Is my client/patient a food addict?

Does my client/patient have a food addict’s brain?

Genetics and lifestyle factors may indicate something akin to food addiction for a tiny percentage of the population. True food addiction can be defined as “clinically significant physical and psychological dependence on high fat, high sugar, and highly palatable foods.” This means addictive eating behaviour. Food Addiction is not the same as binge eating or binge eating disorder, although there are some commanilies, and it may be considered a more extreme form of binge eating disorder.

Here are criteria that may indicate food addiction:

  • Craving (all food issues have this symptom)
  • Failure to fulfill significant role obligations– leaving an infant or young child at home alone to go out and seek food; having to quit a job due to eating all day
  • Social or interpersonal problems – stopped connections with friends/relatives
  • Use physically hazardous conditions – eating out of the trash or bingeing on spoiled or uncooked food

When a person struggles with food addiction, there is significant impulsivity and compulsivity. For example, food addicts have difficulty thinking through long-term decisions; they focus on a thought until it becomes obsessive and intrusive and can only think about food.

Research on food addiction has also found that those meeting the criteria for food addiction have significantly higher body fat levels. In specific individuals with increased body fat and unique neurological and biological systems, the body fat works as a communicator to the brain and gut. In obesity, ghrelin (an appetite-stimulating hormone) does not decrease with food intake. Typically, ghrelin decreases after eating, which lets the body know it’s eaten and is now satisfied.

Similarly, obese individuals have decreased leptin receptors and, thus, chronically elevated leptin levels. Leptin is the satiety hormone. A lack of leptin sensitivity means it takes more food to feel satiated, which also increases cravings. This makes it extremely difficult to eat when hungry and stop when packed as the body cues aren’t working correctly.

It’s essential to differentiate your client/patient’s unique struggle. If food addiction is a concern, specific, proven, and effective treatment protocols must be implemented immediately.

The International School For Food Addiction Counseling and Treatment (INFACT School)’s instructors and guest speakers have a total of over 200 years of experience training counselors and medical professionals to treat those addicted to food.