Overeating remains largely unaddressed


Melanie Mnirajd

Substitutions for poor food choices.

Melanie Mnirajd, Design Editor

Compulsive eating is often overlooked as a form of addiction since there are no issues of legality, but it’s more common than it’s given credit for.

“Food addiction occurs when someone can’t stop eating a certain food, even if they know it is not good for them,” nutrition and wellness teacher Megan O’Boyle said. “It is not something that is easily controlled.”

Up to 20 percent of people may suffer from food addiction or addictive-like eating behavior, according to a study using the Yale Food Addiction Scale. Adults older than 35, females and overweight people were more likely to be diagnosed with food issues.

“I see many students that constantly eat foods like Hot Cheetos, or drink a venti vanilla bean frappuccino every morning,” O’Boyle said. “They know those foods aren’t good for them, but they don’t care.”

People that eat processed food or foods high in sugar or fat are more susceptible to developing a food addiction, according to Healthline.com.  The brain secretes a chemical called dopamine, a “feel-good” chemical, when eating food, but it secretes even more when eating foods high in sugar or fat. It then seeks more of the “feel-good” chemical by causing cravings for those foods high in sugar or fat, leading to a food addiction.

“Food has kind of become a reward/punishment system for me,” junior Aylea Cole said. “So if I’m struggling personally, my eating habits impact that. I get into routines where I feel like I’m obligated to eat a specific food at a specific time each day.”

Mood can affect whether one has cravings for those addictive foods.

“How much I eat really depends on how I’m feeling at the time,” Cole said. “For example, if it is one of the days that I’m binging lunch, then I’ll eat one packet of Pop-Tarts, a handful of chocolate and, if I’m at work, a handful of marshmallows and gummy worms and a big bowl of chips. However, if I’m not eating a lot, then I’ll eat relatively nothing that day.”

Being a compulsive eater may seem like no big deal right now, but in the long run, it can have serious negative effects.

“Diets high in salt, sugar and caffeine are very common, but definitely not the best diet for your body,” O’Boyle said. “Over time, it can lead to weight gain among many other things.”

Freshman Alora Jones, who drinks two to five sodas a day, acknowledges the effects of her soda-drinking habit.

“It has had negative effects on my overall health,” Jones said. “It has caused weight gain.”

Freshman Anni Smith, who eats half a bag of chips five times a week on average, also recognizes the effects of her unhealthy relationship with junk food.

“I’ve been around junk food more, and I’m planning on changing this method soon,” Smith said. “It isn’t good to eat unhealthy. I just need to slowly go down on portions with junk food or any food, I guess.”

Changing diets is key to breaking a food addiction, but not every diet is healthy. Diets that include eating high-fat foods, such as the ketogenic diet or the Atkins diet, can increase risk of blood poisoning, according to a study by Dr. Brooke Napier of Portland State University. The Paleo diet, which involves eating foods that existed in the Stone Age, can result in nutrition deficiency since dairy and grains are not included. Strict diets can also lead to developing an addiction to not eating food or an eating disorder such as anorexia or bulimia.

Instead, experts recommend finding healthier alternatives for addictive foods.

“Try to replace it with a healthier version of the food,” O’Boyle said. “It rarely works to completely cut it out cold turkey. For example, if you love potato chips, maybe try apple chips, veggie straws or banana chips that have a similar crunch and texture of a potato chip.”