Food Addiction: Finding Solutions To A Serious Problem

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Addiction can come in many forms, but it does not have to involve an addictive substance, such as nicotine or alcohol. People can be addicted to shopping or sex, as examples. Certain foods can trigger addiction, such as those high in sugar and salt but scientific studies suggest food addiction isn’t necessarily about the food itself. Rather, it is the habits that are associated with food that are learned over time. For example, people use eating as a coping mechanism to deal with particular emotions, such as stress and anxiety. This can include sweet items, such as chocolate, which are consumed as comfort foods. These sugary items can also be eaten as a self-fulfilled reward, possibly stemming from parental rewards given in childhood. In short, we eat the chocolate bar because we think we deserve it.

Scientists suggest our brain has been conditioned to receive pleasure from certain addictive tendencies. This is explored in a lot more detail at So, when we are feeling low or in need of a reward, we take part in habits that fuel our addiction, such as overeating. As with any addictive problem, steps need to be taken to deal with the issue.

For qualified advice, a doctor, counselor, or dietitian needs to be consulted. However, here are two genuinely recognized solutions for those suffering from an addiction.

1. One step at a time

Going ‘cold turkey’ isn’t about cutting down on something straight away, as this can have further adverse effects. However, setting a boundary, such as only eating certain foods on a special occasion, can be the start in quitting obsessive eating. The next step is removing temptation; protecting the food addict from problem foods. Should a person reach for the nearest bar of chocolate when feeling stressed, it makes sense to remove it from the house. There are healthier snacks, such as fruit, nuts etc. which are more nutritious, and are a great alternative when the compulsion to eat strikes. For advice on cutting back from those sugary treats, read the article at, which offers further solutions for anybody struggling with temptation.

Boundaries are hard to keep to, and fighting temptation takes a great deal of willpower. Small steps help, as does the support from family and friends, who should make an effort to walk with the food addict each step of the way, reinforcing healthy eating in their own behaviour.

2. Address external reasons

If a person is using food as a coping mechanism for a particular emotion, further action needs to happen. A person feeling stress, for example, needs to pursue a healthier alternative, such as the keep fit options we advocated at 365 Days of Health & Fitness, to alleviate the stress symptoms. Should there be ongoing issues at home or at work, these need to be confronted to stem the factors causing stress. As mentioned earlier, professional help may also be necessary to further help the person dealing with emotional difficulties. When the external reasons behind the addiction are discovered, the person will have less need to fuel the addictive tendency.

Bottom line

Food addiction is a genuine problem that cannot be overcome quickly. However, with professional and personal support, and the advice given above, it is possible to deal with the problem before it becomes overwhelming.


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