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Life Arts    H4'ed 6/16/22

Teens, food, eating ... addiction?

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Is Food Addiction Just a Willpower Issue? No. An increasing number of scientific studies suggest that food, like drugs or alcohol, can have addictive qualities.
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Addiction and Recovery

By Bob Gaydos

The list of substances or behaviors to which adolescents can become unhealthily attached, even addicted, can seem endless to a parent inclined to be caring and protective: alcohol, smoking, drugs, gambling, video games, social media, internet, cell phones, sex, shopping, eating "

Wait, eating you say? Yes, eating. Or food. It depends. There's a debate over whether the problems are the same thing. Some say that someone who craves the same food, say sweets or salty chips, and consumes it in unhealthy amounts might be considered a food addict, a term not universally accepted, but one that is useful in defining a behavior. The food in question reacts on the brain in the same way that alcohol or another drug would. It rewards the person, who feels good.

Some say that someone for whom eating -- anything and plenty of it -- is a fulltime job with significant negative consequences might be considered to have an eating addiction, rather than a food addiction. Eating may provide the same kind of escape and temporary excitement that gambling, for example, would in someone else. An irresistible reward.

And, of course, these harmful behaviors often co-exist. Addictions may have biological, psychological, or social causes, or, likely, a combination of them.The focus here is not on debating the food/eating addiction question, but rather on recognizing that food addictions and eating disorders -- a different category of self-destructive behavior, including anorexia, bulimia and binge eating -- can often be ignored in teens when there is so much talk in media -- social and otherwise -- about drinking and driving, opioid abuse, the pros and cons of marijuana and the rest of that list.

Teens eat, adults say. Sometimes they eat a lot. Maybe a lot of junk food. They're growing. So what's the big deal?

Maybe nothing; maybe something. A primary goal of this column is to provide useful information to help readers identify and get help for addictive behavior and some studies say up to 10 percent of Americans may have a food-related addiction or disorder. One in 10 female teens may have an eating disorder. A smaller percentage of teen boys, perhaps athletes such as wrestlers or runners, also have issues that revolve around body weight and image. What follows are some symptoms and questions to help you decide if you or someone you know, perhaps a teenager, has a health issue involving food.

The following are possible symptoms of a food addiction:

" Gorging

" Eating to the point of feeling ill

" Going out of your way to obtain certain foods

" Continuing to eat certain foods even if no longer hungry

" Eating in secret

" Avoiding social interactions, relationships to spend time eating certain foods.

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Bob Gaydos is a veteran of 40-plus years in daily newspapers. He began as police reporter with The (Binghamton, N.Y.) Sun-Bulletin, eventually covering government and politics as well as serving as city editor, features editor, sports editor and (more...)
 

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