Q & A: Is Food Addiction Real?

“Do you think that food addiction (on a chemical level, like refined sugar and salt and such) is a genuine addiction that would have withdrawal symptoms, or do you think it’s purely psychological?  You say to listen to your body’s cravings, but I can’t imagine Peeps or Twizzlers being something my body would need – rather chemicals I’m becoming dependent on (by the way, both are delicious and I do not plan on giving them up).”

I do not think food addiction is real. And also, the opposite is almost more true: it is incredibly real. Because, as humans, we are “addicted” to food, as we should be. We are wired to be addicted to food. The biggest issue is believing that needing and wanting food is a problem.

YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO WANT FOOD.

(tweet that!: Tweet: You are supposed to want food. -@thefuckitdiet)

The issue that gets in the way of normal eating, just like almost every single post I write will come back to is: restriction. We are WIRED to be addicted to food the more it is restricted. This is a survival mechanism.

There are two definitions of addiction, one involves the word “harmful substance”. And the other one is:

“an unusually great interest in something or a need to do or have something”

We have an unusually great interest in food. Because we need it to survive. And the more we restrict, the more we will be unusually or greatly interested in it.

So, ALLOW IT! Freely. Liberally. And guess what… once you do that, you will eat it… which is the whole point of allowing it! Eat it freely and liberally. People get so freaked out during that phase because they think: “Oh MAN. I have allowed it! But the whole point was so that I don’t eat it! But I’m eating so much! So it is not working!”. Stop and think… that mentality is not allowing it. You can’t allow it for the purpose of not eating it. THAT IS NOT ALLOWING IT! RIGHT?!

The whole point of allowing something is to actually eat it. The point of allowing something is not NOT eating it. Do you follow? When you think like that, you are still having a tiny little freaked out food police controlling you. And so you still have something to rebel against.

REMOVE ANYTHING TO REBEL AGAINST.

As for withdrawal symptoms? For the most part, NO! But you will have negative physical and psychological reactions if you remove necessary amounts of macronutrients OR dramatically restrict your food intake in any unnecessary way. Because we need food and your body is trying to protect you.

As for craving silly or fake-ish foods: When we are talking about cravings for peeps or twizzlers, we are now talking about a mostly psychological addiction to food that is perceived as scarce or restricted. But that is what happens when food is considered out of bounds: your brain gets involved. Your brain is wired to your eating/nourishment/satiation. So, no, eating peeps isn’t a huge body craving. It is a psychological craving. And you’d BETTER give into it! Because it is the only way to make friends with your hunger/desires, and prove to yourself that you are willing to listen to it.

You can’t remove how interconnected your psychology is from your appetite. They are intertwined. So accept it, and give in to your cravings, I promise that it can change your life.

Fuck it.

11 thoughts on “Q & A: Is Food Addiction Real?

  1. Love it! You rock :) I’ve been practicing allowing myself to eat freely and liberally, your blog encourages me tremendously.
    And… ever since I have been eating freely, I have found my cravings to have dropped dramatically! I no longer crave certain foods like I used to. I also realized that some of the foods that the “food police” in my brain stopped me from eating aren’t even that great tasting after all! What a shock! haha

  2. I really like your perspective. I just launched my site today, and I’m discussing very similar issues; but it’s definitely harder for me to have the liberal attitude you have. I want to encourage people to have that attitude. I find your idea of instinctual eating interesting; that’s what I’m encouraging people to do right now, but a lot of it will involve completely letting go of what people believed in the past, which is the most important part. Good post; I like this new shift in thinking being encouraged very much!

  3. I mean this in the sweetest, most constructive way: You are ignorant of very real conditions. Really, no flaming, no caps.

    “I can’t imagine…” you say, and I accept that — you haven’t been able to imagine this thing that is real. OK, I hear you, your imagination won’t conjure the idea.

    But we don’t need your imagination. We have real-time scans of the brain showing that areas of the brain that activate under substance stimulus for cocaine addicts light up for some people under food stimulus, especially processed foods. This is science, which is often more authoritative than imagination, though perhaps not as entertaining.

    Finally, try imagining this: Your experience of food is not the only experience of food known to humankind. Just as some people can take alcohol or leave it while others end up in the gutter, some people react biochemically to food in ways that are destructive physically and crushing emotionally.

    And you just sneered in their faces. Our faces. My face.

    Way to go.

    (FTR: I’m maintaining a 155-pound loss for 23 years. But I’m still a food addict.)

    • Michael. I am not sneering in your face at all. It is a shame you feel that way.

      As for me? I “came out of the womb bingeing” and living my life addicted to, and fixated on food. By any logical account, if anyone was addicted to food for life, it was me. I literally binged all through my childhood, and then all up to when I was 24. Now I do not. And it took a long time, and a HUGE perspective shift.

