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What makes food an addiction

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Old 06-05-2014, 08:16 AM   #31
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Anyway, I think being dismissive of the idea of addiction altogether is oddly ignorant (in this day and age) of established medical science. Ignorance is bliss, since someone who says that has probably not closely known anyone in their life who struggled heavily with addiction.
Ignorance is a very strong and not necessary word to use against someone who doesn't agree with what you believe. I'm not a scientist so I refrain from doing back and forths about data and research. I know that whatever kind of study I pull someone will pull an opposing study. That's the way that it goes with science and data, there are scientists that disagree with each other, that's the whole basis of science. Our research is driven by our own needs and experiences. We're all guilty of picking a side and then finding the research to back it up.

Alocohol, cocaine, and nicotine - those are all substances that your body does not need to survive. They can be eliminated, it's the only way to treat those addictions. Food cannot be eliminated, it's proven medical science that your brain runs on glucose, it does not run on protein. I definitely think that junk food companies benefit from making their food as cheap as possible and as tempting as possible, that's all about their bottom dollar. But that doesn't mean that everyone is susceptible to being addicted to it, there is nothing ignorant about that. I have no food addictions, I know my body, I understand this may be upsetting to other people but look around, there's lots of people who are not addicted to food.
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Old 06-05-2014, 02:14 PM   #32
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And there are a lot of people who aren't addicted to nicotine, caffeine, cocaine, and heroine.

Addiction is not a "normal" reaction, so there are always more non-addicts than addicts. That doesn't mean addiction doesn't exist. There are actually very few substances that are universally addictive. If you force feed someone heroine or other narcotics they will become physically and psychologically dependent on the drug, but even then only a fraction would continue to have difficulty after being weaned from the drug.

It's very convenient to assume that addictions do not exist, just because you haven't experienced them.

For most of my life, I rejected the idea of food addiction (even when I felt completely powerless over some foods). After reading Kessler's book, I find it impossible to dismiss food addiction so easily.

Also, food addicts very much CAN eliminate their substance of choice, because no one is addicted to broccoli. Every one of the foods that are addictive can be eliminated from the diet with no adverse heallth effects.

No one NEEDS concentated sources of sugar, salt, and fat.
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Old 06-05-2014, 03:30 PM   #33
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I don't see an issue with my word choice. Ignorance implies neither malice nor stupidity, just a lack of knowledge. And in this case, some empathy.

As I said, I agree that the issue is a bit blurry when we use hyperbolic language about food issues, and that most (but not all) people who say they have food "addictions" probably don't meet clinical definitions of addiction. I was completely blown away when this thread turned away from food cravings to the casual, wholesale dismissal of addiction in general. Some of these posts are just bizarre to me. I honestly thought that most reasonably educated people knew better in this day and age. Again, I find a silver lining in that, because it makes me think their lives have not been touched in some way by the scourge.

In general, I would agree that too many people discount their willpower and personal responsibility with their food choices. But gee willikers. Do people out there really think that a krokodil addict with their skin rotting off is just too weak and lazy to quit? I'd have thought there'd be more empathy in this crowd.
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Old 06-05-2014, 09:24 PM   #34
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I can only speak for myself but I don't question the addictive properties of many substances. But addiction comprises of a number of factors including long term exposure and abuse of that substance. Those are behavioral components. I have tremendous empathy for someone struggling with addiction, that's why I don't think it's fair to compare a sweet tooth to a heroin addiction.
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Old 06-05-2014, 09:40 PM   #35
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Originally Posted by Desiderata View Post
I don't see an issue with my word choice. Ignorance implies neither malice nor stupidity, just a lack of knowledge. And in this case, some empathy.

As I said, I agree that the issue is a bit blurry when we use hyperbolic language about food issues, and that most (but not all) people who say they have food "addictions" probably don't meet clinical definitions of addiction. I was completely blown away when this thread turned away from food cravings to the casual, wholesale dismissal of addiction in general. Some of these posts are just bizarre to me. I honestly thought that most reasonably educated people knew better in this day and age. Again, I find a silver lining in that, because it makes me think their lives have not been touched in some way by the scourge.

In general, I would agree that too many people discount their willpower and personal responsibility with their food choices. But gee willikers. Do people out there really think that a krokodil addict with their skin rotting off is just too weak and lazy to quit? I'd have thought there'd be more empathy in this crowd.
Well-said. Back to OP's question, what makes a food addictive for me is when eating it makes me want to eat more instead of just feel satisfied.

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Old 06-06-2014, 04:11 AM   #36
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I can only speak for myself but I don't question the addictive properties of many substances. But addiction comprises of a number of factors including long term exposure and abuse of that substance. Those are behavioral components. I have tremendous empathy for someone struggling with addiction, that's why I don't think it's fair to compare a sweet tooth to a heroin addiction.
It's also unfair to compare an ordinary sweet tooth to most food addictions.

Or to compare social drinking to alcoholism.

