When Eating Becomes an Addiction – Renegotiating Food and Intake

Teenager battling food addiction

There are countless research studies that have validated the struggle of substance abuse addiction among individuals across the nation and the world, however the amount of evidence on the prevalence of food addiction is much more rare.

This does not discredit the fact that countless individuals, including adolescents, children, and adults, are struggling with an addiction to food and addictive eating patterns. Contrary to what many people might assume about this disorder, food addiction can be found in individuals regardless of their weight, both obese and non-obese men and women being affected.

There may be an assumption that a food addiction is not necessarily “real” or that it is harmless in comparison to an addiction to drugs and alcohol. The reality is that individuals who struggle with a food addiction are also dealing with adverse consequences as a result of this disorder, many which are debilitating and negatively influencing overall quality of life.

Those who are dealing with an addiction to food may have physical symptoms, such as severe weight fluctuations, cardiovascular complications, nutritional imbalances, and more.

Sunspire Health

There are also emotional, psychological and social consequences that can result from addictive eating as well, including the presence of a mood or behavioral disorder, social and financial strains, and more.

While it is easy to assume that a food addiction is simply about a lack of control around food or the impulsive need to eat, there are many more complex factors that are connected to and associated with this disorder.

Treating the Eating

Comprehensive treatment should be utilized to effectively help a person heal from a food addiction. A person with addictive eating habits can only learn how to have a healthy relationship with food and eating when any underlying issues are resolved and addressed. When a person is attempting to meet emotional or psychological needs with food, they will continue these behaviors until they can identify and address the issues at hand.

If an individual is using food as a means of distracting, procrastinating, and coping, it is necessary to develop other healthier methods of dealing with challenging emotions and circumstances. Because emotions are often so deeply interconnected with food, treatment for a food addiction must be able to adequately address the many needs a person may have.

High angle shot of a woman cutting up vegetables on a cutting boardWhen food is used for more than just simple nourishment, it may seem difficult to renegotiate what eating means. For a person with a food addiction, food and eating may mean comfort, release, escape, happiness, and more, even if only temporary. The feelings created by an eating experience can cause a sense of euphoria, which itself becomes addicting.

Learning how to find true pleasure and meaning in life, outside of food, may be challenging but is a necessary step for taking the power away from food and normalizing the eating experience.

If you or a loved one has been struggling with a food addiction and are not sure how to find balance with eating and your food intake, consider working with a professional treatment team that can help guide you through this process.

You can begin to learn what it means to separate emotions from food and how to honor your body by eating when you are truly physically hungry and stopping when you are full. The combination of nutritional interventions and psychological/behavioral care can make the journey of recovering from a food addiction more doable, especially with encouragement and accountability along the way.

While it may feel that it is impossible to approach food or a meal with a health or normalized mentality, learning how to renegotiate food and eating is possible as underlying issues associated with a food addiction are addressed appropriately and effectively though treatment.


Crystal Karges photo

About the Author: Crystal is a Masters-level Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) with a specialty focus in eating disorders, maternal/child health and wellness, and intuitive eating. Combining clinical experience with a love of social media and writing, Crystal serves as the Special Projects Coordinator for Eating Disorder Hope/Addiction Hope, where her passion to help others find recovery and healing is integrated into each part of her work.

As a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor, Crystal has dedicated her career to helping others establish a healthy relationship with food and body through her work with EDH/AH and nutrition private practice.

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of addictions. These are not necessarily the views of Addiction Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Addiction Hope understand that addictions result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an addiction, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on February 15, 2016
Published on AddictionHope.com

About Baxter Ekern

Baxter Ekern is the Vice President of Ekern Enterprises, Inc. He contributed and helped write a major portion of Addiction Hope and is responsible for the operations of the website.