When you’re happy, the dopamine levels in your brain explode into a flurry, jolting you into a temporary euphoric state. Primary examples of things that never fail to make humans happy are sex, an episode of our favorite comedy show, and most importantly – food. We need to eat to survive, that’s just the truth. However, what we eat is significantly more impacting than we realize – or want to acknowledge at times.
Junk food addiction is a serious epidemic that affects society globally – not just the United States. Don’t get me wrong – indulging every now and again in a dessert isn’t going to destroy you. But when one cupcake turns into five, you’re hit with an overwhelming sense of guilt eating it, and you feel the need to hide the fact you’re eating it from others – that raises the alarm for a possible junk food addiction.
This is how junk food addiction works:
Brain chemistry goes bonkers under the consumption of junk food’s ingredients – setting the stage for addiction
The composition of food is either natural or highly-processed. Junk food is always overly processed with synthetic chemicals, such as high fructose corn syrup and MSG, and unholy amounts of salt and sugar. In addition to that, did you know processed food makes up over 60% of the average American diet? These ingredients overwhelm the dopamine neurotransmitters of the brain, which house the “reward system” that makes us feel happy and satisfied. Because of junk food’s chemistry, the feelings we receive from continuously consuming it causes an overwhelming craving to them, which ultimately leads to addiction.
Junk food and drug addiction go hand-in-hand
Believe it or not, a junk food addiction is exactly like a drug addiction. What’s worse, both possess equally frightening similarities: the user will do anything it takes to acquire their addicted substance, hide their addiction from others, and continuously indulge in the substance even if it threatens their health and overall well-being. According to a study at Queensland University of Technology (QUT), sugar addiction is equivalent to the effects of cocaine. Fixation on a substance spikes dopamine levels, therefore piloting someone to make choices that solely focus on attaining the source of addiction, no matter the cost. You can convince yourself that a few more bites will “be okay”, just like how a few more drinks and hits “won’t hurt”.
The urge to stop eating is uncontrollable
It doesn’t matter if you just finished a full-course meal – you still want more despite being full. It’s a never-ending emptiness that can only be satisfied with eating more junk food. Also, attempting to quit is may feel nearly impossible because your brain and body desires synthetic and addictive ingredients to fuel its desire to feel “rewarded”. Unfortunately, it is common to relapse back into excessive consumption of junk food when an individual genuinely tries their best to stop eating unhealthily.
No one should ever feel guilty with what they are eating. If you suddenly find your relationship with food and perspective of it shift into a focus of guilt, shame, and anxiety – there is an issue that needs to be confronted. Making excuses to eat a certain food or convincing oneself that it is okay to “treat themselves just one more time” is a mindset that causes someone to give in to their addictive impulse and leave them feeling miserable, only to repeat the thought process and cycle once again.
Junk food addiction can become a disorder – or contribute to an already existing one
Addiction throws a person into a downward mental spiral, making crawling out of it painful beyond belief. In some cases, the individual can develop an eating disorder such as Bulimia and Binge Eating Disorder (BED) from their junk food addiction and relationship with food. In the United States, BED is the most common eating disorder, estimating to around 2.8 million people, surpassing the statistics for those affected by bulimia and anorexia combined. Furthermore, junk food addiction can cause someone to develop or worsen their existing depression and current mental and physical conditions because of their experiences and actions.
If you or a loved one are experiencing any of the above, please turn to psychiatric help and join support groups to overcome a junk food addiction. This addiction affects millions of people around the world, increasing the risk and development of diabetes, obesity, and mental disorders. Recovery is always the end goal. It’s never too late to set life back on track and be healthy and well once again. But most importantly, one should see food as a friend rather than the enemy.
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