Obesity: Addiction or Choice?


| 6 Comments
You're trying to keep your mind off of it, but that pizza just keeps calling your name. It's all you can think about - the warm bread, sweet red sauce, and melted cheese. Eventually you give in and for those few minutes that you are eating, nothing else in the world matters. Many people think like this on a daily basis, for every meal. Many of these people are overweight or obese. Obesity has become so prevalent that people are debating whether overeating is a choice or an addictive disorder. 

obesity 1.jpg

Why are people choosing to eat this way in the first place? Larry Cohan writes in his Huffington Post article, "When high-fat, high-sugar junk food is cheaper and more available than fresh fruits and vegetables -- not to mention more aggressively advertised -- than many people will go with the unhealthy option. When it's easier, safer and more convenient to drive a car to work -- rather than walk or bike to the bus or train -- more people will drive and lose out on the chance to exercise. When communities are plagued by violence, parents will keep their children indoors, where they may watch TV and play video games instead of being physically active outside." I completely agree with this standpoint. People do what society tells them to do, and unfortunately in this case, society is leading them the wrong way.

After a person chooses to overeat and makes a habit out of it, how does it become addictive? People who eat excessively tend to eat foods rich in fat and sugar. These types of foods activate the brain's reward system, which neglects to tell the individual to stop eating. Therefore, the more a person eats, the more they will crave food. At this point, a person's obsessive thoughts take over and they feel helpless because they can no longer refuse a craving. Once a habit turns into an addictive one, it is extremely difficult to let go of.

In my opinion, overeating begins as a choice. A person gives in to the urge to eat. Eventually, it develops into an addiction because they begin to depend on food for their emotional needs in addition to their physical needs. This is when food becomes just as addictive as a drug. However, I believe there is no reason to treat obesity as a disease, because with a lot of hard work, it can be fixed. Obesity itself is not a disease. It is a result of overeating, which can develop into a disorder.


Do you or does someone you know have an addiction to food? WebMD gives a detailed description of what food addiction is and gives tips on how to recognize signs of it. 

 

Sources:

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=is-obesity-an-addiction

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/larry/obesity-as-a-disease_b_3606534.html




6 Comments

You bring up really good points and I have never thought of obesity as an addiction. I know if I worked out really hard, or did really well on a test I reward myself with sweets or junk food. I'm sure that strategy of reward only adds to the brain telling itself that this is a reward and you don't need to stop eating. As a society we focus so much on addiction to drugs and alcohol, yet obesity is one of the top problems in our world and we don't really consider it an addiction. The link I have posted below even talks about some foods that could potentially have a similar effect as drugs do. I think this is a really interesting topic that science will have to do more research on. But for now, I am definitely going to think twice before I go to grab a cookie or piece of chocolate in my room.

http://www.yaleruddcenter.org/what_we_do.aspx?id=262

I agree with you that overeating is a choice and that you consciously make the decision of the foods you put into your mouth, but I also think that for many people if has to do with how they were raised. Many children are taught to never leave food on your plate. This definitely will make you have a larger stomach for the future and could potentially make you overweight. I do not think parents should encourage kids to eat past the point of fullness. I have even noticed myself that now as a young adult the more food there is on my plate the more I will eat because it is in front of me. As for the comment above, I also have done the exact same thing. If I worked out extra hard that day I would treat myself with a sweet that I had been craving. However, I once read this tweet that really stuck with me “you are not a dog, so do not reward yourself with food”. I found an article that shows mistakes make while raising their kids. I think maybe that forcing your kids to “clean the plate” at a young age could have a lot to do with obesity as adults or food becoming an addiction. Here’s the link to the site.
http://www.joybauer.com/healthy-living/feeding-kids.aspx

Great post Sam. I can definitely relate to this topic on so many levels. I literally laid in bed for 3 hours last night debating on whether I should order Domino's Pizza, and I wasn't even that hungry. I was watching a movie called Elephant, (which I'm blogging about later tonight), but all I could focus on was pizza, haha. Food is one of the most addicting things on this planet, and I'm sure a lot of you can agree with me on that. And to comment on what you mentioned about high-fat junk food being cheaper than healthy food, I was just talking about that to my friend at lunch today. It's so unfortunate that it has to be that way. Produce is very expensive, fruits especially. If eating healthy was cheaper, my grocery cart would look so much different when I go shopping for food. When my parents come to visit me, the first thing we do is go to the store so they can buy me some fruits and vegetables. One thing I miss most about living at home was the endless supply of healthy meals. My mother is crazy with eating right and I used to make fun of her about it, but now I miss it.

To go along with my previous comment, here's a link with 13 Signs You're Over-Thinking Mealtime.

http://www.prevention.com/weight-loss/weight-loss-tips/different-food-obsessions-and-treatment

This was a very high quality and relevant post given that obesity continues to grow as a problem nation-wide. As you speak about overeating and the habit that grows into an addiction, I ask why? Generally you hear about people who have addiction problems with nicotine, drugs, or alcohol. The reason that those are such problems is because of the chemical reactions in the brain and the 'high' people feel which grows into addiction. Considering food is necessary and only affects certain people in the form of obesity why is it considered and addiction by some? According to Dr. Volkow, the body informs the mind of the consumption of food and what specific nutrients we may be lacking; this is how we know whether or not to eat more. This receptive signal in the brain is linked to dopamine which is the chemical released by drugs and is commonly heard about when speaking of drug addiction disorders. The reward of dopamine increases one's likelihood to eat again before it actually becomes necessary. As this persists, a person can become insulin and leptin resistant which causes the brain to not be exposed to signals that would normally give someone the natural 'reward' of eating, or the 'being full', lack of hunger. In turn, the person will just continue to feel hungry, even though they are nourished. Therefore, I agree it can begin as a choice, however, after that I believe it can be biologically explainable as a legitimate disorder.


Sources: http://www.helpguide.org/harvard/addiction_hijacks_brain.htm
http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/807684

This topic is extremely interesting and as Luke said, relevant. I think that's what makes posts like yours on the blog more interesting. Usually you hear about addictions being to things like drugs and alcohol. But after doing some research on my own, I have found that as humans we can really be addicted to anything. I'm sure everyone has heard the saying "too much of a good thing is bad". I think this is true for certain addictions. Too much of anything is bad, whether it be working out or smoking ciggarettes. We can seriously be addicted to ANYTHING. When it comes to obesity, these people are addicted to food, causing them to gain excess amounts of weight. There is no doubt, it's easy to over eat and eat when you aren't hungry, but when this addiction becomes an every day affair, problems arise. I agree with you when you say that it's a choice. I am a firm believer in this. I believe everyone can make the choice to stop eating. But am I right? I found an article about obesity in children and there is not one part that says it's "not their fault." Obesity can be linked to certain medical problems but having no self control is not one of them. It's sad to say that in many situations it's actually the parents fault that the child is obese. The link to his article is below, there is a lot of really interesting information in it pertaining to obesity in children.
http://www.patient.co.uk/health/obesity-and-overweight-in-children

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