Well, it’s that time of year again. The time when everyone resolves to shake off bad habits. Which usually involves losing a little (or a lot) of weight.
But it goes without saying that the success rate of these resolutions is pretty dismal. (Some estimates place it as low as eight percent.) So what gives?
The American Psychiatric Association (APA) thinks it might have one explanation.
The APA recently released the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). In case you’re unfamiliar, this tome instructs clinicians as to which psychological issues are bonafide mental disorders and how to identify them. And in this latest edition, binge eating disorder (BED) made its very first appearance.
Naturally, this has raised some questions in the medical community. Most notably, should “food addiction” actually be classified as a real disorder? Much less as a clinical cause of obesity?
It’s easy to see where the idea originated. After all, obesity is a global epidemic at this point. And the only way to effectively stop it is to understand how it started in the first place.
Maybe it’s simply our gluttonous culture and lack of self-control. Or maybe it’s because the food industrial complex makes junk “food” too cheap and plentiful. Or maybe, just maybe, you actually can become addicted to food.
I don’t know the answers to these questions. But I’m an extremely skeptical person by nature who also loves a good conspiracy theory.
That’s why I couldn’t possibly raise this subject without pointing to all the recent data out there, suggesting that food–and sugary, high-carb food in particular–lights up the same reward pathways as drugs and alcohol do. And that it also interferes with ghrelin responses. (Ghrelin is one of the hormones involved in hunger signaling.)
Based on these findings, obesity may very well be a manifestation of food addiction. However, it’s important to point out that experts who disagree with this new classification have made some really strong points on the matter.
They say that the term “food addiction” is largely a media creation to explain certain behaviors, and not based on science. Because, they say, the hard evidence for it being a legitimate brain disease simply isn’t there.
Can we consider food addiction a clinical disorder at this point? I’m on the fence on this one. Although there’s no doubt in my mind that there are strong psychological components behind the tendency to overeat.
That’s why I thoroughly believe in Overeaters Anonymous, and think it’s worked wonders for many millions of people. If for no other reason than it provides a strong support network that many people lack.
And I do think that people can be addicted to sugar, artificial sweeteners, and other forms of junk food populating modern grocery stores. Because I honestly believe that there may be something addictive in these foods that we have yet to discover–similar to the caffeine in coffee, or nicotine in cigarettes. (Again, it’s my inner conspiracy theorist at work.)
But for anyone out there who thinks they’re truly addicted to food, I would ask if you’ve ever binged on plain steamed broccoli. (I’m betting the answer is “no.”) It’s a subtle, but significant, difference.
At the end of the day, though, this all boils down to semantics. Specifically, which words a doctor uses in order to make a diagnosis. But regardless of what you call it, if you’re struggling with obesity and addictive eating behaviors, you need help, simple as that.
And that’s exactly what I hope to offer in the January issue of my newsletter, Logical Health Alternatives. (If you haven’t subscribed yet, you can do so here.)
In this issue, I’ll be tackling the nuances of food addiction in greater detail… and offering some common sense strategies to get you on the road to “recovery.” Because compulsive overeating by any name is a very real phenomenon–there’s no doubt about it. And gaining control over your life in health doesn’t have to be an exercise in failure.
Stick with me, and I promise, this year will be different.
Is ‘Food Addiction’ Real? Medscape. Oct 16, 2013.