We’ve all been there: A few bites of pie turns into two pieces, one cookie turns into a whole sleeve.
There’s a reason for this, and no it’s not a lack of willpower. Foods like sweets, as well as extra salty and fatty foods, are called “hyperpalatable,” and they take over the brain, releasing pleasure chemicals like dopamine and making us want more, long after the belly is actually full.
The result is overeating followed by cravings for more of the same unhealthy stuff, in an effort to feel happy again.
Food addiction is no joke—it’s as real as drug addiction and activates the same reward center of the brain. In fact, recovering drug addicts or alcoholics often turn to food as a new coping mechanism. And think about how accessible junk food is! It’s everywhere, it’s no wonder so many people are addicted to food that is harming their health. It’s estimated that 5 to 6% of the general population suffers from food addiction, with women being twice as likely as men.
That drive to receive more feel-good chemicals from food is also a factor behind emotional eating. Many turn to food as a form of comfort, whether it’s because they can’t tolerate difficult feelings or have no other forms of pleasure, and it leads to a dangerous dependence and an emotional disconnect.
The good news is that there are so many things you can do to reset your brain, un-hijack your tastebuds, and cultivate a healthier relationship to food.
If you missed this week’s episode of The Doctor’s Farmacy, my guest Lisa Lampanelli walks us through her personal struggles with food and emotional eating.
After stuffing her feelings down for years and turning to food as therapy, Lisa eventually turned to bariatric surgery. She successfully lost 100 pounds and began doing the deep emotional work to get to the root of her disordered eating. Lisa’s efforts changed more than just her health—she realized her true calling was to be a life coach and help others overcome food and body-image issues.
I know you’ll love Lisa’s inspiring story from this episode. I hope you’ll listen in.
Wishing you health and happiness,
Mark Hyman, MD