When Food Becomes An Addiction

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We’ve all heard the expression, “you are what you eat”, and in a lot of ways you are. We are creatures of habit and we all know that some habits die hard. Studies and experiments have shown that for some people the same reward and pleasure centers of the brain that trigger addiction to harmful drugs are also activated by food.

Palatable foods like sugar, salt and fat are the culprits of these addictions; they trigger feel-good brain chemicals like dopamine. Our sensations are concentrated in our mouths; the tongue is close to the brain, therefore the pleasures associated with dopamine transmissions are increased. The pleasure one experiences rationalises why we need to have more, thereby ignoring the fact that we may be full or consuming more than the body can process.

The fact that you know that certain drugs are harmful to your health keeps you from taking them, the same logic should be applied to food. I hear people say, as long as you do it in moderation, well that’s the problem with addiction, you think you are eating in moderation whereas you are actually eating more than you should and don’t realise you are addicted!
The scary thing is people with food addiction develop a tolerance to food; they’ll eat more only to find out that they are less satisfied. There comes a point where you don’t even realise you are eating because you associate every mood, behaviour or emotion with food.

I talk to a lot of Nigerians and it never fails to repulse me how they justify eating any kind of swallow (eba, amala, pounded yam) lapped up with stew swimming in oil with a couple of pieces of meat also floating in the oil. The fact that you are not chewing should tell you something there, your body can only process so much carbs, the rest is stored away as fat.

The sad and unfortunate truth is that it’s being eaten for dinner, a couple of hours before you go to bed. That’s why a lot of my Naija brothers and sister have all this extra fat in their midsection, necks, arms and thighs. A healthy body fat percentage for a woman is between 20-35% and for a man is 10-25%. Being healthy does not mean being skinny either.


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