Food Addiction Can be a Real Problem in Overweight and Obese People

Many people have a hard time staying on a diet to lose weight. For those struggling with obesity, it can sometimes seem impossible to resist the urge to overeat, eat at the wrong times or eat in response to stress or simply to eat for pleasure even though the person is not hungry. Seeing food as a reward or seeking certain foods for pleasure may be what is causing such an urge to overeat.


Research published in the Journal of International Association for the Study of Obesity suggests that resisting the urge to eat past the point of feeling full requires healthy brain signaling. Neurotransmitters and hormones play a key role in regulation of food intake, and may offer a rewarding signal to the brain, driving the overeating. The chemicals and hormones that make us seek food or make use have urges to eat can sometimes overrule cognitive decisions, causing out of control behavior. The research goes on to suggest that certain foods, especially those rich in sugars and fat send a ‘rewarding’ signal to the brain and can trigger addictive behavior.


Science can now view images of brain activity, which indicates that food stimuli such as a milkshake can activate brain regions that are associated with ‘reward’. However, frequent ice cream consumption may numb the ‘reward’ effect. This can be related to a drug addiction phenomenon where more and more of the drug is needed to feel the effects. This is why the portions of fattening, addictive foods tend to increase over time to achieve the same pleasure effect.


Stressful situations can also make us want to eat fattening foods. During stressful situations people turn to increasing the rewarding signal to the brain, through overeating. Drug addicts who quit using drugs may be more susceptible to relapsing during a stressful situation. This also happens to people who overcome the food addiction. Food addicts experience similar challenges and remain vulnerable. Stress can cause a relapse of out of control behavior, but it can be managed.


Take the first step towards reducing food addictive behaviors. Instead of using food as a reward, try another enjoyable activity or training yourself at getting pleasure from eating high fiber, high protein, low sugar items. There needs to be a substantial change in lifestyle to enhance motivation for non-food related activities. You need to reduce your stress level and learn how to deal with stress. Practice relaxation techniques and empower your mind to seek healthy, weight loss promoting foods and learn how to improve your mood and then weight loss success can be yours!