good!

  • Christine Moffa Bradford

    This doesn’t work. These tips may work for a person who tends to over eat or make bad food choices but not for a person who has an emotional issue with food. For some food is an addiction like drugs and alcohol. Can a drug addict really rationalize why they do or do not need that hit? Can an alcoholic label good from bad? It’s an addiction and maybe the only sound advice here is seek help

  • Jennie

    I’d love to see what science this is based on. Geneen Roth suggest that, instead of avoiding “unsafe” foods, have plenty in your fridge/freezer so that if you want some, you won’t feel like “this is all I have, MUST EAT ALL NOW.” Rather, have some if that’s what you want. But sit down and enjoy it without reading/watching TV/surfing the ‘Net.

    She also talks about food being “hummers and beckoners”–hummers are foods you think of, unprompted. “I’d really love an apple/a beer/a cookie.” Beckoners are foods you see and which you then want. The importance being that hummers are foods you are really craving. Beckoners are foods that suggest themselves, and if you hadn’t seen them, you wouldn’t want them. Interesting to think about.

    I am one who doesn’t do well with a proscribed diet. And who knows therapy would do a lot more than anything else to help.

    That said, I’m seeking out an OA meeting this Wednesday! From my research, they have more success than Weight Watchers, Optifast, and the other big-$ diet moneymaker companies.

  • alfabdall

    But everything is so delicious. My weakness is apple pie, powdered sugar donut holes, and chocolate with peanut butter. I have a handle on food control, losing 22 lbs with MFP, but every once in a while I go smorgasbord,

  • EV

    I find it amazing that going to a 12 step group for food addiction wasn’t mentioned- that’s like telling an alcoholic that they can stop drinking with the help of a therapist.

    • Tara Hope

      Hi EV,
      12 Step groups for food addiction are mentioned: “In traditional 12-step addiction-based recovery models, addicts are challenged to remain abstinent for healing.” It’s in there. 🙂

      I agree recovery from food addiction requires a lot of support, emotional, spiritual, as well as physical. Some 12 Step groups offer more ongoing support than others. It depends on what the person wants, what they’re ready for…
      Kind regards,
      Tara 🙂

  • Thanks Kristina for the complete and thorough article, I like to say that we and Noavard website translated it into Persian.

  • Tara Hope

    I agree with noastaff that this is a good article – thank you, Kristina. I also appreciate that she mentions the importance of working with a nutritionist, particularly – and this is an important qualifier – one who understands food addiction. This may be hard to find, though, as the medical model tends to take the “eat dessert in moderation” type of approach otherwise it’s considered deprivation and having a negative view of food.

    Recovery from food addiction is complex, it is not easy, but – paradoxically – it is quite simple. Abstain from the foods that cause the addiction cycle (i.e., the ravenous cravings, the binges, and so on). Withdrawal symptoms are likely to happen – irritability, headaches, anxiety… Good 12 Step groups do not challenge members to remain abstinent, though. They invite abstinence, they give the message that freedom from food obsession and food cravings is possible, that there is a viable solution. And the solution is 3-fold. Addressing the physical problem is paramount but it cannot be maintained without mental/emotional and spiritual help which is where the Steps come in.

    That said, not everyone is going to want to go the 12 Steps route. I am very thankful that we have options and articles like Kristina’s are a sign that food addiction is more and more recognized as a real issue with devastating consequences.

    Best regards to all.

  • Ali

    foods do not have addictive properties??? This is completely false. Junk foods that contain sugar and wheat are highly addictive. Some say just as addictive as heroine if not worse. They must be eliminated from your diet if you are a true addict. How many people develop an addiction to fruits and vegetables? I don’t think any have been documented. There are known and unlabeled additives put in food to make them highly addictive and cause depression and withdrawal when one tries to abstain from them. Yes some mal-adjusted behaviors get us into these problems, no different than drugs, alcohol or smoking. But the addictive properties in food are just as real. These foods are the highly processed, highly palatable food-like substances so prominent in our supermarkets. Then to exacerbate the problem once we gain weight fat cells secrete hormones effecting our pleasure centers in the brain trapping us in a cycle very difficult to break. You cannot tell an addict that moderation is the key. Since when? If you do not treat your addiction to food as a true addiction you will fail. You need help. You need a 12 step program and recovery just like all addicts. You may have to abstain from “BAD” food because it is bad for you if you are an addict. Stop fighting your will power and address your addiction. Stop feeling like you are just weaker than everyone else. You are an addict and you can recover. That takes an amazing amount of strength to admit.