With some substances, addiction can occur in as little as one dose (in the case of heroine and morphine). Others require longer us. The lines between responsible use, abuse and addiction aren't always clear.

Alcohol use, abuse and even addiction are entirely legal (at least for adults). As a result, the consequences for alcohol addiction is generally less severe than for that of heroine addiction, but we use the same word.

Maybe addiction isn't the best word (though there isn't currently a better one). Or maybe addiction needs to be further quantified according to the severity of consequences (which is actually done in clinical settings).

Food addiction, food abuse, carb ddiction, carb abuse, carb dependence, sugar addiction, sugar/fat/salt addiction or abuse, conditioned hypereating.......

I don't care what we call it, as long as we understand that it does exist, and equating a sweet tooth with food addiction is as insulting as equating an occasional glass of wine with alcoholism.

Some people find it easier to avoid x altogether than to use x in moderation.

That's all we really need to know, and it doesn't really matter what we call it.

Food addiction can destroy lives and damage relationships. True the consequences tend to be less severe and slower progressing than with some other problem substances and behaviors, but to dismiss it as nonexistent is naive (a synonym for ignorant, really).

I think there is a distinction to be made between the many degrees of addictive behaviors and their consequences. I don't think it's as simple as the addictive substance/behavior.

The severity of addictions is measured by the consequences, not the identity of the substance/behavior. How much damage is done to a person's body, mind, and degree of functionality in daily life. How has it damaged interpersonal relationships....

In that regard there are sex addicts, food addicts, and shopping addicts who have more severe addictions than some alcoholics and cocaine addicts.

If you can say that your use of ______ has never felt out of your direct control, and has had no negative impacts on your health, employment, social relationships or quality of life, then you can rule out abuse or addiction for whatever you put in that blank.


The addiction model, whether or not addiction is the "right" word, can be very helpfl in the treatment of eating disorders including anorexia and bulimia.

Ironically, it's generally easier for people to see anorexia and bulimia (well, as long as the bulimic is of average weight or under) as a disease or disorder than overeating and severe obesity, which are often attributed to simple greed, gluttony, and sloth.

The addiction model may not fit, but right now there isn't a better one.
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Old 06-06-2014, 06:15 AM   #37
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This is a very interesting thread. I'll just throw my two cents in if you don't mind.

I think that the problem with the term 'food addiction' is that it implies you feel as if you can't live without it - which is absolutely true! For this reason you can't compare it to drugs and alcohol additction. Perhaps 'food abuse' is a better term?

I think we people abuse food, it's for various reasons. For me it's to numb my senses or distract me something stressful, temporarily making me feel better. Everyone does it to some extent. It's when it starts causing impacting negatively on your life that it becomes a problem.

At the same time, I agree that some foods have addictive properties e.g. by giving you a sugar/caffeine high. These foods are tempting because they give you a bigger hit, but I think people need to ask themselves why they need that in the first place.
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Old 06-06-2014, 06:18 AM   #38
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Obesity/overweight leads to changes in biochemistry. You can shut down your gene expression of fat burning, down regulate it. So your body is used to/ forced to keep you hungry for carbs....constantly. It is experienced as addiction but also has a biochemical basis.

But way of eating determines biochemistry. You can up regulate your fat burning. By eating more fats, lowering your carbs.

Your mine everyone's body is very smart and powerful. Also when eating high carb you often don't get the nutirients your body needs. You can eat 5,000 calories a day. It doesn't matter. Your body will keep you hungry until you get the nutrient dense food and fat it needs.

When I switched to high quality fats and lowered carbs my hunger went away. Closest thing to 'magic' I've ever experienced. But in reality backed by science. In fact I knew this was likely to happen because so many people reported it before me and explained the science.

Ultimately I decided my food choices were, by far and away, the biggest determinant of my hunger. If I changed my biochemistry I changed my hunger and relationship to foods for life. I urge everyone to try clean for a month, no processed food, no or little grain, much more fat. You can then add stuff back and see how you do. Yes not a fun month. But a super fun life for ever after, afterwards.
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Old 06-06-2014, 07:21 AM   #39
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Default Addiction defined #1

Here is a definition of addiction that I like that is used by a psychiatrist who successfully treated people with addictions for years. He lists 5 essential characteristics:

Addiction is any compulsive, habitual behavior that limits the freedom of human desire. It is caused by the attachment, or nailing, of desire to specific objects.

1) Tolerance. Wanting or needing more of a substance to feel satisfied

2) Withdrawal symptoms. Two types of withdrawal symptoms are experienced when an addictive behavior is curtailed. The first is a stress reaction.When the body is deprived of something it has become accustomed to, it responds with danger signals, as if something is wrong. The response is mediated by the autonomic part of the nervous system... Stress reactions may range from mild uneasiness & irritability to extreme agitation with rapid pulse, tremors, & overwhelming panic.

The second type of withdrawal symptom is a rebound or backlash reaction. The person experiences symptoms that are the exact opposite of those caused by the addictive behavior itself. Backlashes occur because the body's balancing mechanisms have become dependent on a particular substance or pattern of behavior....
continued...

