Food Addiction is one of the most common and challenging types of addiction. Why? Because the vast majority of the population at large is constantly mindful of what they eat in order not to gain or lose too much weight. They therefore assume it’s all just a matter of self control.
Our brains are wired to find ways to cope when we are impacted by stress. I’m sure we can all relate to seeking out comfort foods like ice cream or fried food when we feel sad or agitated. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that – in moderation. How about when the stress doesn’t stop because it’s a result of lingering trauma? Acting out through addiction then turns into a dangerous and destructive coping mechanism. Food addiction, in many ways, is little different than drugs and alcohol when you consider the end results.
Yet, food addiction is one of the most ignored, as our nation and others around the world struggle with a growing obesity problem. It leads to increased health issues and medical costs. The US obesity rate is close to 40% today (according to the National Center for Health Statistics), as compared to around 30% just 15 years ago. France, a country known to be particularly rule oriented and fat phobic, or “grossophobie” as they like to call it, had a similar 33% rise during that time frame to 16%. Japan and China also have well-documented issues as fast food and processed foods high in sugar have become more prevalent in their diet. And, while much of this is being talked about, little is being accomplished in reversing the trend.
The primary reason for that is because obesity is shrouded in stigma and shame. It begins with overweight children who are made to feel awkward in sports and social situations. It then continues into adolescence and adulthood as peer groups and business networks effect a clear but unspoken bias. Jean-Francois Amadieu, a sociologist at the Sorbonne in Paris, conducted a study demonstrating that overweight men were 3 times less likely to be offered a job, with the percentage jumping to over 6 times for overweight women.
This shame, in turn, has led to a counter-movement that obesity is beautiful and acceptable. I tread lightly here into these sensitive waters because a certain number of people are certainly biologically challenged by a slow metabolism or other health issues. However, when someone’s bodyweight is excessive because his or her eating is out of control, then there’s cause for concern. This is especially so when it impacts a person’s health and quality of life. We are not shooting for super-model slim (unless that comes naturally to you), we are searching for a balanced body weight that can, of course, include curves and elegant contours. We each have our own, unique and beautiful body type. It’s all a question of nutrition and eating a well rounded diet in proper proportions.
We can’t ignore the issue of food addiction simply because we fear either: (1) the ignorance of shame from those who believe it’s merely a question of self control, and (2) the backlash of political correctness. People who are addicted to food and eating unhealthy need treatment just as much as any other addict. Unaddressed trauma will surely kill someone over time, one way or another. The good news is that food addiction is probably the most easily treated, it doesn’t leave many of the same lasting scars and euphoric recall as the others. With a concerted effort, the support of loved ones and an abundance of self-care and accountability, we can do a lot more toward lowering obesity rates, helping improve the lives of many struggling addicts in the process.