Food addiction is a form of overeating and is characterized by episodes of uncontrolled eating or binge eating. Overeaters often consume food to the point where they’re uncomfortably full. Such overeating and binge eating episodes are generally followed by extreme feelings of guilt and shame. A food addict often keeps his or her food addiction a secret and overeats in private. Food addicts usually eat normal in public or in the presence of friends and family in order to hide their disorderly eating habits.
A consequence of food addiction is consuming a very large number of calories in a very short amount of time. This sort of overeating often leads to weight gain. While most overeaters try to lose weight they generally fail. Instead they go through cycles of dieting followed by overeating. Many food addicts are classified by doctors as having binge eating disorder.
Overeating has other serious consequences including heart disease, diabetes, high cholesterol, and depression. There are also long term consequences such as stroke, arthritis, kidney disease, and bone deterioration.
Eating large amounts of food very quickly, preoccupation with body weight, constant feeling of hunger, mood swings, depression a history of unsuccessful dieting, a history of weight fluctuation and eating little in public while being clearly overweight are all signs shared by sufferers of food addiction.
Often food addicts consume a huge amount of calories in a day resulting in an addictive “high” and feelings of release from emotional or psychological stress. Most of their overeating is often a form of emotional eating or eating to comfort tough emotions.
Therapy and counseling are common forms of recovery methods for food addicts. A critical part of counseling is working with the patient on creating healthier habits to deal with emotional and psychological stress instead of resorting to food for comfort. Another important part of recovery is helping the sufferer become more aware of why and how much he or she eats. This is often done through journaling and working on being more present minded.
While food addiction shares some commonalities with bulimia they are both very different eating disorder. Food addiction is characterized by overeating or binge eating. Bulimia is characterized by overeating or binge eating followed by purging. For bulimics common forms of purging include fasting, vomiting, excessively exercising, or using laxatives.
Food addictions, bulimia and other eating disorders are most common among younger women in their teens or twenties. It sometimes takes years of therapy to treat an eating disorder however therapy does seem to be a very effective treatment. There are even therapists who specialize only in eating disorders.
There are also many support groups for eating disorder recovery. Such support groups include ANAD and overeaters anonymous. Many support groups follow a strict 12 step recovery program. Others follow more flexible recovery plans providing advice and letting the food addict make progress at his or her own pace. In either case support groups are a great way to build accountability and peer support. Attending a support groups is great step to recovering from an eating disorder.