When Sally revealed to me that she had a food addiction, I wasn’t quite sure how to respond or what advice I could give.
Had she have told me she was addicted to alcohol or drugs, I would have known straight away what to say and would have had a list full of resources available.
I had never come across food addiction before
We all have to eat, food keeps up alive, but what happens when food becomes the enemy?
Sally told me that her problem with food began many years ago, in her early teens. She suffered from childhood depression and she turned to food for comfort.
Depression and binge eating often go hand in hand but what many do not realise is binge eating is a disorder and needs to be treated before it becomes an addictive pattern of behaviour.
Sally said she feels disgusted following a binge eating episode and then spends days engulfed in guilt.
The guilt will become too much and she will binge eat to make herself feel better again and so begins the cycle.
The idea that a person can have a food addiction has recently received more support from science.
Experiments in animals and humans show that for some people, the same reward and pleasure centres of the brain that are triggered by addictive drugs like cocaine and heroin are also activated by food, especially highly palatable foods.
Highly palatable foods are foods rich in:
Like addictive drugs, highly palatable foods trigger feel-good brain chemicals such as dopamine. – Web MD
Sally disclosed it was sugary foods she found herself attracted too.
Unlike what you would expect Sally is not overweight. She’s a size 12 and is a mother to 2 young children. She has been with her husband for over 9 years and works full-time.
Her husband is unaware of her food addiction and she sadly tells me how she will hide food and eat alone, in secret.
She admits she has stolen the items of food from the supermarket during her lunch break at work in the past, to kill the cravings.
Using food as comfort is only one side to her problem when she feels happy or has achieved something, she will reward herself, usually with a large cake.
I sensed as I spoke to Sally over email that she was finding talking to me difficult, but she pressed on. She admitted that this was the first time she had ever felt able to tell someone about her addiction, a complete stranger online.
Admitting to “shovelling in” leftover food from her children’s plates as she cleaned away was the final straw for her and she broke down.
She has realised her food addiction has become too much for her to handle alone.
“But where do you go for help”? She asks me.
There are several different types of eating disorder says the NHS
The most common being anorexia, bulimia and binge eating.
Eating disorders are mental health conditions that all involve an unhealthy relationship with food and eating, and often an intense fear of being overweight.
If you have an eating disorder you may experience one or more of the following:
- You have a preoccupation and concern about food and gaining weight.
- You would like to lose weight even though friends or family worry that you are underweight.
- You let people around you think you have eaten when you haven’t.
- You’re secretive about your eating habits because you know they’re unhealthy.
- Eating makes you feel anxious, upset or guilty.
- You make yourself vomit or use laxatives in order to lose weight.
Sally knows that her first step has been reached, she has found the courage to speak out by talking to me and asking me to share her experience here on the blog.
I will be staying in contact with her as she begins her journey to battle her food addiction.
She has made an appointment for later in the week to speak with her GP.
12 million people in the UK suffer from compulsive overeating to some extent, are you one of them?