By: Alonso Chavarriaga
While you may appear to be a food addict, these examples can exist as totally normal behavior. Real addiction is a serious and potentially life-threatening problem, and scientific studies are continuing to find that food, like drugs and alcohol, can be addictive.
Food Addiction Can Lead to Dangerous Behavior
So, what exactly is food addiction? Addiction treatment and recovery specialist, Vera Tarman, MD, best describes it as a “continuum of desire,” where people obsess and think about food continuously throughout the day. Food is engineered to be hyper-palatable, and for some, it’s too good to resist. It can get to the point where it begins to affect everyday life just like any other addiction.
Food addiction truly starts to become a problem when it leads to irrational behavior -- such as stealing food because it’s getting too expensive -- or lying to others about food so you have more for yourself. Compared to alcoholism, it’s the difference between a heavy drinker and an alcoholic; a heavy drinker does not take more drinks when it’s time to go home. An alcoholic, on the other hand, cannot say no and continues to seek drinks.
Even when your health is at stake, excuses are constantly being churned out to justify and rationalize your behavior. If you are diabetic for example, you may continue to eat unhealthy foods because it doesn’t directly affect your symptoms.
Are You a Food Addict?
A new test called the Yale Food Addiction Scale was created to determine how severe a food addiction is. It’s still being fine-tuned for clinical use, and is currently only used as a research tool. In lieu of the Yale Food Addiction Scale, a common test administered to potential food addicts involves asking 20 questions, similar to those presented at 12-step programs. Like the Yale Food Addiction Scale, this method is a great way to identify addiction and determine the level of denial, craving, and obsession.
- Do you eat in secret or hide food so you may eat it later?
- Do you eat even when you’re not hungry?
- Do you exercise excessively just so you can control weight without changing diet?
- Do you throw away food and eat it from the garbage at a later date?
In this segment, Dr. Tarman defines food addiction, how it differs from binge eating, and questions to ask yourself if you think you're addicted to food.