Are you suffering from food addiction or just craving?
Food addiction or just craving is something that most of us are struggling with but have no idea what it is. Conventionally our brains are capable of learning and memorizing sensory inputs, including those that accompany the consumption of food and drink intake. From the taste of foods to their gastrointestinal sensations and sociologic associations, nutrition takes on many psychological attributes that in many patients consequently overtake normal physiology, resulting in strong cravings, addictions, as well as food intolerances.
An astonishing fact is that alcohol addiction and drug addiction activate the same brain reward centers as junk foods. Normal individuals who are typically healthy with standard range of weight to height ratio, by definition do not suffer from food addiction; however, some overweight and obese individuals meet the criteria for addictive behavior established by psychiatric communities, such as continuing a behavior in the face of known negative consequences. Something worth noting is that while high-sweet and high-fat foods are not in themselves responsible for the obesity problem, the marketing and availability of these foods in an obesogenic environment (the sum of influences that the surroundings, opportunities, or conditions of life have on promoting obesity in individuals or populations) enables addiction in susceptible individuals.
While classic drugs of abuse activate similar brain centers as some foods, a major difference is the lack of withdrawal symptoms when the consumption of the addictive food is stopped. Food addiction is fundamentally a behavioral disorder. There is evidence that some people lose control over their food consumption, failing to reduce their intake and continuing to eat foods in the face of known negative consequences.
Those who meet the diagnostic criteria for food addiction have significantly greater health issues, including binge eating disorder, depression, and attention-deficit or hyperactivity disorder, than their age-weight matched counterparts. Individuals with food addiction are also more impulsive and display greater emotional reactivity than other obese individuals that don’t have food addiction. They also display greater food cravings and the tendency to “self-soothe” with food.
The diagnosis of food addiction is based on psychological processes of ambivalence and attribution, operating together with normal mechanisms of appetite control, the hedonic effects of certain foods, and socioculturally determined perceptions of appropriate intakes and of those foods. Ambivalence is the idea that some foods are “nice but naughty,” (harmful distasteful, or reprehensible, but still irresistibly enjoyable, attractive, or desirable) as has been used to market chocolate. There is a mixed message here that chocolate is great tasting and has physiologically positive and rewarding effects, but should be eaten with restraint. Attempts to restrict intake, however, cause the desire for chocolate to become more salient, an experience that is then labelled as a craving.