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Why is food so addictive?


Article by Debbie Harris

Photography by Debbie Harris

Why Is Food So Addictive?

Why is food so addictive? It’s challenging to unravel the physical, mental, and emotional aspects of eating. After all, we start eating immediately, and it’s a lifelong activity. It connects memories, habits, traditions, customs, culture, smells, and creativity. I always longed to be one who didn’t think about food 24/7. Who didn’t finish lunch and wondered what was going to be dinner? I have never cooked. I never learned. My Mom worked, was divorced with two kids very young, and we ate dinner with my grandparents down the hall almost every evening. My maternal grandmother was a diabetic as long as I knew her, taking her insulin shots daily. Her cooking was excellent but bland as she stuck to her rigid diet for health reasons. After she died, my grandfather went out for Chinese food and other off-limit foods. Neither one of them ever had a weight issue. My negative issues with food started very young, and I spent 50+ years losing, gaining, losing, gaining, and on and on. After menopause, nothing, absolutely nothing worked.

Are you one of those people who has always had a normal relationship with food? I envy you and hope you will pass this on to someone who doesn’t. If you are still figuring it out, have weight to release, health challenges to conquer, and have been on the famous diet-go-round, please read on.

Here are some key factors that contribute to the addictive nature of food:

1.   Biological factors: Our brains are wired to seek out and enjoy calorie-dense foods. This evolutionary adaptation helped our ancestors survive in times of food scarcity. Foods high in sugar, fat, and salt can trigger the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and reward, in the brain. This dopamine release creates a sense of pleasure and reinforces the desire to consume such foods.

2.   Sugar and processed foods: Highly processed foods, including those rich in added sugars, can have a particularly addictive effect. Consuming sugar activates the reward centers in the brain, leading to a craving for more. Sugar also affects the brain's reward system and can create a cycle of cravings and overeating.

3.   Emotional factors: Food can be associated with emotional comfort and stress relief. Many people turn to food as a way to cope with negative emotions such as boredom, sadness, or anxiety. The act of eating can provide temporary pleasure and distraction from emotional distress, leading to a reinforcing cycle.

4.   Conditioned responses: Repeated exposure to certain foods can create conditioned responses that reinforce cravings and addiction. The brain forms associations between the sensory cues of a particular food (such as its smell, taste, or appearance) and the pleasurable feelings experienced upon consumption. These associations can trigger cravings even when we're not physically hungry.

5.   Social and environmental factors: Our surroundings play a significant role in food addiction. The availability and accessibility of highly palatable foods, constant exposure to food advertising, and social pressure to eat certain foods can contribute to addictive behaviors. Social activities often revolve around food, making it harder to resist indulging in unhealthy options.

It's important to note that not all individuals develop food addiction, and individual susceptibility can vary. Genetic factors, personal experiences, and other underlying conditions can also contribute to an individual's susceptibility to food addiction.

For those of us who find ourselves fighting excess weight, trigger foods, and the myriad issues that coincide with FOOD, there is help, and it's close by. Take our Free Hormone Assessment on our website. You are the only one who will see the answers. You will also receive a $50 coupon through November 26th, 2023.

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