The average person probably believes that someone with a food addiction will be overweight, and in most instances that assumption is correct. As the addiction takes root, people with food addiction can graduate to obesity or morbid obesity. The perception of the overweight food addict is not altogether accurate, however.
Many people with food addiction are normal weight. Some normal weight food addicts are bulimic, and it is their purging behavior that is responsible for the illusion of normalcy created by these persons being of normal weight. Other food addicts are dangerously thin. This special group has the contradictory label of food addicted anorexics.
Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder that effects both men and women. Features of the disorder are extreme fear about gaining weight, maintaining an unhealthy body weight, and a distorted body image. Eating is stressful and deciding what can and cannot be eaten becomes an obsession. People suffering from anorexia are never satisfied with how thin they are.
Read articles about Struggles with Body Image on My Bariatric Life.
There are two types of anorexia. The first is restricting type, and the other is purging type. Restricting type is restricting calories to lose weight. Purging type is losing weight because of vomiting or from using laxatives or diuretics.
Symptoms of Anorexia
Some symptoms of anorexia are dieting despite being thin, obsession with calories and nutrition, pretending to eat or lying about eating, preoccupation with food, and secret food rituals.
People who are anorexic feel fat despite being underweight. They fixate on body image, are critical of how they look, and deny being too thin. They often use diet pills, laxatives, or diuretics to lose weight and frequently vomit after eating. Anorexics are often compulsive.
Causes for anorexia include feelings of inadequacy and worthlessness, family and social pressures, and genetic predisposition.
Anorexia and Food Addiction
Most people who have an addiction to food become overweight and can become obese or morbidly obese. There are also people with a food addiction who are anorexic and so thin that their condition is dangerous.
In a study where participants were asked whether or not they liked a food or would eat a food that was on a list of 50 common foods that varied in sugar and fat content, all patients with an eating disorder had less desire to eat-higher calorie foods. Healthy people rated both desires equally. Anorexics rated their desire for high-calorie foods lower than healthy people. Anorexics were also found to like high-fat foods less than healthy people did.
This is why an anorexic who has a history of craving sugar, flour, or fat is a good candidate for being addicted to food.
Another indicator of food addiction is a history of out of control eating or binge eating and purging. Food restriction can be a strategy to compensate for weight gain from periodic overeating or binge eating.
Read, “Binge Eating Disorder vs Overeating.”
Traditional indicators for food addiction should be investigated before diagnosing a dependency. Indicators include lying about what has been eaten, a progression of powerlessness over food, feeling numb or drugged after eating, and symptoms of detox when a binge food is no longer consumed.
Read, “Bariatric Psych Evaluation.”
Anorexia and food addiction both rely on denial. Breaking this denial may require more support through the recovery process.
In good health,
Photo: Cracker Jack Nutrition