Nope! You’re not a food addict and you don't lack discipline. If you’ve been dieting for years or restricting food, you have a normal response to diet mentality that drives you to crave and eat foods you’ve deemed forbidden. Even if you’re not on an official diet but you’re not eating enough or you tell yourself “I shouldn’t be eating this..” your brain senses restriction. Since food is a basic need, like oxygen, the mere thoughts of restriction tell our body to increase cravings and preoccupation with food to make sure we get enough. When food is restricted, it increases the dopamine and reward response to food, making it more desirable.
The only study that has shown sugar addiction was in rats and it only happened after they were RESTRICTED from food for 12 hours. (Carr 2011)
In a study of binge eaters, including forbidden foods as part of the treatment plan notably decreased binges (Kristeller and Wolever 2011). If food addiction was really an addiction, then giving someone the food wouldn’t help treat it.
One other reason you may feel addicted to food is because of habit and conditioning. For example, if you’re used to having a snack while watching TV, your brain will always expect it. When you work on decoupling these activities, you can break the habit.
So many women and men I've worked with truly believe they're food addicts. They say that without rules they won't stop eating once they start. As we've worked together on making peace with food, eating more mindfully, and getting in tune with their hunger and fullness, they've become shocked to learn they're not food addicts after all. Now they can leave half their plate if they're full or keep a family size bag of chips in the house without worrying if they'll eat the whole thing in one sitting. Isn't it ironic the more control we try to have over food, the less in-control we actually are?
Use your own experiences:
Think of the foods you feel most out of control around (carbs, ice cream, pizza, cookies, peanut butter?). Do you allow yourself to eat these foods normally? Do you label these foods as good or bad?
If you answer yes to any of these, working on normalizing these foods with a dietitian or therapist will help give you peace and make mental space for everything else in your life. You’ll be able to keep these foods in your house without stressing and go out to to social gatherings without worrying about “being good.” 🦋
Schedule a complimentary discovery call to work together if you’re struggling and want to make peace with food, end chronic dieting and rediscover the joy of eating. 🌱❤️