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Has your love of food grown out of hand and developed into a true food addiction? Developing a healthy relationship with food is hard, but not impossible.

Do you think you are unable to control which foods you consume, and how much? We all need food, and the term "food addiction" has been met with much caution. Others might simply think you don't care about your health or weight, and rather enjoy stuffing your face. Science proves them wrong. Food addiction is real. 

Back in the '90s, Nobel et al (from UCLA) found that obese adults who were "bingeing on dense carbohydrates" had the same gene marker that denotes a tendency toward alcoholism and drug addiction, though these study subjects were neither alcoholics nor junkies. More recent research reveals that intense sweetness, found in refined sugar as well as artificial sweeteners, produces a stronger effect than cocaine in lab animals. Yet another study showed that the brain is triggered to want more fat when fat is consumed. 

If you would describe yourself as a food addict, you might just be doing a lot more than using what you think is a fitting metaphor. You could actually be addicted. 

Food Addiction: The Tell-Tale Signs

Are you a food addict, or simply someone who enjoys eating tasty things — but sometimes a bit too much of them? Realizing you have a problem with food is tricky, because everyone needs food and most people eat a little more than they need on occasion. Food addictions develop gradually, and you may not even be sure if you are simply a lover of good food or a true addict. 

You could be struggling with a food addiction if you display most of these tell-tale signs:

  • You often end up eating more than you had planned, and more than you need.
  • When you crave a certain food, you'll go to great lengths to get it. 
  • Your "relationship" with foods interferes with your life — work, family, or education. We won't even mention recreation, because eating is your hobby. 
  • You either worry about the fact that you overeat a lot, or are past the point of caring. 
  • When you don't get the food you want, you become anxious and agitated. 
  • You have noticed that you need larger amounts of food to achieve the same effect. 
  • You eat when you are hungry, have something to celebrate, are stressed, or feel down. You eat. A lot.

Food addicts are bound to struggle most with so-called "highly palatable foods": those that are high in sugar, fat, and salt. These foods trigger feel-good chemicals in the brain that make them satisfied and happy. But not for long, because like all addicts, they'll need more and more to achieve the same effect

Obesity is one tell-tale sign of a food addiction, but don't be fooled. People who are at a healthy weight can also be food addicts.

Normal-weight food addicts could simply have a great metabolism, or might increase their physical activity to make up for all the food they eat.

A food addiction can quite literally take over your life. The good news is that recognizing you have a problem is an incredibly productive step on the road towards overcoming your addiction. Though some people require professional help to kick their habits, others can successfully manage to develop healthy eating patterns again. The next page tells you how.

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