  • Jamie Roush

    I have been looking into this more and more lately because I recently started having obsessive thoughts about food, where it is a non-stop thought. I finally started talking to my therapist about it because it’s to the point where I am miserable and cannot control it. I also have a past with addiction to substances so this is scary to me because I don’t want it to lead back to that. When I spoke to my therapist we were talking about the ways we will start to handle this and she also suggested getting a food allergy test done because she says that when we are allergic to certain food items or groups, even if we don’t break out in hives or have a physical appearance of allergies, it could cause you to crave those foods.

    I haven’t spoken to anyone else about this because I feel that I will be looked at like “okay right…..” People that aren’t drug addicts still believe you or have SOME sort of compassion or understanding about what you are going through but I feel like if I were to tell people that I have a food addiction it wouldn’t be handled the same way if that person hasn’t been through it themselves.

  • Kathy

    Really sad that if you have “used” food for nearly 30 yrs it is impossible to break the addiction. I refuse to take meds for stress. I know I’ve suffered along time and I know I’ve made wrong choices, I’m just saying that food addiction is as bad as alcohol. I feel if an alcoholic can get 30-60-90 days of rehab and I had received help in my early 30s I may have beat the addiction and learned to cope before it was too late

  • Aneidabreak

    This article is way out of touch with what food addiction is. Go read a surgical weight loss message board! Food addiction is desperately craving foods that are unhealthy. Those foods may be a comfort food, but not always. Most are carbohydrate loaded foods and they bring the person feelings of satiety and well being when being eaten. Cravings for those foods will last for months, and may not ever go away.

    • Exadyne

      No one is in touch with what food addiction is in the article or the comments because it isn’t a thing.

      • Aneidabreak

        Obviously you have never had a weight problem.

        • Exadyne

          5’8″, I’ve been overweight essentially my whole life until this year, at 285 most of my adult life and teens.
          I now weigh ~160, still losing until I get to 155 and 10-12% body fat.
          I’ll repeat my had a weight problem self – FOOD ADDICTION is NOT a THING. The substances in food do not form addictive addiction with physical withdrawal symptoms. The things people purport they’re addicted to (desserts, sugary foods) get digested into the same stuff as the other foods (vegetables) almost no claims they’re addicted to. That means it cannot be an substance (food) addiction.

          • Aneidabreak

            Actually sugar is a toxin, it is broken down by the liver the same way alcohol is broken down. All carbohydrates break down into sugar by the liver. So are you saying there is no such thing as alcoholism? Because the liver recognizes it as the same.

          • Exadyne

            The dose makes the poison, so everything is a toxin if you want to use it in that sense.

            Now the liver “recognizing” sugar the same way as alcohol goes against everything I know about the two other than the liver is involved in metabolizing both, as it is involved in most metabolism – I think of it as the Swiss army knife of body chemistry.

            So your body stores alcohol in the liver, like a pound of it compacted into glycogen to release to control alcohol levels in the blood to keep you from dying without alcohol because it does that with glucose. It responds, when healthy, to glucagon by releasing it and holding it in when responding to insulin because again, stuff it does with glucose.

            It switches to using up glucose immediately and uses it as the primary energy source as soon as it appears because that is what it does with alcohol.

            Seriously, what does it mean to recognize alcohol and sugar the same? Your liver doesn’t even work on all sugar molecules with the exact same chemistry. Now you claim it treats glucose, fructose, sucrose, galactose, lactose, maltose, and all alcohol the same?

          • Aneidabreak

            And congrats on the weight loss, it’s a tough thing to do!

          • There is solid research that disagrees with your beliefs.

          • Exadyne

            There’s solid chemistry that says a molecule of glucose is a molecule of glucose. If you can be addicted to sugar, you’d be addicted to all of it, not just the stuff that tastes good.

            People with severe enough alcoholism will drink hand sanitizer in rehabs because of withdrawal. I don’t see severe sugar addicts who find themselves eating broccoli (the carbs in it will get converted to the same sugars as any others) to get just some sugar into their system. You also have a solid system in your body in place to constantly keep sugar available to it, when you don’t, you have a condition called diabetes.

            Now, can you link to the solid research that shows humans having addiction to sugar? NOT RATS. Not studies that show humans have neurotransmitters in the reward pathway that light up for food because that is something that happens for all everything rewarding – you get some neurotransmitters for it. Indeed, part of the point of those pathways is to enhance learning because, surprise, humans survive longer if they get better at remembering spots that have food.

