You would never be pulled over for eating while driving, or being in possession of a large amount junk food, so there are no external consequences for you to deal with if you are a food addict. No one will stop you from overeating; only you have the power to stop yourself.
Substance addiction begins as a learning process for the brain. When someone ingests something that enables them to experience a rewarding effect, it activates specific circuits in the brain Bottled and jarred packaged goods. Once they awaken this feeling, the behavior tends to be repeated, ’cause hey, if it makes you feel good, of course you’ll want to do it again.
However, the rewarding feeling alone does not account for why some people develop addictions. We have to bring in the withdraw ingredient. People who abuse drugs and then stop will experiences severe withdrawal systems.
Even heavy coffee drinkers will recognize severe headaches when they stop drinking coffee. But once people get over the withdrawal, they should no longer be addicted, right? It’s much more complicated than that.
Why do we see recovering addicts, who have been sober for years fall off the wagon, over and over again? It’s a combination of psychological, neurobiological and of course social factors, that motivates the user to continue to keep using the substance.
There are specific circuits in the brain that become activated when we are in ‘survival’ situations, which usually involve conditions with food and water, mating and avoiding danger. But psychoactive drugs synthetically trigger these same circuits and trick the brain into responding as if we biologically need the drug in order to survive.
When we start overeating, the brain quickly ‘learns’ the relationship between the food, and the sensation you get from eating the food. Eventually it causes a strong desire and craving for it.
Have you ever said to yourself “I’m dying for piece of cheesecake”…? And then think of how you feel after you’ve taken that first bite…mmmm, like a sense of relief. Our brains actually force us to think that we need the food, or we won’t be able to survive, and we can’t tell the difference anymore. Now there’s a little food for thought.
There was a study done in 2009 that used brain imaging techniques, in order to prove that people who are obese not only experienced similar behaviors but also developed the same brain reactions that drug addicts experience.
They study observed the PET scans of obese and normal weight individuals, looking specifically for dopamine receptors and counting them.Dopamine remember, is the chemical in our brains that sends us that ‘feel good, ahh’ feeling.
The result concluded that obese people had fewer dopamine receptors, and worse, the more obese the individual was the fewer receptors they had. The study further came to the conclusion that the brains of obese people looked almost identical to drug addicts, both having fewer dopamine receptors than normal subjects.
This study proved that overeating can lower the number of dopamine receptors in the brain. This is why people who overeat are driven to keep consuming foods that are high in fat, sugar and salt, because eating those foods prompts the release of dopamine. Since they have crippled their ability to produce it naturally on their own, the chemical addiction becomes evident when the overeating begins.
Research has recently shown that food addiction is a biogenetic condition, similar to an alcohol addiction, where the dopamine receptor becomes deficient. Just as the receptor has been linked to alcohol, nicotine and cocaine addictions, it has also been linked to carbohydrate cravings and compulsive eating.
Obese people have a deficiency in their dopamine brain reward system levels. In order to compensate for this, they consume excessive amounts of foods which develop into an addiction.
We can conclude that the brain of the food addict is induced to respond differently to addictive foods compared to non over eaters. In addition, due to the substance deficiency, addictive foods chemically increase the transmission of the dopamine, which creates an almost impossible combination to overcome.
When the dopamine is released in the brain, your mind becomes filled with serotonin, which results in a euphoric feeling. This will end up leading to compulsive eating in order to maintain that sensation. Tolerance will eventually build, which will increase the frequency and the amount of food needed.