Saturday, March 12, 2016

Food Addiction and Obesity



Eating healthy and losing weight seems downright impossible for many people. Despite their best intentions, they repeatedly find themselves eating large amounts of unhealthy foods, despite knowing that it is causing them harm. Food addiction is a very serious problem and one of the main reasons some people just can’t control themselves around certain foods, no matter how hard they try. 
A food addiction is a behavioral addiction that is characterized by the compulsive over-consumption of certain foods. It is usually framed as an emotional issue, but it is in fact largely a biochemical problem. Nobody chooses addiction. These behaviors arise from primitive neurochemical reward centers in the brain that override normal willpower and, in the case of food addictions, overwhelm the ordinary biological signals that control hunger. Scientists are finding high-fat, high-sugar foods can trigger lasting brain changes that might make it difficult to resist overeating. Furthermore, those changes resemble what happens in the brain when someone is addicted to drugs, such as alcohol.
Why is it so hard for obese people to lose weight despite the social stigma and health consequences such as high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, and even cancer? It is because in the vast majority of cases, processed foods made of sugar, fat, and salt are addictive and we are biologically wired to crave these foods and eat as much of them as possible. Many people use food as a comfort when feeling down, depressed, anxious, stressed or angry. Foods high in sugar, salt, starch and fat can trigger the brain with "feel-good" chemicals. When food addicts experience pleasure from feel-good chemicals, such as dopamine that are released after eating certain foods, they quickly feel the need to eat again. Scientists believe this is the link between food addiction and obesity.

Signs and symptoms of Food Addiction
A person with symptoms of compulsive overeating has what can be characterized as an addiction to food. She uses food and eating as a way to hide from or manage her emotions, to fill a void she feels inside, or to cope with daily stresses and problems in her life. The following are some behavioral and emotional signs and symptoms of food addiction:
  • Inability to stop eating or control what is eaten
  • Awareness that eating patterns are abnormal
  • Eating alone due to shame and embarrassment
  • Feelings of guilt due to overeating
  • Binge eating, or eating uncontrollably even when not physically hungry
  • Eating much more rapidly than normal

Stop Food Addiction with Mindful Eating

Mindful eating involves paying full attention to the experience of eating and drinking, both inside and outside the body.  Many people who struggle with food react mindlessly to their unrecognized or unexamined triggers, thoughts, and feelings. In other words, they re-act-repeating past actions again and again-feeling powerless to change. Mindfulness increases your awareness of these patterns without judgment and creates space between your triggers and your actions. Mindful eating can diminish and even stop problems with food addiction. This works in several ways, specifically, by helping you disrupt the link between your urges and eating behaviors.
Kepha Nyanumba (Consultant Nutritionist, AAR Healthcare Ltd). Email: kephanyanumba@gmail.com/ kepha.nyanumba@aar-healthcare.com, Follow me on twitter: knyanumba or kephanyanumba.blogspot.com.

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