            The concept of being addicted to food itself, as a substance, is poor, and misrepresented by the media. At best, psychologists are looking at possibly having a concept of eating addiction – this would be an addictive behavior like gambling, not addiction to actual substances in food because, again, molecules.
            What’s more, most models of addiction are horrible for handling food and eating problems. You can quit smoking, cocaine, alcohol, gambling, caffeine, and many other things absolutely and there will be no physiological harm by never engaging in the activity or substance again. Everyone has to eat or they die. What most research shows is that trying to eliminate foods just builds up the type of anticipation that makes them become mentally rewarding in the first place.
            And I’ve lived that phenomena. I lost 90 pounds at one point as a teen using low carb diets, and then having constant carb overloads on the weekend when I’d have “cheat” days. It became impossible to progress in weight loss despite at some point, and eventually to even maintain that weight loss that way. Every weekday would be about burning up willpower to lose it on the weekend and trying to shove everything carbohydrate in my mouth because this weekend was the only time I had to ever have those things, and I’d have to wait forever to the next weekend to have it again.
            Now, I count my calories, I have what I want, and I focus on foods I want to include, to leave room for whatever else I feel like. I never feel a pressure to restrict anything, at worse I just have to think that is a food I’ll have a different day, and I can even plan how it will fit those days. No huge mental struggles, everything is just a matter of planning, no burning out my willpower on things I don’t need to use it to avoid. All while having far more going on in my life to make me more likely to feel stressed and busy than I would as a teenager.
            And that it helped me is why I post on these things trying to get people to stop believing nonsense like being addicted to food is the cure to their issue.

          • Not everyone will respond to specific foods in the same way as you. I am very happy you are able to control your intake and have no need to restrict certain foods.

          • Exadyne

            It isn’t about me. It is about what the actual research shows. Most people do far better learning to normalize their relationship with food rather than perform eliminations.
            It also is about the fact the chemically, no, there are no addictive foods.

  • Tasha

    I like this article…i just wished it had more info but its to be continued. The article said something like it’s more research and studies to come. I believe it is bad food, fried foods are good for u…that maybe consider bad bc it is a cause for high blob pressure and that candy bar is probably not bad for someone who doesn’t have diabetes but is a trigger for someone who does, like chocolate for my mom who does have diabetes. You guys are trying to find something wrong this this article instead of embracing it and find more info. Don’t knock someone is is trying to help someone with a food addition like me. My two thumbs up, way up…I’m going to find more info to help me.

  • There is valid research confirming that certain foods, especially sugar, wheat, flour, salt, and fat activate the reward pathways in the brain of some people. This chemical response to the food, especially when the ingredients are combined (as in processed foods) cause the individual to abuse the foods, have uncontrollable cravings for more, require more and more to feel satisfied, and make them unable to control their intake. This is the reason the strategies that might work for some overweight people will not work for the food addict.

    The notion of telling a food addict that one day he or she will be able to “eat ice cream again in a balanced way is a safe option” is unrealistic and bad advice. A true food addict will never be able to eat foods that trigger their addiction. This includes ice cream. It’s like telling the alcoholic they can have one drink on their birthday.

    The “structured meal plan” included in the link in this article is not a meal plan for food addicts. Food addicts must completely abstain from all trigger foods, must weigh and measure their foods exactly, must eat at specific times of the day, and have plenty of boundaries around their eating. They will not be able to use the recipes in the cookbooks listed in the link. Taking generic meal plan information for an article on food addiction is not helpful.

    The recommendation to seek professional advice is a good one. However, one must be very careful with the individual they select. Most people in the helping profession, including physicians, dieticians, and therapists are not trained to assess and treat for food addiction. Like most of the general population, they do not understand the biological, physiological, psychological, and environmental factors that drive food addiction. As a recovering food addict and someone who helps others to manage their food addiction, I know there is far more to this overwhelming compulsion to eat than simply using will power, finding “coping strategies”, or seeing this as a “habit”.

    The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse recently released a new report on food addiction, Understanding and Addressing Food Addiction: A Science-Based Approach to Policy, Practice and Research. This report is well researched, free, and worth the read.

  • laughingwater

    Most of us don’t realize how addicting carbs are, until we go on a very low carb diet (as in 15 grams or less), with moderate (low) protein and plenty of high quality natural fats. That body takes a few weeks to adjust. I could not start to adjust until I also gave up dairy, with the exception of butter from grass-fed cows. I started feeling amazing after 21 days. And I can now go hours without eating, whereas when I was eating high carb, I was eating every hour. My blood pressure and other readings are excellent.

  • amy

    Wow! After 45 years of suffering from food addiction, all my problems are solved with a 500 word essay and 5 nifty tips! Who knew it would be so easy!

  • JRR

    I cannot emphasize how important it is to see a professional if you are consumed by food addiction. Treatment has changed dramatically over the past few years–there is medication that successfully treats binge eating and other disorders. I know this first hand. Do not suffer in silence about this–and don’t just rely on self-help or talk therapy.

