Highly processed foods are as addictive as tobacco, according to research from University of Michigan psychologist and Ph.D., Ashley N. Gearhardt. It’s a timely study, considering more and more organizations recognize the clinical relevance of food addiction, especially in treating diabetes and obesity. Just last week, in fact, at the Diabetes Professional Care Conference (DPC) in London, UK, there was clinical recognition of food addiction.
The nuance of food addiction
Food addiction is a multi-faceted issue. We all need to eat to survive, and we also happen to be surrounded by highly processed foods everywhere we go. Often, highly processed foods are the only option, even when we’d rather choose a whole or unprocessed option.
We are also living under more stress than ever before; albeit not the “good” kind of stress. Good stress drives adaptation — this is what happens when we exercise. The type of stress that can sometimes lead to food addiction is chronic. Chronic stress comes from unhealthy relationships, constant work deadlines, toxic work environments, or feeling unfulfilled in life.
Food addiction can stem from many different places, but there is one constant. Most people that h intellectually know what to do to change it. Many people would even be able to make the change for a short period of time. But ultimately, they end up relapsing without the proper support, much like other addictions.
Why classify food addiction at all?
Researchers hope to classify food addiction to find new treatments for it. Treatments like pharmaceuticals and behavior change coaching are used to help support overweight and obese patients to lose weight. It is the hope of researchers and organizations across the world to find similar interventions for food addiction to help patients live healthier lifestyles.
What can you do for yourself?
Highly processed foods are still relatively new to humans, as is the research studying the effects they have on our bodies. If you think you might have a food addiction or just find it hard to stop eating them once you start, there are some things you can do.
First, finding a health coach that specializes in behavior change can help support changing these habits A health coach can play a vital role in supporting you, holding you accountable, and guiding you through challenges. Second, working with a therapist or counselor can support the healing aspect of addiction. And third, find a healthcare team that can help you identify any potential health implications to your addiction (or habit) of eating highly processed foods.
Ultimately, you have more control over your health than you think. But you can’t do it alone, nor should you.