Having worked as a dietitian, I have seen how eating disorders and “food addictions” affect an individual and their family. Although the medical community does not classify food addictions as a clinical diagnosis, the fact remains that food is often used as a coping tool. And certain foods do have addictive properties on their own accord.
As foods enter the digestive system, they stimulate production of the hormone dopamine in the brain. The dopamine works on our brain cells to give us pleasurable feelings, which are not necessarily bad in and of themselves. But this is part of what drives addiction to a substance or behavior. When we excessively use the substance or behavior in order to produce greater degrees of these “highs,” we become dependent and potentially addicted. And the results can be catastrophic. We are learning that foods that are higher in fats, salt, or refined sugars seem to have a greater affect. These often come in the form of processed foods. On the other hand, whole grains, fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables, beans and legumes, and nuts and seeds appear to not have these tendencies. You don’t often hear of someone who just can’t stop eating broccoli!
Food is necessary for survival, unlike most other addictive substances. But how often do we just “give in” to certain foods even though we know they are taking us where we don’t want to go? No one likes to feel powerless. If you struggle with harmful eating patterns, I encourage you to find a dietitian who understand addictions and the importance of a healthy lifestyle. Find an accountability partner, or attend a Journey to Wholeness group. Clean out your pantry and avoid those aisles in the grocery store with the risky foods/drinks. And take it one step at a time, one bite at a time, towards a life of fullness, freshness, and freedom.
God created us with the wonderful ability to enjoy a delicious and satisfying meal. Find your fulfillment in the goodness He wants you to have, in the ways He wants you to have it.
…I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. John 10:10, NIV
Angeline B. David, DrPH, MHS, RDN
Health Ministries / ARMin Director
North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists