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The obesity crisis in the west and food addiction

A recent BBC news article reported that the average person in Britain is now 19 kgs heavier than 50 years ago. Contrary to popular belief, we as a race have not become greedier or less active in recent years. But one thing that has changed is the food we eat, and, more specifically, the sheer amount of sugar we ingest. "Genetically, human beings haven't changed, but our environment, our access to cheap food has," says Professor Jimmy Bell, obesity specialist at Imperial College, London.

The article discusses the role of High Fructose Corn syrup, over consumption of low fat products (where in fact the fat has been replaced by sugars) and the addictive properties of sugar in relation to the population’s increasing weight gain.

The article highlights the simple fact that obesity occurs when people are not using up the amount of calories they ingest on a day to day basis. With people having significantly increased the daily calorie intake since the 1970s and are engaging in increasingly sedentary lifestyles, obesity is a logical consequence.

Many people are fully aware of the detrimental effects of overeating but are yet finding themselves unable to change the way they eat. In many cases this could be the due to addiction to food particularly sugars, and also the use of unhealthy foods to deal with emotional problems i.e. comfort eating.

When you're eating food that is highly hedonic, it sort of takes over your brain” says David Kessler. Former head, US Food and Drug Administration

So how do you know if you have a food addiction? We have identified a questionnaire developed by Yale University Rudd Centre for Food Science & Policy which can help you identify if you have a food addiction.

A recent BBC news article reported that the average person in Britain is now 19 kgs heavier than 50 years ago

Here's a sample of questions that can help determine if you have a food addiction. Do these actions apply to you?
• End up eating more than planned when you start eating certain foods.
• Keep eating certain foods even if you're no longer hungry.
• Eat to point of feeling ill.
• Worry about not eating certain types of foods or worry about cutting down on certain types of foods.
• When certain foods aren't available, go out of your way to obtain them.

The questionnaire also asks about the impact of your relationship with food on your personal life. Do these situations apply to you?
• Eat certain foods so often or in such large amounts that you start eating food instead of working, spending time with the family, or doing recreational activities.
• Avoid professional or social situations where certain foods are available because of fear of overeating.
• Have problems functioning effectively at your job or school because of food and eating.

The questionnaire asks about withdrawal symptoms. For example, when you cut down on certain foods (excluding caffeinated beverages), do you have symptoms such as:
• Anxiety
• Agitation
• Other physical symptoms

The questionnaire also tries to gauge the impact of food decisions on your emotions. Do these situations apply to you?
• Eating food caused problems such as depression, anxiety, self-loathing, or guilt.
• You need to eat more and more food to reduce negative emotions or increase pleasure.
• Eating the same amount of food doesn't reduce negative emotions or increase pleasure the way it used to.

Click here to find the complete questionnaire and assess yourself.

If you think you may be suffering from Food addiction and want help please contact us. We offer individual therapy both online and face-to-face to help you tackle the problem. You will find our contact form under ‘Contact’ on our website www.behaviouralhealth.co.uk. We look forward to helping on your way to a healthier more balanced lifestyle.

Sources: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-18393391 What caused the obesity crisis in the West?
http://www.yaleruddcenter.org

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