      I DO believe that food is addictive, as it should be, and yes: in a chemical way. And furthermore humans can get addicted to anything, chemical or not (pot, washing your hands, cracking your knuckles.) All which could cause activity in that addiction part of the brain.

      Difference is, food is not cocaine or alcohol or cracking you knuckles. You need it. And I, and many readers, have had so many health problems from the attempts to “stick to a good diet” “for our health”.

      No matter what, I will always believe and teach that anything resembling a food addiction or fixation, is a spiritual issue.

      In the off-chance that there is not a restriction involved, (rare in this culture, which is why I always start there) it is a spiritual issue. Just like I believe all addictions are. A spiritual need for the physical, chemical high.

      So the first way to heal it is end the restriction. It is not easy, it seems impossible. But I did it. And I believe in it.

      I am not laughing in your face at all, you never need to listen to me, and not we do not all have the same experiences or the same makeup.

      But I genuinely stand by what I say and believe on this site.

    • Alesia says:

      If labeling yourself as a food addict helps you, that’s awesome. But the vast majority of people with a history of disordered eating know that such a label fuels restrictive tension, which then messes with our own biology. My understanding is that it’s not that Caroline doesn’t understand that Peeps have no nutritional value and affect our brain chemistry. It’s that she isn’t afraid of them because she can take them or leave them. My guess is if you allowed yourself to eat a Peep you’d start binging. If not, congratulations. You are the 1 in a 1000 people who can override your own biology.

      All I know is I don’t want to spend the next 23 years of my life giving Peeps all the power.

  4. I seem to always agree with your blog posts, Caroline. The problem always begins when a lean person decides to restrict calories, often due to external influences. Our appetite and hunger drive work quite well until we meddle with them. What is experienced as food addiction is the continual hunger when one tries to establish a lower body weight than his or her current “set point”. The most difficult part is that if we restrict calories long enough, the body establishes a higher set point as an adaptive mechanism. Out of strong attempts to restrict calories, we end up with rebound obesity, disordered eating, eating disorders, and a constant feeling of hunger that is deemed to be an addiction in the bad sense of the word, not in the metaphorical sense that you are using. Michael has been fighting his body weight set point for 23 years because he believes it is better to be at the lower weight. That is his prerogative, just as others decide to work towards accepting their current body weight and end the dieting roller coaster. This is what is behind fat acceptance and Health At Every Size. The “gifts” of eating to fulfill our hunger is that we will not gain body weight above our established set point and we are no longer constantly hungry. Like all of us Michael makes his choice and lives with the consequences, good and bad. If your body resides more than 100 pounds below its set point, of course you will feel hunger to the point of feeling that you are addicted to food.

  5. M says:

    Hello Caroline,
    I was hoping you could help clear up some things on your blog for me…
    When you talk about eating carbs with protein and fat are you referring to starches and fruit?
    Or do you consider non starch vegetables? For example is a salad with chicken and avocado considered only a protein+fat meal?

    • Hey, whenever I say “carbs” I definitely am not talking about non-starchy vegetables! Where do I talk about eating carbs with protein??? I should check that out, I am not trying to give too much diet advice…

      • M says:

        I just read it in one of the comments, you weren’t making any suggestions, just said how you found it to be more stabilizing, I was curious what you meant by that?

  6. Jodie says:

    Hmmm, I’m not sure about this approach, though it is intriguing. On one hand, yes, intuitive eating, complete freedom of action and self-acceptance. On the other, some cognitive intervention, wise adult as opposed to terrified inner child making food choices. I think for me a balance, though I really dislike ‘balance’ lol, it can be meaningless often. More like a fusion of intuitive eating and cognitive intervention – restraint or will power. But that restraint not as punitive or angry or scolding of the part of us that wants to eat. But fully compassionate, empathic. Feeling the strong desire for the processed food AND bringing to that an inner attitude of love and that love manifesting as ‘ No, not today’. Blessings of healthy body and peaceful mind to all.

    • Caroline says:

      Jodie, you are ignoring the intensity of the brain and body’s desire to keep you from any form of food restriction. And, the amazing liberation that recovered eaters feel when they allow fully those processed foods, eat them, and then eventually realize that they the foods genuinely lose their power over them. “No Not Today” can easily start a restrictive, food fixated cycle with susceptible, obsessive eaters that can become a downward spiral. It is a biological pull to keep you from starvation that overrides rationale. I hear you, your method works well for me with alcohol, “I mean, do I REALLY want more? No.” But food is more primal than alcohol. Alcohol is a fun luxury, food and nourishment are more intrinsically linked to the way you feel about trusting your hunger and appetite, and how worthy you feel of feeding yourself what you want.

Leave a Reply