Food addiction is a real though a relatively new type of addition. It is similar to other unhealthy eating habits and disorders ranging from binge eating disorder to bulimia and more. The term ‘food addiction’ has been coined because of the way it triggers the same areas in the brain that drug addiction does.
When you are addicted to junk food, particularly sugary sodas and fried foods, the same reward centers are lit up in your brain that drugs power up. This influence of food on you is caused by neurotransmitters such as dopamine. People who have this condition may have a hard time keeping their distance from certain foods.
When you have such an unhealthy relationship with food, it can be difficult to prioritize your health, or your weight loss goals. Many people think that they are unable to abstain from unhealthy junk foods because of lack of willpower. But being addicted to food is a lot more complicated than that. Look at food addiction like being addicted to meth and to understand how complex the problem is.
How Does It Work?
Your brain has a reward system. The reward regions of your brain are stimulated to make you feel good when you do something that supports your survival. Now when you eat something, your brain acknowledges it as right and releases feel good chemicals including dopamine. It’s your brain’s mechanism to indulge in behaviors that trigger the reward system.
Now when you consume junk food, your brain triggers a stronger reward response than when you eat whole foods such as vegetables. For instance, when you eat your regular homemade cobb salad only a moderate amount of dopamine is released. However, when you eat ice-cream or drink soda, your brain releases a huge amount of feel good chemicals.
Tolerance and Withdrawal
Like any other addiction, food addiction also comes with tolerance and withdrawal. Basically, when your dopamine levels go too high, your brain downregulates them to maintain a balance. This means that dopamine receptors are removed. Now with fewer dopamine receptors, you need more junk food to reach the same level of reward and dopamine release. This is called tolerance.
Due to fewer dopamine receptors, you tend to feel unhappy until you don’t get more of what you are addicted to. This is known as withdrawal. Both tolerance and withdrawal are what show physical addiction. These traits of junk food addiction can affect your behavior and thought process. This is why, you may need professional help to get free from the clutches of food addiction.
How To Stop Your Cravings For Junk Food
In extreme cases, you need professional help. However, there are some steps that you can take yourself to stop your cravings for junk food. These include the following:
- Recognizing the cons of eating junk
- Setting goals and sticking to them
- Informing a close friend about your plan to be able to follow it
- Tossing out unhealthy snacks from your home
- Eating healthier, more filling foods
- Learning how to cook delicious recipes to satiate hunger
- Reducing stress and sleeping an ample amount
- Exercising regularly and having healthier habits