Home HealthTopics Health Centers Reference Library Research
Join us on Facebook Join us on Facebook Share on Facebook

Obesity and Weight Management

Is it possible to be addicted to food?

08/25/2005

Question:

I have an issue with eating way too much. I would liken it too bulimia in the sense of binging but without the purging. I have all the guilt, depression and anxiety about it. It would seem an simple matter of self control but it is not. I can`t explain it. The best comparison although it may not make sense is when I hear someone relay their addiction to say drugs. Is this possible? If yes how does one get help for it?

Answer:

Is food addictive?  You pose an interesting question for which there has been ongoing debate.  Mental health professionals are best able to assess addictions.  In your situation, you might benefit from an assessment with a mental health professional who works with food issues.

Probably more relevant for you is whether your feeling of being "out of control" can be managed.  To answer this question, you should keep a food diary.  Write down everything you eat for several days including the smallest snack and all beverages.  Also record what you are feeling when you eat, how hungry you are when you begin, and how full you are when you finish eating.  It may be helpful to use a 10-point scale in recording your hunger and fullness with "5" being neither full nor hungry, "1" being starved to the point of fainting, and "10" being "Thanksgiving Day stuffed."  Be sure to note the times you eat.  If you find a large block of time between meals, you might truly be so hungry that you feel your eating is "out of control."  Add a snack between the two meals and be sure to include a high protein food such as milk, cheese, piece of meat, or peanut butter, for example.  If your water consumption is low, you may be craving salty snacks.  Often increasing the water you drink will decrease the craving for these snacks.  If you note that you are not sleeping much, you may be sleep-deprived.  This condition will also result in over-eating due your body's hormonal response to the situation.

Many times what we may think is an addiction to food is really a physiological response to our fast-paced lifestyle that does not allow time for caring for our body.  Before you judge yourself a food addict, take time to to keep some records.  Include days you work or go to school along with days you do not have the structured routine.  If you have trouble making sense of your detailed record, a registered dietitian (RD) is qualified to help you assess it.  You can find an RD at your local hospital or by going online to www.eatright.org and typing in your zipcode.

I have worked with many people who feel just as you do.  For the majority of them the problem lies with their lifestyle.  If your records reveal your lifestyle is not the problem, ask your physician to refer you to a counselor or psychologist who specializes in eating issues.

To Your Good Health!

 

For more information:

Go to the Obesity and Weight Management health topic, where you can:

Response by:

Shirley A Kindrick, PhD Shirley A Kindrick, PhD
Former Team Leader of Comprehensive Weight Management
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University