Food provides nourishment and energy to our bodies, and it can also be a source of emotional gratification. Different foods provide different elements of wellness and are essential to human survival, but some people can develop an addiction to food that has the potential to be as serious as a substance abuse disorder.
For those struggling with food addiction, highly palatable foods high in sugar, fat and salt can trigger the release of chemicals in the brain similar to that of addictive drugs like cocaine and heroin.
The science behind food addiction is still evolving, but researchers at Yale University’s Rudd Center for Food Science & Policy have developed a survey to help identify people who may have a food addiction.
If you’re struggling with your relationship with food, here are four signs you may have a problem.
Routinely eating more than you planned
Overindulging every once in a while is not something to be concerned about, but if you find yourself routinely eating three pieces of cake when you intended to eat one, it could be a sign of a bigger issue.
Continuing to eat certain foods even when you’re no longer hungry
Cravings themselves aren’t indicative of a food addiction problem, but if you find yourself continuing to give in to cravings even after you feel full or you’re eating to the point of feeling physically ill, it could be a sign of binge eating.
You go out of your way to find certain foods
If you find you are going to great lengths to obtain certain foods or eating so much and so often that you are consuming food instead of doing other daily activities like spending time with family, working or tending to your hobbies, it may be time to discuss your food habits with a professional.
You feel guilt or shame
Feelings of guilt and shame are common with all kinds of addiction. If you notice how you consume food brings up these feelings for you it could be a sign that you need help.
Researchers are still learning about food addiction and determining the best treatment options, but working with a psychologist or nutritionist who is knowledgeable about food addiction can help you break the cycle of compulsive eating and establish a healthy relationship with food.