  • Susan B. Szabo

    I think, unlike the author stated, that there are foods that do trigger a food addiction because of their content like sugar, salt and fat.

  • Connie

    Actually, the makers of junk food do make their foods so you will want another and another. Their science and testing provides them with all they need to make a chip, cookie, cereal addictive. That is their job. They know exactly what ingredients and how much to use to keep you eating.

  • Anton

    Book knowledge of addiction does little for those in it’s throws. Which is what this article feels like. Real help might come from those that have actually experienced and overcome addiction.

  • anacoluthon

    This article is based on inaccurate information. Its premise of “food doesn’t contain any addictive substances” is totally false. A brief Google search into addiction and nutrition will bring up a wealth of information from researchers like David A. Kessler MD, the former head of the FDA. More fact-checking and research into actual nutrition science would have been helpful, as opposed to perpetuating common tropes publicized by the food industry that “all food is equal”.

  • Anne Murphy

    I wish there was more press on high fat mod/low protein and very low carb ketogenic style eating modifications for treating what is really a carbohydrate addiction issue. I’ve been able to help so many people break the binge eating cycle with this method AND loose a ton of weight effortlessly, keeping it off long term. Amino Acid supplementation correcting imbalances in serotonin, dopamine and catecholamine, affecting reward pathways are helpful as well. This article is using science that’s in the Stone Age and doesn’t work.

  • Anine Grumbles

    It’s not all that easy. Plus it is complicated. There are physiological, neurological, biochemical and psychological interactions that are different for each of us. It is also happening on the unconscious level. We may not even realize what our relationship with food is or how it serves us or not. The more weight we have, the slower our metabolism. Hypnotherapy and several other combined techniques help with reducing appetite, reducing cravings, increasing motivation, making different choices – even changing our preferences. A lot of our eating is emotional eating and a pattern of behavior. We are looking for comfort, protection, or other feelings from the food we eat, instead of from within. Discovering your unconscious motivations is one of the steps for interrupting and changing that pattern of behavior. A good coach and hypnotherapist can assist you.

    Try eating only real food, no processed foods, meats, fish, chicken, pork, lots of fresh veggies, only whole grains in small quantities and very very little to no sugar, and no fake sweeteners – eat some fruit, berries are great! Sweet just as they are, they contain very little sugar. The darker in color the more phytonutrients.
    Anine Grumbles, PhD

  • Lucas

    I echo so me of the sentiments in ththe comment section of this article, especially regarding being thin on practical help.

    However, Kristina LaRue doesn’t claim this either and she merely brings attention to a subject that many of us struggle with at times. In addition, she wrote:

    “Beating a food addiction is a process that doesn’t happen overnight; it often needs to involve a registered dietitian and licensed therapist that specialize in the area of disordered eating. These professionals will help a person suffering from food addiction implement appropriate strategies, and provide accountability and sound advice.”

    In addition, Kristina links to a ‘professional support’ page, with many many phone numbers listed. I mean, you could be one phone call away from a new life!

  • Daphne

    *How to Control Food Addiction… Develop a healthy relationship with food you silly!!!!*

    Wow… such groundbreaking article. -_-

  • Bo Didley

    I really enjoyed the article. Thank you for offering your insight.

    I do think there is some validity to the 12 Step Model for food addiction. As a compulsive over-eater, my problem is not food in general. Instead, there are specific types of food with which I struggle when it comes to over eating. I’m not fat because I binge on carrots and tomatoes. I’m fat, because I eat Little Debbie products, cake, ice cream, drink soft drinks, etc. Against these types of foods, I am powerless. Once I start eating them, I can’t stop. (On the other hand, I have never lacked the power to stop eating salad, even though I really do like a good salad.)

    So, I feel that I need to avoid these types of foods entirely. They are “bad” foods for me. Furthermore, I’m not convinced that I can ever enter into a balanced relationship with these types of foods any more than an alcoholic can have a balanced relationship with alcohol. One bite always holds the promise of a slippery slope for me, and I know this based on past experience.

    I just have to face the truth: there are some foods that I need to remove from my life. I really do hate this fact, but I hate the thought of dying prematurely from a heart attack even more.

    I don’t know, maybe it’s unrealistic to think it can be done. At least, I have heard that from some who pose “moderation” as my answer rather than “abstinence.” But I’m just not convinced at this point.

  • Disgruntled

    This article like so many others is not really meant to convey true information. It’s all about search engine optimization and bringing visitors to the website. The web has become an ugly race to draw visitors. It’s becoming harder and harder to distinguish good information from fad, trend, and SEO. The internet is becoming an ad filled ugly place.