How to overcome food addictions

How to overcome food addictions

by Sanjay B

Before learning how to overcome food addictions it is first necessary to admit that you are a food addict, or sugar addict or whatever it is that you feel you must eat.  Some say that food is not addictive, and all you need is some self-control, but others agree that abuse or overuse of any substance, whether that is alcohol, drugs or food, is classed as an addiction.

Animal studies carried out at Princeton University have indicated that sugar can be addictive, with the classic withdrawal signs associated with other addictions. Some go so far as to say that eating fatty foods can lead to an addiction similar to that of cocaine. The so-called ‘pleasure centers’ of your brain become used to sugar excesses and it takes an even increasing amount to get the same sensation – or even just to feel like normal again [1].

Whether you eat excessive sweet, sugary foods, carbohydrates or fatty foods, it all ends up as glucose after digestion, so your addiction is ultimately a sugar, or glucose, addiction. Many people trying to find out how to overcome food addictions soon find out that replacing sugars with artificial sweeteners does not help them overcome their craving, because artificial sweeteners do not hit the same centers of the brain.

Some food addicts trying to self-cure claim to experience withdrawal symptoms such as headaches, mood changes, cramps, tremors, sweating and insomnia and some even become depressed. In fact, Nora D. Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse explained to Scientific American [2] that food affects the same dopamine systems of the brain as alcohol and drugs. As dopamine receptors are neutralized, addicts have an increasing need for ever more of the substance  to which they are addicted, whether that is amphetamines, chocolate or sugar.

Given, therefore, that the concept of food addiction is a genuine one, what can you do to overcome your addiction?  Here are some suggestions that are believed to have helped others in the same situation:

Admit It: Before you can learn how to overcome food addictions you must first admit to yourself that you are addicted to food, or at least certain types of food.  In this respect, food addiction is just the same as any other form of addiction:  recognizing that you have a problem is the first step to recovery. Unlike drug addicts or alcoholics, cold turkey is not an option, and you have to deal with your addiction one small step at a time. It might seem difficult, but it can be done.

Start Slowly: Begin by limiting your intake of sweet foods, including those containing artificial sweeteners. Do this gradually, slowly replacing sweet foods with something filling that is not packed with sweeteners of any kind. Do the same with salt, because this can also add to your problem. Your initial objective is to get your taste buds back to being used to non-sweet foods.

Eat at the Table: Stop hoarding food around the house, in your car and at work, but plan out your daily meals and eat them at the table. It is easier to eat smaller portions of food if you are not eating in front of the TV or doing anything else other than eating. Eat all your meals at the dinner table, or in the canteen when at work. This will not work immediately, and it might take a few weeks of limiting your food intake for your hunger to assuage, but you have an addiction and it will not just go away – you have to be committed.

Understand Your Addiction: Know the foods that tempt you most and do your best to avoid them.  Take another route past MacDonalds, or don’t walk past that fabulous chocolate shop. Do not buy your wicked foods – if there’s no popcorn in the kitchen you won’t eat it. It’s easier to avoid the temptation of actually leaving the house to buy these things when you want them than to ignore them if you have them in your cupboard. If you feel the urge, then do something else such as have a walk round the garden, walk the dog or try some press-ups.

Learn How to Overcome Food Addictions the Healthy Way: Find other healthier things to do when your food addiction rears its head and tells you that you must eat. Go to your gym and have a good workout or go for a long walk or hike:  you will find yourself feeling proud as your weights starts to drop and you realize you are avoiding your addiction. It will become easier as time goes by, and exercise generates serotonin just as food does. You will probably find your desire reducing the more you exercise. If you still crave food, drink lots of water, or try some yoghurt or a baked potato rather than ice cream or a burger.

Don’t Use Food as a Crutch: If you feel under stress, then deal with its cause. If you have problems then sort them out, don’t just stuff yourself full with food to feel better and hope your problems disappear – they won’t and you will have to resolve them sometime, so why not now?

Meet With Others Like You: Just as alcoholics have AA, you also have groups you can join to get community help for a problem that might eventually kill you. Let’s face facts – the majority of people with food addictions are clinically obese, and unless they get their weight down their life expectancy is greatly reduced. Food Addicts Anonymous [3]and Overeaters Anonymous[4] are just two of a number of support groups [5] available to you. It helps when you find that others have the problem as you, and many that join such groups tend to succeed when they would have been unable to do so by themselves.

Other Methods: You could try professional assistance such as counseling, psychiatric help or use hypnotherapy. However, ultimately, it is you, personally, who are going to have take the action of stopping the foods that are causing you this problem.

By following the above advice, all of it or even just part of it, you will be taking the first steps to getting over your food addiction. Many will refuse to believe you are a food addict, and believe you just to be greedy, but ignore them. Those with the same problem as you understand the problem, and one day you will back to your normal weight and will be able to laugh at the disbelievers secure in the knowledge that you have faced an addiction and overcome it.

Learning how to overcome food addictions, and then successfully following what you learn, will make you more proud of yourself than you have ever been – and your entire family will be proud along with you.


1.  “Fatty foods may cause cocaine-like addiction“. CNN. March 30, 2010.

2.  “Neuroimaging reveals a shared basis for chocoholia and drug addiction

By Kristin Leutwyler Ozelli : Scientific American,  August 19, 2007




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