Food addiction: Is it real?

It’s 10 a.m. and you’re itching for a Diet Coke. Maybe you’re holding off, trying to make it until noon to crack open your first can. Maybe you’re on your second or third, or maybe you’re heading down to the convenience store to re-fill your 32-oz. cup you bought on the way to work this morning.

Sound familiar? You’re not alone.

I’ve written before about my love affair with soda, and even shared tips on beating the habit. But for many people, it’s not as simple as that.

Food addiction is a complicated issue. Many people doubt its existence, saving the word “addiction” for things like cigarettes and hard drugs. But the fact is, food addiction is real, just as real as any other physical addiction, and its consequences can be dire.

Lately I’ve been realizing that I may have more food hangups than I thought. I’m not jonesing for soda like I used to be, but in the past few weeks I’ve caught myself looking for a reason to get fast food. Years ago, hitting up the drive-thru on my way to work used to be a daily occurrence. Thankfully I’ve come a long way from those days, but when I realized I’ve been having the urge just as strongly, even though I haven’t been acting on it, I recognized the fact that this is more than a run-of-the-mill craving. But there’s one more thing that makes this really look like the problem it is: In contrast, even though I love chocolate, I could take it or leave it. Same with soda, potato chips, ice cream, or any other indulgent treat. But with French fries, I can’t stop thinking about them. I plan my son’s preschool drive around which fast food chain I want to go to. I calculate whether I have enough cash on hand to grab some while I’m out on my next errand so my husband won’t know I’ve hit up fast food again. And on and on.

This, my friends, is a problem.

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Who do you want to be?

I have spent a significant portion of my life being unhappy. When I say “significant,” I mean nearly a third of my existence. And when I say “unhappy,” I mean living in a sadness so profound that I felt consumed, suffocated, engulfed by black swampy waters that held me paralyzed until I could barely breathe, let alone fight back.

I am what doctors would call “mentally ill.” Or at least I was, but I’ll get to that part. I was formally diagnosed with clinical depression when I was 15, but my first bout with the illness was around age 9. I cycled in and out of depressed episodes for more than a decade until I suffered a complete nervous breakdown at age 21, just a few months before I was set to graduate from college. The collapse was so complete that it took me nearly two years to climb out of it. Continue reading