When does the urge to eat become an addiction? Ross Walker investigates

Dec 03, 2019
Ross Walker is investigating the link between obesity and addiction. Source: Pixabay

We live in an obesogenic society where all of our celebrations and events are based around food. Food is freely available and most people feel slighted if they don’t have breakfast, lunch and dinner, with snacks in between. Nowadays, many jobs are desk-bound and typically involve sitting for hours every day.

Tragically, we’re working against our physiology. Our hunter-gatherer ancestors were geared for the cycle of feast and famine. They also had to use their legs all day to catch their food and to avoid being someone’s lunch. This is certainly not how we are living in the modern world, so it’s no wonder that 70 per cent of males are obese or overweight and 50 per cent of females are experiencing the same fate.

It’s no secret that food is important to our everyday life and key to survival, but overeating is not necessary. The healthiest diet in the world, which is backed up by several health studies, is the Mediterranean diet. What makes this diet so healthy is its lifestyle. People who follow a Mediterranean lifestyle have a hearty breakfast made up of fresh fruits and whole grains, a large lunch, followed by some form of physical activity and the occasional afternoon nap, and finish off the day with a small dinner.

In the modern world, for breakfast we have a high-calorie, low-nutritional, processed cereal with one or two pieces of toast and a coffee. We consume a few sandwiches for lunch and then are starving by the evening meal. We have a big dinner and then sit in front of television for a few hours. It’s no wonder the weight is packing on.

A recent Canadian study published in the journal Nature-Human Behaviour compared personality profiles against data from 18,611 participants and found that obese people behave somewhat like people with an addiction.

It’s my belief that addictions are the extreme form of urges. The vast majority of people living in our society experience some type of urge. Whether it’s the urge to have the unnecessary biscuit, the extra glass of wine with a meal or even the urge to relax in front of the TV when you could be going for a walk. None of these urges could be classified as addictions. But, the key question here is when does an urge become addiction? When do those few extra pounds around the belly become a weight problem?

Although I believe there are many psychological factors surrounding obesity, I’m not sure it’s helpful or useful to classify this as an addiction, but there’s no doubt that the major epidemic of the 21st century is diabesity – the coexistence of both diabetes and obesity. Until we find better solutions to deal with this issue, we will continue to see the carnage from cardiovascular disease, cancer and even Alzheimer’s disease, which are all conditions associated with people carrying far too much weight around the belly. So, my strong advice to you would be the next time you have the urge for an extra biscuit, glass of wine or dessert, strongly consider the consequences.

Important information: The information provided on this website is of a general nature and information purposes only. It does not take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. It is not personalised health advice and must not be relied upon as such. Before making any decisions about your health or changes to medication, diet and exercise routines you should determine whether the information is appropriate in terms of your particular circumstances and seek advice from a medical professional.

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