Food Addiction: What is it?

While there are numerous medically recognised addictions food isn’t really one of them, you’ll find a lot of people believe that when you say you’re addicted to food you are just making excuses. You will also notice stark similarities between food addiction and what is known as Binge Eating Disorder (BED), this is because the two go hand in hand.

Food addiction is all too real and can massively effect your life but it is easy to confuse it with other disorders, it is not simply overeating. Overeating is what you might do on Christmas Day when you have that second helping of turkey despite being full, whereas binge eating – a common symptom of a food addiction – is over eating and experience a complete loss of control, you will keep eating even when you feel uncomfortably full. Food addiction symptoms include:

  • Eating when you’re not hungry
  • Constantly worrying about cutting down on certain foods
  • Feeling tired and sluggish after eating
  • Continuing to eat large amounts of food despite it no longer feeling good and regardless of the negative consequences
  • Craving or even obsessing about certain foods
  • Eating more rapidly than what is considered “normal”
  • Hiding food
  • Eating alone due to a feeling of embarrassment because of eating habits

So what causes food addiction? To be perfectly honest, like most mental disorders there is no one clear cut answer to that. They believe that a number of factors contribute to it including:

  • Early and frequent exposure to highly processed food
  • The aggressive marketing of junk food through various forms of media
  • Low cultural tolerance of addiction
  • Eating out of season & having access to all types of food all year round
  • The low cost of “hyper palatable” foods
  • High levels of sugar consumption
  • Global increase of portions
  • Genetics

If you really think about these causes you can probably pin point quite a few examples in your life of what may have been the starting point. You’ll also probably start to realise that most of these causes aren’t really in our control but rather that of the food industry – sugar, chemicals and all the other nastiness they sneak into our packaged food to make them hyper palatable, they may as well be injecting them with class A drugs. Anything that is high in fat or high in sugar (and more often than not, both) is considered hyper palatable, it’s what we have been programmed to love and crave and if you think about it it makes sense. When the human race was young the fight for food was intense, hunting, gathering, farming and cultivating; the foods that did us the most good were those high in fat and high in sugar both of which we needed for energy but these things were limited and humans would be running around and doing things, walking, riding horses, hunting for hours on end. Thing is as we have evolved we have gotten lazy, we chose convenience over effort but that instinctual need for fat and sugar is still there, only now we don’t do much with it once we’ve consumed it.

Everyone has their trigger food, be it French fries, chocolate, bread, ice cream, cookies, peanut butter, pasta. Any carb rich, sugar rich foods are going to be your trigger, I can’t imagine there are many food addicts who can honestly say cucumber is their trigger food. These are the things you turn to when you’re having a down day, when you’re bored, when you’re stressed. If you really think about it you can probably figure it out straight away, if not then give it a few days and really think about what you’re eating and what you’re craving, it will soon be glaringly obvious.

A lot of food addicts form out of other things, it can be a replacement for a previous addiction – smoking, drinking even drugs, people who suffer with depression often find it very easy to find comfort in food and it easily becomes a crutch, there are lots of things that can push you over the edge and after a little reflection you can probably whittle down what set you off. When I started to look back I thought I knew what it was immediately but as I thought about it I found myself going “oh no wait but before that this happened” and I kept going until there was no more to go back to – but I’ll save that for another post.

A lot of food addicts will turn straight to self hate, they will blame themselves for being too fat, too skinny, too this, too that – or even not enough this or that. Self hate is a massive part of food addiction and one of the biggest barriers to overcome, when you think about it it is exactly what keeps you stuck in the cycle of eat, hate, eat again. Recovery is about learning to love yourself again and realising that it’s your eating disorder you should learn to break up with.

On a side note, I would like to point out that I am not a doctor, I am not certified in any way. All of this information is based on my own research and reading.
References –

Binge Eating and Overeating: What’s the Difference? – Food Addiction Infographic and Food Addiction Quiz
Life Without Ed by Jenni Schaefer


  1. This is all so real. And something I work with my therapist on all the time. People don’t realize that food addiction is so very real. Thank you for speaking about it!


  2. I used to have real problems with food when I was a teenager. But all problems disappeared once I stopped thinking that I should be on a diet and not eating something!


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