Is My Struggle with Food an Addiction?

Many of us have tried losing weight, repeatedly. Some have had weight-loss surgery, lost a significant amount of weight, and found it creeping on again. We may succeed in losing weight and even keeping it off for a time, but often, the weight returns, plus more. When we gain weight again, we beat ourselves up with critical self-talk like “If only I had more will power.”, “I just need to be self-disciplined”, “If I wasn’t so lazy.” or “What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I do this?”

Researchers have said 95% of diets fail. But why? For many who struggle with weight, it’s not about will power– it’s about addiction.

Addiction? Seriously? How can I be addicted to eating?

When we eat compulsively our brain produces dopamine. While dopamine is an important and helpful neurotransmitter in moderation, a flood of dopamine can cause a euphoric, mind-numbing effect. The next time we feel stressed, lonely, frustrated or bored, our brain says “Wait, I know what to do with that! Pass the cookies.”

Too much dopamine is addicting, and we can produce it all by ourselves. The brain on dopamine looks the same as the brain on compulsive gambling, pornography, shopping and even compulsive dieting. This is a called process addiction and it is an addiction to dopamine. If we begin to deal with difficult emotions, relationships and situations with food, we run the risk of developing a dopamine addiction.

Consider this definition: When we use certain foods or overeating to numb or alter the way we feel and cannot stop this pattern even at the threat of potential health issues – that’s addiction!

Diets do NOT treat addiction.

2/3 of Americans are overweight. With that brings a host of health-related issues like heart disease, GERD, sleep apnea, high blood pressure and diabetes. Diabetes is the 7th leading cause of death in the United States. Current research shows that one in ten adults in the U.S. currently has diabetes. The projection is that one-third of all adults in the United States will have diabetes by 2050. Additionally, 18% of our children are overweight with the projection that this will be the first generation of children who will not outlive the life-expectancy of their parents!

Something must be done to turn the tide of obesity in America and we can! But we must stop treating addiction with diets. Treat the addiction and then you can see success with a medically-sound weight-loss program!

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