Food addiction is defined as an obsessive preoccupation with food, weight, or the euphoric satisfaction achieved by ingesting food. Our image conscious society fuels the addiction by creating an atmosphere of contempt for those unable to control their eating habits. Food addiction is nothing new to the general population and consists of Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, and Compulsive Overeaters. Anorexics are characterized by their intense fear of gaining weight and their delusional perception of their bodies. Just as any kind of addiction, the anorexic feels as if they have lost control of their lives and obsesses about the one factor that they can control, their weight. Often, mirrors, scales, and tape measures are used to track “progress.” Any amount of weight loss is seen as improvement and a wonderful achievement. Symptoms of anorexia include constant exercising, keeping to strict diets, fasting, or misusing laxatives. People with this disorder often cut up food into small pieces, cook meals for everyone but themselves, dress in layers to hide weight loss, and become extremely secretive. Consequences can include infrequent or non-existing periods in females having reached puberty, thinning of hair or hair loss, yellowish palms and feet, dry or pasty skin. However, consequences can also be as dire as heart muscle damage which can result in death, kidney failure, lanugo, muscle atrophy, and osteoporosis.
Bulimia Nervosa includes many of the same causes and effects of anorexia but manifests itself in a slightly different type of behavior. Bulimics are characterized by a deep feeling of shame which causes them to eat huge amounts of food, called binging, and then induce vomiting to ease the guilt. Bulimics are also known to misuse laxatives, fast, and obsessively exercise. Consequences include erosion of teeth and gums from constant vomiting, swollen saliva glands, calluses, scars on palms, and an irregular period. Also, many if not all of the serious health problems that occur with anorexia are also applicable to bulimia.
On the same boat yet with a very different appearance are the compulsive overeaters. They are characterized by using food to ease feelings of depression, anxiety, and stress. They binge on food, do not control weight gain, and see this behavior as normal. Many compulsive overeaters are overweight or obese and rely on food for an elated calm.