I have never had a drug or alcohol addiction, though I have witnessed the horrific toll it takes on those who do suffer ~ witnessed it up close and personal. So I would like to start this blog by saying that I am in NO way attempting to diminish the respect that addiction deserves, my heart breaks for every single person who suffers. That being said ~ for my own purposes and for the general theme of my blog ~ I want to explore food as an addiction.
I’ve actually read a few articles that say that a “food” addiction does not compare at all to a drug or alcohol addition, and though I’m not qualified ~ in my UNqualified opinion I have to say I disagree. Drug Addiction is defined as follows: Addiction is defined as a chronic, relapsing brain disease that is characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences. It is considered a brain disease because drugs change the brain; they change its structure and how it works.
So for ME food is a chronic relapsing brain disease that is characterized by compulsive eating, food seeking and use, DESPITE harmful consequences. The only part I cannot “attest” to is that food “changes” the brain structure. Other than that though, boy is that definition ON POINT for so many who struggle with eating disorders and weight issues. The reality is that recent studies on “food addiction” show that, for some people, the same reward and pleasure centers of the brain that are triggered by addictive drugs (cocain/heroin) are also activated by food. (Found on Web MD – click here to read article).
The article goes on to talk about the SIGNS of food addiction, and how it works ~ including the highly palatable types of food that are common in food addiction. Here’s the part that intrigues ME the most though. Clearly drug and alcohol addiction are undisputed addictions that require help and treatment in order to achieve sobriety. There are countless programs (rehabs ~ outpatient ~ meetings etc.) out there that specifically DEAL with how to live a sober life one you have achieved the status of “addict”.
If the defining factors of “addiction” are so very similar (as clearly they are), then it would stand to reason that the “treatments” could also follow a similar path. I agree that on many levels that there ARE in fact similarities, not just in the understanding of the addiction, but in the treatment of it. I do also think that there is one BIG area of “standard” addiction treatment that does NOT hold up when dealing with food addiction though, and that is the “changing of the environment”.
Anyone who is even minimally familiar with drug or alcohol treatment and recovery KNOWS that “People, Places and Things” are KEY components to maintain sobriety. I understand that, I don’t question it ~ I agree you will ONLY help yourself if you do NOT hang out with your old drug/drink friends, and you DON’T go back to the neighborhood where you scored, or the bar where you got drunk every night. It’s not 100% that you can keep alcohol, or even drugs from your peripheral but on the whole; you can in fact do a pretty good job of avoiding those things.
So then ~ how does the “food addict” avoid food? Sure you can stay out of your favorite bakery, you can forego the stop by the candy store, and you certainly can put “healthy options” in your path ~ but at NO POINT can a person addicted to food – rid themselves of the situations involving food. Clearly it’s required to live, and oh by the way – a LARGE percentage of our social functions in this world are based on FOOD. So what do you do? Christmas dinner, Easter dinner, Birthdays, Superbowl party, THANKSGIVING, wedding cake, retirement cake, pizza Friday at the office – my goodness the LIST is overwhelming. Even on a day to day basis, at work “hey everyone’s ordering from the deli today” – urgh. Just going through the grocery store – yeah yeah try to stay on the ‘outside’ but still, it’s not easy.
If you liken it to an alcoholic it’s like okay now you can’t “drink”, except only a LITTLE at every holiday and special occasion that comes by your life. You can fill your house up with “non-alcoholic” beverages, but in order to purchase them let me stop by this liquor store here and we’ll just walk around the outside. Whether it’s grocery shopping, a holiday, a picnic, a trip to the movies FOOD maintains an ALARMING presence in our lives. Coupled with the fact that the food addict cannot “just give it up and remove it 100%”, living with food addiction is not an easy thing to cope with.
For some, this struggle ends up turning from either just being overweight or obese to actual eating disorders such as bulimia and anorexia. Seriously in both cases can you just imagine the pain that person goes through. Well I can have this/that this because then I can get sick and it won’t have the negative consequence such as weight gain and such, but I can still satisfy that pleasure center in my brain. Then you have those who feel SO out of control over the food (real or imagined) that they really literally have to in fact REMOVE it from their lives and they starve to death, because they feel that if they ALLOW food to “reach that pleasure center” they will lose control, and therefore have to maintain STRICT control. Any way you slice it having any type of food addiction or disorder is really a huge thing to learn to live with.
Again, I am in NO WAY trying to say that “food addiction” is worse or better than drug or alcohol addiction. I’m simply saying that it has some comparable features; and it also brings with it attributes that are not so similar, but that can be debilitating. Purely an opinion blog, I’ve ZERO qualifications from a professional standpoint to speak to the concept of “food addiction”, just my personal experience and thoughts on the topic.