After I posted about my own experiences of food addiction, there was a lot of people reaching out and expressing they felt they might be addicts too. Food addiction isn't talked about or often diagnosed in this country, so I thought I'd post the 8 diagnsis points for food addiction and share some of my own experiences of each...
1. Cravings Despite Being Full
Cravings after eating is nothing to write home about, most people do it. However, if you're craving so hard you can't resist after eating a nutritious meal until your full on a regular basis (more than 4 times a week), then this could be a sign of food addiction.
Important to remember, this craving is not about your need for energy or nutrients, it is your brain calling for something that releases dopamine in the reward system of the brain.
My Experience: I eat a huge Sunday dinner and want cake afterwards. I eat a decent plate of food of anything and I spend the 20 minutes after it craving crisps, chocolate etc even if I'm full to bursting. I'd say realistically I do this most nights.
2. Eating More than Intended - The "All Or Nothing" Response
For some people, there is NO such thing as a bite of chocolate or a single piece of cake. One bite turns into 20 and one slice of cake turns into half a cake. This is an “all or nothing” phenomenon that is common with addicts of all sorts. There is no such thing as “moderation” – it simply does not work. Telling a food addict to eat junk food in moderation is kind of like telling an alcoholic to drink beer in moderation… it’s just not possible.
Important to remember: Most food addicts have a trigger food they find they have a very strong all or nothing response to, these foods must be avoided to avoid relapse.
My Experience: Eating 2 whole cans of Pringles in 1 sitting because I have no "stop" button. Ordering a chicken bbq pizza, chips and garlic mayonnaise, polishing that off and then calling the takeaway back for more chips. The day I identified my trigger foods was the day I got my willpower
3. Eat Until Feeling Excessively “Stuffed”
If you give into a craving (see symptom 1) and decide to indulge, you then go on to eat more and more until you feel so completely stuffed you're uncomfortable or even in pain. This is also a symptom common in alcoholics who drink so much it causes them physical pain yet they continue regardless.
Important to Remember: This is not talking about a bit of a tight belly, it's referencing nausea, bloat and tightness that's painful.
My Experience: Sitting in a Frankie & Bennies a year ago unable to get out of the seat I was in because I felt so sick and bloated. I'd eaten a sharing starter pretty much to myself, plus a calzone with chips etc and then, even though I was already in pain, a sharing sundae... to myself.
4. Feel Guilty Afterwards, But do it Again Soon
"A guilty Conscience" around food isn't too uncommon even among none addicted consumers. The difference is a food addict will feel guilt, maybe even self loathing for over indulging but then will do it again very soon afterwards.
Important to remember: Repeatedly eating foods you feel guilty about creates a destructive cyclical relationship with food that can result in food phobias and eating disorders... yes, you can be fat and anorexic.
My Experience: There's not really 1 event to pin point here, I've eaten many things and felt guilty many many times!
5. Making up Excuses in Your Head
When you have decided to abstain from junk food on a particular day but a craving shows up anyway, you can imagine two forces being at play in your mind. One of them is the logical, rational decision you had made to abstain from junk food. Perhaps you decided to only "cheat" on Saturdays. But the other force is the craving… today is a Wednesday and you feel like having something sweet in the afternoon. A none food addict might hold out, a food addict will have a thought process something like this:
"If I eat today I can be good on Saturday instead"
"It's Wednesday which is half way through the week, at half way I deserve a treat"
"It's only one slip up, I'll get back on the wagon soon"
And it goes on.
Important to Remember: For alcoholics this is called "rationalisation" and it's a pretty common symptom throughout all addictions.
My Experience: PETROL STATIONS. "When I go to the petrol station I can have a treat only when I'm filling the car up"... then a week later I'm pulling onto the petrol station with a full tank just to get chocolate with the rationale "I'll stick a bit of fuel in now and it's longer then until I need to fill up"
6. Repeated Failures at Setting Rules For Yourself
When people are struggling with self-control in one way or another, they often try to set rules for themselves. For example… only sleep in on the weekends, always do homework right after school, never drink coffee after 2 pm. Sound familiar? There are few things that are as hopeless as setting rules about eating, especially for those who have problems with cravings. One cheat meal per week… two cheat meals per week… one cheat day, Saturday, where all bets are off… only eat junk food at parties, birthdays and holidays...
Important to Remember: Addicts view the payoff of the indulgence as higher than the pay off of resisting.
My Experience: Junk food once a month... takeaway only once a fortnight... no caffeine... no eating after 6pm.... no eating inbetween meals.... no eating (meal replacement shakes)... and on and on....
7. Hiding Your Consumption From Others
Secret eating is one of my massive issues. This is when you hide wrappers or foods from family and friends. For food addicts it can manifest as not eating in front of others, eating only outside the home, "stashing" food etc.
Important to remember: Drug addicts and alcoholics do this too, hiding your consumption is a universal trait for addicts.
My Experience! HAA! Where to start... I eat Pringles in the bathroom at home, I throw the wrappers (and now most other things) in the outside bin in a carrier bag so you cant see it when you open the bin lid. I eat junk food in my car on the way home and throw wrappers away before I get home. I used to LOOK FORWARD to my boyfriend working in the evening so I could have a takeaway....
8. Unable to Quit Despite Physical Problems
Here we are at the deal breaker. You are killing yourself with food, but you continue to eat. You are aware that having high fat high sugar food puts a strain on your body but you do it anyway because you physically can't stop.
Important to Remember: Dug addicts and alcoholics kill themselves with their substances all the time, so do we.
My Experience: I was 19st at 24 years old. I couldn't walk up stairs without getting out of breath. I felt tired and ill all the time because of my weight.... and I kept on eating.
Finally, just so you know I'm not making this up, I want to point you to the source for this information. For any study on food addiction we have to go to the USA. Yale university developed a "food addiction scale" which is available in PDF here: midss.org/content/yale-food...
Answer the questions and use the second PDF to see where you score.
Apologies for the lengthy post guys!