From drug junkies to shop-a-holics, there's all sorts of addictions but food addiction? You've got to be kidding, right?
Come on, admit it. We've all had the munchies from time to time, but for some people, food can become an obsession, an addiction even. Wheat, corn and dairy are all common culprits, but how can you tell if you're addicted to food and how can you bring your eating under control? Is food addiction as real as, say, being addicted to cigarettes or alcohol? Giaan Rooney investigates.
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Well, yes it is, according to Professor David Kavanagh, an addiction specialist at Queensland University's School of Medicine: "It seems that if you have too much of a particular kind of food, particularly sweet foods, that can actually start to become addictive."
So, how does it happen? We all reward ourselves with treats, but food addicts overdo the comfort eating. Their brains become trained to see some foods as quick-fix mood boosters and suddenly they're hooked.
"Chocolate was my biggest downfall," says Samantha Gardiner, a reformed food-a-holic.
Unlike other addictions, this is one you just can't hide Samantha's food habit ballooned her out to 142 kilos, leaving her dangerously obese.
"I would always turn to food when I felt down, depressed, cranky or frustrated. At the time it satisfies you, but afterwards it's quite uncomfortable and depressing."
There are also other kinds of food addicts; Lynette Anderson is a "fatty" food addict she likes the oils and the fats. Lynette's menu includes butter fat, cheese fat and bacon fat and that's just the first course!
Giaan: Explain to me why you're using the fatty bottom part of the bacon and not the meat part of the bacon.
Lynette: Because I like the fatty part and I think it's got more flavour.
A typical meal for Lynette includes schnitzel fried in, yes, you guessed it, butter, more butter, plus honey on the carrots and a big dollop of cream in the potatoes to finish it all off.
Giaan: So you'd eat these things on a daily basis?
Lynette: Yes, every day. Not skimmed, not low-fat always full double cream.
Lynette knows she's harming her health but she can't control herself. So she's taken up our challenge to kick her addiction to fat with the help of Weight Watchers team leader Marie Elliott.
First, a reality check for a woman her height and age, Lynette should weigh no more than 70 kilos.
Marie: You're 84.6.
Lynette: I'm horrified, absolutely horrified. I've never been that heavy in all my life, never.
Lynette's going to go cold turkey on fat. Carrots are fine smothering them in butter is not, and no more cooking in butter just a tablespoon of oil instead.
Psychologist Dr Tim Sharp treats people for overeating at the Happiness Institute. He says therapy is an important step on the road to recovery.
"People can change the way they think and if they change the way they think that'll change the way they do things, and in this particular instance it'll change the way they eat it'll change their eating patterns," he says.
Learning how to cope with stress and how to distract yourself from cravings is also important but it takes a lot of getting used to. Before she beat her habit, Samantha weighed in at over 140 kilos.
"I think I had to get to the lowest point in my life for me to actually turn around to make a decision to make a change and that was getting to the point where I didn't want to live anymore," says Samantha.
Samantha chose life and over a period of two years lost 80 kilos. How? Well, she identified what triggered her binge eating her emotional state and made sure she had good foods at the ready when she was tempted and it worked!
"Now I'm getting out doing things I wouldn't have done before," says Samantha.
So how did Lynette go with conquering her fatty food addiction? After eight weeks of going cold turkey on fat it's time to find out if she's kicked the habit.
Eight weeks after first stepping up to the scales, Lynette now weighs in at 80.2 kilograms she has lost 4.4 kilograms, a great start!
Giaan: Does that inspire you to keep going?
Lynette: Yes it does.
Lynette's addiction to fat was only starting to be a problem. Luckily she stopped it in time. So when you look at food addicts like Lynette and Samantha, do you see yourself?
Here a few of the warning signs:
- When you feel lonely or sad you eat and keep eating to make yourself feel better.
- After overeating, you often feel guilty.
- It's likely you have one particular food you binge on and often you are obsessed by eating and how to get your next food fix.
Breaking the food addiction is tough, but with expert help it is possible. If you think you have a problem, go and see your GP and take it from there because this is one area where we can say "no pain equals no gain."
- We all know cutting calories and increasing exercise will make us lose weight but can fidgeting play a part? A study by Wollongong University found fidgeting can burn off an extra 1200 calories a day. That's more than a burger and fries!