Human beings love to eat. At pretty much every single stage of human development, people can’t get enough of snacking on sweet or salty products throughout their day. As young adults in school and in the workplace, it can be hard to find a balance between eating responsibly and overeating. While, for the most part, people can recognize when they’re eating too much of something that’s not good for them, there’s a darker side to all our attraction to food:  food addiction.

Food addiction is a specific kind of food dependency that involves a person eating constantly, and partaking in eating habits that are unhealthy for them. Like other addictions – such as alcohol or drug addiction – food addiction makes the person dealing with the addiction feel good. It is a behavioral and mental disorder that relates to shame for the person dealing with it because of the stigma associated with overeating. Food addiction can also be connected with eating disorders, either as part of an eating disorder such as binge eating disorder –  where people diagnosed with the disorder binge eat food in large quantities to and past the point of making themselves sick –  or bulimia where binge-eating sessions are followed by purging sessions.

In this article, we’re going to talk about some of the signs of food addiction, its effects, and how to fight it during the school year as a busy teenager.

Signs of Food Addiction

Food addiction shares many things in common with binge-eating disorder. Below is a list that covers some of the symptoms we tend to associate with food addiction and details about how teenagers name is their own symptoms.

  • You keep finding yourself craving food even though you’re full
  • You eat way more than you mean to even when trying your hardest to eat smaller amounts
  • You go beyond “full”, eating until you feel practically stuffed and even sick
  • Constant eating or snacking is how you get through your day
  • Hiding food or eating it in secret or at times of the day when no one is around to see or judge you
  • Binge eating on a regular basis
  • Feeling guilty for binge eating
  • Setting rules for yourself and for how you eat that constantly get broken

Teenagers eat a lot. There’s a common stereotype that teenage boys eat like pigs or horses, which refers to the volume of food that they eat. However, most people, even as teenagers, can control their portion size. A teenager dealing with food addiction will eat way more than they need to do or even need despite telling themselves that they will eat smaller amounts and less often.

Many people do enjoy feeling full after they eat a particularly satisfying meal. However, eating past the point of fullness is a common sign of food addiction. At the point where you’re eating until you feel as though you’re about to pop, you are exhibiting signs that you may have an unhealthy relationship with food.

Another sign of food addiction is being unable to go through your day without snacks. If you’re constantly snacking or eating throughout your day and can’t imagine spending the day without your familiar food that is a bad sign.

Do you feel guilty about How much you eat? Do you hide how much food you eat when you do eat? If you make midnight snacking a regular part of your routine during the school year in high school or college, think about the reason why you’re doing this. If you’re trying to hide that you’re eating large amounts of food from your family or roommates, you should mark that as a red flag in favor of food addiction.

These are just a few of the symptoms and signs commonly associated with food addiction. Next, we’ll talk about the effects of food addiction on your body and your life.

Effects of Food Addiction

Food addiction triggers a sense of happiness in the brain as a result of consuming food. This “hungry high” doesn’t last long, and in the short term, can result in anxiety and even emotional pain.

Long term effects of food addiction vary depending on the person undergoing this addiction, and what kind of foods fuel their addiction.  However, here are some examples of physical and psychological long-term health consequences that may affect teenagers battling food addiction.

  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Shortness of breath
  • A specific eating disorder such as bulimia or anorexia
  • Depression
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Body dysmorphia

Many of these harmful effects of food addiction can be treated by physicians in the case of physical consequences, or therapists, for the psychological aspects when is this behavioral disorder starts worsening.

Now that you know what food addiction looks like, and how it can affect you as a teenager, here are some of the situations where you may find yourself navigating food addiction without even knowing that you’re dealing with it.

High School

No matter what movies and TV shows try to claim, lunch isn’t exactly a battle zone for most teenagers. High school cafeterias are places where teenagers can hang out with their friends and share snacks and trade delicious lunch items. Food addiction is possible even in the situation where students are eating school lunch, or are eating at school. Many schools these days allow students to order delivery once they’re out of certain level in the school system – usually Juniors and seniors only – and placed no restrictions on the kinds of food students can order in, or bring from home for themselves.

