Food addiction is just as dangerous as drug and alcohol addiction.

A quick glance at the headlines show that food addiction is the buzzword for the moment. When you think of addiction, does the thought that food could be abused cross your mind? Addiction comes in all shapes, colors and sizes. The underlying cause of why an individual abuses a substance remains the same.

Using food as a coping mechanism and as a way to escape or numb your feelings can be equally as dangerous as having a daily drinking problem. Our society tends to not think of food as being potentially harmful, despite reports and statistics that show a growing number of individuals that do not engage in healthy eating. What is the difference between eating a healthy diet and having food become an unhealthy addiction?

What defines food addiction?

The defining element that distinguishes a food addiction is the mindset of the individual consuming the food. As human beings it is necessary to have a balanced healthy diet in order for our bodies to function. When we begin to see food as more than fuel, providing our bodies with the energy we need to exist, the possibility of food addiction becomes apparent. For example, a warning sign of a possible food addiction occurs if you are hungry and you opt to eat foods that elicit an emotional sense of comfort. Experiencing emotional comfort and fulfillment through the food that you eat is problematic.

Using food as a way to adjust your emotional state or to attempt to mask your emotions all together is no different then drinking too much vodka in an attempt to hide from yourself and what you are feeling. How many people go to the drive thru and immediately hide the food wrappers and containers because you don’t want someone to know that you opted for a Big Mac instead of a salad? Both are food sources that provide energy but the salad is more effective at providing your body with the physical requirements you need to function. Here are some questions that you may want to ask yourself to determine if food may be an addiction:

Questions To Consider:

  1. Do you decide to eat when you are experiencing a strong emotion? This could be when you are happy, sad, depressed or angry.
  2. Do you use food to comfort yourself after a bad day?
  3. Do you find yourself justifying the foods you eat to yourself or to someone else?
  4. Do you eat too quickly, relying on foods that are easy to make or all ready prepared?
  5. Do you find an abnormal sense of euphoria when you eat?

This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t find some enjoyment out of your diet, but it shouldn’t be disproportionate to the reality of the situation. I may enjoy having a piece of cheesecake but if I find myself feeling empty and uncomfortable because I didn’t have my fill of sweets for the day, there may be a problem. Food addiction can be treated.

How to deal with food addiction

Addiction to any substance can be treated. With the use of 12-step programs, fellowships like OA (over eaters anonymous), counseling and recovery coaches, there is hope. It is easy to fall into the trappings of thinking that food can’t be addictive because we need to eat to survive. The key is to know your true motivation for what you eat and being honest with yourself about any underlying emotional responses to food. The consequences for food addiction are just as harsh as those to illegal substances. Increasing your chances of having serious health conditions that could lead to death is a reality that food addicts must face. Recovery is possible and there are many places one can go to seek help and more information. It is crucial to take a moment to examine what you eat and why you choose certain foods. The results of this introspection may shock, upset and surprise you. Ignoring a possible food addiction is similar to an ostrich burying its head in the ground; it doesn’t make the problem go away. If you or someone you know is experiencing any of the symptoms of food addiction, please take the time to consult a professional.

Sherry Gaba, LCSW, is a Life and Recovery Coach on Celebrity Rehab on VH1 and author of “The Law of Sobriety” which uses the law of attraction to recover from any addictions.  Sherry can be reached at for coaching packages, therapy, teleseminars, workshops, or speaking engagements.

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