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Food as Comfort—or Something More?

Almost every culture embraces the comfort found in food, (mac' n cheese anyone?). How can a person tell if too much comfort is derived from food? In certain situations, the brain's reward center chemically reacts to certain foods or to the volume of foods, in the same manner as it would to addictive substances. This is exactly why food is a surprising source of addiction. How is it that favorite snacks or treats can be put in the same dangerous category as illicit drugs? The key to understanding the simple pleasure of delighting in a favorite meal versus a food addiction lies in one word: intensity.

The Issue is in the Brain, Not the Stomach

"Feel-good" chemicals such as dopamine are released by a vulnerable brain via highly palatable foods. Once people experience the intense pleasure from specific foods associated with increased dopamine transmission in the brain's reward pathway, they will quickly feel the need to eat them again. Highly palatable foods are foods very high in sugar, fat, and salt. They are typically processed foods.

Like all addictions, food addiction will have eventual negative medical effects (commonly manifesting in excessive weight gain, obesity, and Type-2 Diabetes) as months turn into years. More immediately, it will begin to interfere with a person's life priorities, including productivity at work. Increasingly, this topic is often addressed in executive recovery coaching sessions. What are some signs to look for when contemplating this topic?

Food as Comfort: What Are Common Behaviors Associated With Food Addiction?

  1. intense cravings for certain foods, despite feeling full and having just finished a healthy meal

  2. beginning to eat a craved food and often eating much more than originally intended

  3. eating a craved food to the point of feeling excessively full (discomfort)

  4. experiencing guilt after eating a particular food (s) and then eating them again soon after

  5. reasoning with oneself as to why responding to a craving is a good idea

  6. unsuccessfully trying to quit certain foods despite numerous attempts

  7. often hiding food consumption

  8. feeling unable to control the consumption of unhealthy foods

Four or five items may indicate an issue with a particular food (s). If six or more of these statements apply, a food addiction is likely.

Professionals That Help with Food Issues

As with any addiction, underlying issues and sometimes unresolved traumas are at the source of the problem. Oftentimes, a medical health expert will determine this aspect of the issue. A Recovery Coach can assist a person in recovery by providing non-judgemental support, accountability assistance, and expertise on mapping healthier habits and tools to use in order to successfully continue on the lifelong path of recovery.

For more information about working with Beth Siegert, CPC, CPRC, ACC, CFAA in an Executive or Recovery Coaching capacity, schedule a 30-minute discovery call to talk with Beth about the challenges you are facing, understand her approach to coaching, and decide if you are a good fit for moving forward. She can be reached at or at 877.449.6393.

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