Is it possible to be addicted to food?

A recent study by the Scripps Research Institute found that rats given a regular diet of bacon, sausages, chocolate and cheesecake had significant elevations of two neurochemicals, dopamine and serotonin. These chemicals affect the brain’s pleasure centers and when elevated make you feel “really good.” When the rats’ diets were altered, and only “healthy foods” were then offered, the rats refused to eat and were actually willing to starve while hopefully waiting for a reintroduction of the pleasure (high fat) diet.

So there is no doubt in the minds of many experts that if a person eats this kind of high fat diet, they too will become “addicted in a sense” to the ingredients, and to the feeling inspired by the foods’ neuro-chemical impact. On the other hand, most people who struggle with weight issues simply use food as a form of self-medication, when they are emotional or even bored. No doubt, as a corollary, the heightened pleasure they feel when they eat these foods momentarily helps to fuel the vicious cycle.

So experts suggest you swap out other behaviors instead of eating when you feel your emotions raging. Exercise can certainly elevate the same brain chemicals and also help you to channel your feelings in a positive way. Choosing to make sure there are few food temptations in the home can help too. Turning to a buddy or engaging socially to help you manage a sudden moment of food craving can be great alternative responses that replace food. Try to identify “risk situations” so you can be prepared to thwart the urge to eat. Set a limit to the portion size or calorie amount of food that you do grab, so at least you feel somewhat in control. Finally, remember that these habit changes take time, so don’t get frustrated if you can’t sustain these behavioral changes consistently in the beginning.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.