Food addiction is also referred to as compulsive overeating. A food addict will show an extreme and irrational desire for food, almost bordering on obsession. Food addiction does not mean just one-time binging on food – even a grazing obsession, in which a person consumes bits of food all through the day, is a kind of food addiction. Grazing is the most common kind of food addiction.
Compulsive overeating is a very common problem found over the world today. More than 75% of the world population suffers from some sort of food compulsion or the other, especially in the advanced countries. Though the definition of food addiction would make it seem to be an individual problem, its effects would definitely concern the people associated with the compulsive overeater.
How to Identify the Food Addiction Problem?
The borderline between eating and overeating is very fine. In fact, a person may not know he or she is overeating until it is too late. There are some early signs, though, which can detect the problem.
The most revealing of those signs are as follows:-
- Eating even when not hungry,
- Eating faster than what is considered normal,
- Excessive drooling when near food, even when the stomach is full,
- Fantasizing about food,
- Fluctuating body weight.
What Causes Food Addiction?
The causes of food addiction are not yet investigated thoroughly. However, psychoanalysts feel overeating has emotional roots. Overeating is often found in people who have been shunned and have had stressful episodes in their childhood. Initial rejection makes certain people turn towards food. An emotional imbalance makes such people find solace in eating. This ‘eating as a way of getting out of depression’ continues in adult life, and they turn into compulsive overeaters.
There have been hereditary strains found among food addicts, which rule out the possibility of an emotional cause. Yet, both theories persist currently.
Effects of Food Addiction
The primary effects of food addiction are directly related to the person’s health. Overeating causes obesity, which makes the metabolism of the person much slower than normal. The person may suffer from several dietary disorders such as constipation, flatulence, acidity, etc. Due to an excessive buildup of fat in the body, there may be respiratory and cardiac problems in the long run. Several food addicts have known to have died of heart seizures.
Food addiction also brings on psychological problems in the individual. Being generally overweight, the person would develop an inferiority complex. The erroneous (and often embarrassing) eating habits would make the person prefer to eat alone. This would seriously tamper the social life of the food addict. Since most food addicts know the negative repercussions of their habit, each bout of binging is followed by a sense of guilt, which may lead to depression.
How to Combat Food Addiction?
Combating food addiction is not that easy; it requires a severe determination on the part of the addict to come out of the addiction. There is an Overeaters’ Anonymous, just like the Alcoholics’ Anonymous, which has chalked out a twelve point program to combat overeating. The basic point of this program is abstinence from food. Holistic approaches have also been devised, in which the overeater is kept occupied with other interesting pursuits to take the mind off food.