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Old 06-06-2014, 07:40 AM   #40
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Default Addiction defined #2

Addiction defined & described, contd.

3. Self-deception. One of the most significant hallmarks of addiction is the exquisite inventiveness that the mind can demonstrate in order to perpetuate addictive behaviors. Here, where the will fights against itself in a morass of mixed motivations & contradictory desires, the creative power of the brain is used unconsciously to subvert each & every attempt to control the addictive behavior. Mind tricks are so malignant, and have such a corrosive effect on self-esteem, that I will be discussing them at some length...

4. Loss of Willpower. As soon as one tries to control any truly addictive behavior by making autonomous intentional resolutions, one begins to defeat oneself....A fundamental mind trick of addiction is focusing attention on willpower....
Loss of willpower is especially important for defining the difference between the slavery of true addiction & the freedom of...choosing to satisfy simple desires. If you find yourself saying "I can handle it" or "I can do without it" try to perform a very simple test; simply go ahead and stop it. Do without it. If you are successful, there is no addiction. If you cannot stop, no amount of rationalization will change the fact that addiction exists.

5. Distortion of attention. The mind is often able to keep these addictions hidden, even from ourselves, as long as we are getting a sufficient supply of the object of attachment & are experiencing no great conflict about it....Addiction & its associated mind tricks inevitably kidnap & distort our attention.


Addiction and Grace by Gerald May MD 1988 He published it before the obesity epidemic. His example to illustrate addiction to the non-addicted population was simply someone who had used nasal drops for a cold and became addicted to the relief they provided. His work also pre-dates recent findings about neurological pathways such as reward centers in the brain, which tend to corroborate his description and nail it to our anatomy & physiology. This is where Kessler's book goes Part 1 and hence is that much more convincing, imho.

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Old 06-06-2014, 08:14 AM   #41
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I was going to add some scientific blather, but everyone else did it!!! [thanks Kaplods, mars, freelancemomma!]

but I do need to say this - after my gastric bypass surgery, i realized that i was using 'something in my mouth' to ground me when i was having any sort of emotion. Then I realized that unless i broke that connection, I would NOT be able to lose and maintain.

It took WEEKS to get it under control. I wouldn't even have tea [black, sweetener] if i wanted it because i was feeling [anxious, angry, sad, depressed, whatever]. I forced myself to sit with the emotion until it passed. I HATED IT. And I have to confess that I ended up pretty darned dehydrated on some days [dangerous!!].

Addicted? I don't know. When I have a craving, I distract, distract, delay, delay. If, after a couple of days, I still want it, I have some. And I do mean SOME - a couple of cookies, a mini pastry, a little chocolate, a small serving of pasta - of whatever it might be. But more often than not, I forget and life goes on.

I STILL hate sitting in the emotion. I'd STILL much rather have something in my mouth. But it's not the end of the world.
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Old 06-06-2014, 09:48 AM   #42
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I do believe I'm addicted to food, despite what anyone else may think. In fact, I'm doing a 12 step program (OA) and it's helping me right now more than the countless other things I've tried. My life is still the same, but I feel free.
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Old 06-06-2014, 10:12 AM   #43
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It is experienced as addiction but also has a biochemical basis.
I would restate this as ..."experienced as addiction AND has a biochemical basis." Does anyone still think that thought and motivation occur outside of the body? The mind and body are one. While it's useful to discuss them as distinct from one another, that dichotomy creates a lot of confusion. It seems that whatever we can't nail down to a specific organ in the body, we relegate to the big black hole we call the mind. It's getting interesting as the mind is being anatomically mapped in greater detail. That's not at all to say we don't the capacity to make conscious choices.

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Old 06-06-2014, 10:38 AM   #44
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Mars, yes that phrases it better.

The last 50 years was a gigantic expirement on can people be healthy on less fat, especially less saturated fat, and more carbs.

It turns out a lot can't. It simply was a lot easier to not overeat when people consumed more fat. I embraced that, stopped 'fighting' my own body which simply was always hungry on carbs, and it worked.

Interestingly 40% of non-overweight people have metabolic syndrome in the U.S. Dr. Lustig calls it 'fat inside'. If you just had scans of their insides you wouldn't know it wasn't from someone obese.

I feel our bodies just need fat to be healthy, and often that can be the key to appetite control as well. For me I know carb consumption kept me endlessly hungry and also big and unwell. I got the obesity, metabolic syndrome, and constant hunger.

Looking at that stat it might have been 40% of people with metabolic syndrome are not overweight. He was making the point obesity is one symptom of metabolic syndrome that some people with the syndrome get some don't.
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Old 06-06-2014, 10:43 AM   #45
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Same here, diamondgeog. If I could, I would eat super low carb, as that keeps the hunger down. My brain doesn't work very well unless I'm eat at least 40g carbs. Then I'm dealing with hunger again. I'm gradually re-introducing fat. It's an interesting experiment!
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