I’m Addicted to Food! Can I Lose Weight?

Attempting to recover from a food addiction has to be a lot harder than recovering from any other substance addiction.
  • Alcoholics must never drink alcoholic beverages again.
  • People with nicotine addictions must never use any products that contain nicotine again.
  • Drug addicts must avoid all mind-altering drugs forever.
  • Whatever the addiction may be, the standard treatment is to get and stay clean of the addictive substance.


So where does that leave those with food addictions? Nobody has the option of avoiding food. dreamstime_xl_37242223

It might be helpful to know that the theory of “food or specific foodstuffs addiction” isn’t a widely-accepted condition among scientists. There seems to be a consensus that the act of eating may be an addictive behavior in some individuals. Eating certain foods effect the brain’s reward center resembling the reaction in the brain of somebody addicted to a substance, but the resemblance isn’t necessarily the same as a physical addiction.

If you believe you’re addicted to food, or foods containing added sugar, or foods made with white ingredients, or just eating in general, getting control is difficult. The more you believe you’re addicted, the easier it is to continue to overeat because, well, it’s not your fault! It’s not about weakness or lack of self-discipline; it’s a disease.

Challenge the belief!

The effects on the brain reward center of overeating do resemble the kind of effect that is seen with substance abuse, but data currently does not support the classification of particular food(s) as addictive.

There is disordered eating, but the theory of sugar addiction is yet to be supported by science.

There is disordered eating, but the theory of sugar addiction is yet to be supported by science.

Specific foods may trigger eating that is hard to control, but again, that’s not the same as physical dependency on those foods.

The process of eating may be an addictive behavior in some individuals. Using food to cope isn’t the same as being physically addicted. It’s not uncommon for food to be a way to avoid uncomfortable and/or strong emotions. This indicates a need to learn healthy coping skills, not a food addiction. 

We hear a lot about food addiction in the media. The headlines grab our attention. That’s what they’re supposed to do. Much of the hype is a way to dummy down a message that eating unhealthy diets is on the rise in this country and that our health is suffering as a result. The use of “food addiction” rhetoric and hyped-up headlines such as comparing eating sugary foods to injecting heroin directly into our veins (Thank you, Dr? Northrup for that ridiculous comparison!) is overtaking sensible, scientifically accurate messages about balance and moderation.

It’s possible to retrain yourself to eat all foods as part of a healthy, balanced diet.

Treatment will depend on identifying the individual emotions and situations associated with cravings and eating triggers. Then it becomes a matter of:

  1. Rejecting the food addiction hype theories.
  2. Embracing a healthy food plan that reduces calories but doesn’t require abstinence from any foods (all foods are still on the menu; it’s a matter of adjusting frequency and serving sizes).
  3. Creating personal environments to make it easier to follow through with healthier eating behaviors.
  4. Learning how to manage yourself in environments over which you won’t be able to influence.
  5. Sustaining motivation and overcoming lapses to continue to practice healthy coping actions to reach and maintain weight goal.
  6. Learning flexible restraint to allow for being human (in other words, a way to recover quickly from an occasional situation where you eat beyond your food plan limits.)
  7. Developing and using non-food methods of coping.
  8. Recognizing personal power and inner resources to support healthy eating and physical activity habits.
  9. Reinforcing new beliefs and behaviors in an environment of group support.
In conclusion:
Lose the “addiction belief” and you will be able to lose the weight!







Jackie Conn

About Jackie Conn

Jackie Conn is married and has four grown daughters and four grandchildren. She is a Weight Watchers success story. She's a weight loss expert with 25 years of experience guiding women and men to their weight-related goals. Her articles on weight management have been published in health, family and women's magazines. She has been a regular guest on Channel 5 WABI news, FOX network morning program Good Day Maine and 207 on WCSH.