Article written by Dr. Vera Tarman (podcast guest)
Edited by Sandra Gentleman, RD
Food Addiction: Yes, it is a real thing
Food addiction is a controversial yet increasingly recognized condition. Although not yet included as a diagnosis in the DSM-5, a growing body of research shows that for some people, certain foods can trigger brain responses similar to substance addictions.
What Happens in the Brain
Studies show that hyperpalatable foods – those high in sugar, fat, and salt – activate the brain’s reward circuitry in ways comparable to drugs like cocaine. Over time, this can override signals of fullness and lead to compulsive, uncontrolled eating despite negative consequences – the definition of food addiction
Key Signs and Symptoms
Common signs of food addiction include
- Strong cravings and obsession over food
- Continued overeating past the point of feeling full
- Using foods to deal with distressing emotions
- Failed attempts to cut back on trigger foods
- Needing more of particular foods to get the same effect
- Inability to stop eating (or thinking about food) despite physical, emotional, and social harm
The Importance of Abstinence: Most important Recovery Tip
For those struggling with food addiction, abstaining from trigger foods provides the best chance for recovery. Curbing trigger foods (esp junk foods) only works for a short time.
This allows brain pathways to reset and takes away the addictive temptation
Total abstinence from products with added sugars and refined flours is often recommended for long term food sobriety and food serenity.
Seeking Help – Ask for Support
If you see signs of food addiction in yourself or a loved one, seeking help is crucial.
Useful treatment options include
- Get support: 12-step food based programs: These provide social support and sponsor relationships to promote abstinence.
- Finding a food addiction coach or counsellor
- Check out the Facebook group: I’m Sweet Enough: Sugar Free for Life for free ongoing support.
- Read books: Food Junkies: Recovery from Food Addiction, podcast: Food Junkies – is only a start.
Dr. Vera Tarman, MD, FCFP, ABAM MSc. is the Medical Director of Renascent and a senior staff physician at Salvation Army. Dr Tarman has a special interest in the clinical syndrome of food addiction and has presented at numerous public forums to educate and advocate on this subject. She is author of Food Junkies: Recovery from Food Addiction, and is cohost of the popular Food Junkies Podcast. She is also the founder of the free Facebook group, called “I’m Sweet Enough: Sugar-Free for Life”. Please check out her utube channel: veratarmanmd.
Social media links:
You tube: https://www.youtube.com/c/VeraTarmanMD
Linked In: https://www.linkedin.com/in/drveratarman/