The concept of food addiction remains a contentious topic. The commonly used definition of food addiction takes its cue from substance addictions such as drug and alcohol addiction.
Someone with a food addiction builds tolerance to the problem food, so that more and more of it is needed to in order to feel satisfied. When the addict stops eating the problem food; withdrawals are experienced.
Food addicts consume larger amounts of the food than intended, and keep doing it despite the detrimental impact on their emotional, physical and psychological health.
The concept of food addiction addresses a person’s behavioral and neurophysiological changes with certain foods that closely resemble findings found in persons with substance dependence as classified by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). The DSM is the standard classification of mental disorders used by mental health professionals and contains a listing of diagnostic criteria for every psychiatric disorder recognized by the U.S. healthcare system..
During my active food addiction I devoted significant time and energy into trying to avoid my problem foods without much success. My inability to practice abstinance from my trigger foods led me to get stuck in a vicous cycle of shame, guilt and fear.
The Yale Food Addiction Scale (YFAS; Gearhardt, Corbin, & Brownell, 2009) is a 25-point questionnaire, based on DSM-IV codes for substance dependence criteria, to assess food addiction in individuals. It is the first measure designed specifically to assess signs of addictive-like eating behavior. The YFAS allows for a more systematic examination of the hypothesis that ultra-processed foods (e.g., French fries, milkshakes) might trigger an addictive process for certain people.
The YFAS assesses specific criteria, such as:
- diminished control over consumption,
- a persistent desire or repeated unsuccessful attempts to quit,
- withdrawal, and
- clinically significant impairment.
In order to interpret the results you will have to download the instruction sheet here.
Food addiction is a very serious problem. There’s a saying in Overeaters Anonymous:
When you are addicted to alcohol, you put the tiger in the cage and leave it there in order to recover. When you are addicted to food, you put the tiger in the cage but take it out three times a day for a walk.
Food addiction is challenging to overcome as we are constantly surrounded by our ‘drug of choice’. It is my belief that certain foods such as sugar and processed foods are indeed addictive and that abstinence from these foods are neccesary in order to start living a life in recovery.
If you or a loved one need help you are not alone. Harmony Addictions Clinic offer inpatient treatment programs for sugar and food addicts as well as clients suffering from eating disorders.
You can also buy my book: Sugar Free, an eight week program to freedom from sugar addiction.
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