One thing that is important for students to recognize as they navigate the cafeteria and make school day meal decisions is that they need to be honest with themselves about what they’re eating and how much they’re eating. If you find yourself going up for seconds in the lunch line, trading your food for someone else’s unhealthy options, or even paying someone to give you their lunch in addition to yours, you may have a problem.

Keep a diary section in your school planner so that you know what you’re eating and how much. Documentation helps you keep track of your habits and while that’s mostly used with homework, it can be vital to keeping your body in good shape when it comes to catching food addiction or dependency. On top of that, you’ll be able to talk to your therapist about your eating habits and get help tracking what sets off your worst eating habits.

College

We’ve all heard of the “Freshman Fifteen” right?

In case you haven’t, the Freshman Fifteen is a phrase that refers to the supposedly specific amount of weight freshman in college gained during their first semester or year away from home. College can be stressful at times and any club worth their salt offers free food to pack in participants looking for a quick meal. When you’re in college and away from home for the first time, it’s easy to just give in and veg out.

However, the college season is full of roadblocks that make staying on top of what you eat and how much of it you’re eating very difficult. Unless you’re an athlete, chances are that if you’re a member of a club, it’s a club that provides you with lots of free food in the form of college students’ favorite food:  pizza. When you’re stressed out from cramming for midterms, writing papers for the first time, and preparing for finals, all that pizza looks really good.

However, if your relationship with food involves a dependency like food addiction or an eating disorder that contains aspects of food addiction, all that free food can make you backslide in a direction that you don’t want.

How do you manage to deal with food addiction in college? One simple solution involves reaching out to local clinics and treatment centers like Hillcrest in order to find out if they have therapists that can help you manage your relationship with food and help you cope with the stress that triggers late-night eating sessions.

Part-Time Job

A part-time job means Independence. It means pocket money. It means… spending a large amount of snacking where you work.  Most teenagers with part-time jobs work in retail, customer service, or in foodservice. These three types of jobs are all often high-stress, high traffic, and near cheap fast food.

In most states, people don’t really get that long a break for lunch even if they’re teenagers with growing minds and hungry stomachs. For the most part, lunch breaks in the industries that teenagers tend to work in, our 30-minute long Affairs where employees wolf down whatever they can get from the nearest fast food joint or vending machine in order to keep their energy up for the rest of their shift. While having a short lunchtime may seem like it can stop food addiction and binge eating, these time periods, when coupled with an existing food dependency, can lead to employees eating way more than they should in a very short amount of time.

For teenaged employees who work in fast-food restaurants, snacking on the job is a possibility. If food is always a hand, then it can always be in your mouth. It’s hard to recognize sometimes that your part-time job is part of a problem that you’re having, but if you count yourself eating all the time even when you’re not hungry at your part-time job, just because the food is there? You may have a problem with food that may even be food addiction.

Treatment

Therapy - Food Addiction - Hillcrest

Therapy remains one of, if not the, best ways to manage food addiction regardless of what age group you’re in. But if you’re a teenager, therapy can be especially helpful because your mind is flexible enough to latch onto therapy Concepts and behavioral techniques that your therapist will introduce you to across your time in therapy. If food addiction is shaping your life negatively to the point where you can’t focus on anything but your next snack session, therapy may be right for you.

What can you expect from therapy for food addiction?

When you go into residential treatment for food addiction, you can expect a therapist that will understand where you’re coming from because they’ve been there themselves. You can expect a support group of your peers and staff that is present 24/ 7 to talk to you about your concerns and help you understand why you eat what you do, when you do. Therapy at a residential treatment facility like Hillcrest also provides you with nutritionist and food staff that can help you manage your eating habits and develop a diet that works to silence your cravings, and keep you eating well and at reasonable times.

Food addiction may seem like something that just happens to everyone. However, it is a serious red flag that can lead to incredibly harmful eating disorders. If you or someone that you love is dealing with food addiction or another eating disorder, you have options. Hillcrest can help. Our dedicated staff has been where you are, and we pride ourselves on putting together the best way to help you get your life back on track. Contact us today to learn how Hillcrest can help you!