Food Addiction and Anorexia, Illusion of Control

My Bariatric Life Health Guide
  • Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder that effects both men and women regardless of age. The key features of the disorder are refusal to maintain a healthy body weight, extreme fear of weight gain, and a distorted body image. Eating is a stressful experience and evaluating what you can and cannot eat becomes an obsession. A person who is suffering from anorexia is never satisfied with how thin they are. 


    There are two types of anorexia, restricting type and purging type. Restricting type is weight loss due to the restriction of calories, and purging type is weight loss due to vomiting or the use of laxatives or diuretics.

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    Symptoms of Anorexia

    Some symptoms of anorexia are dieting despite being thin, obsession with calories and nutrition, pretending to eat or lying about eating, preoccupation with food, and clandestine food rituals. 


    People who are anorexic feel fat despite being underweight, are fixated on their body image, critical of how they look, and deny being too thin. They often use diet pills, laxatives, or diuretics to promote weight loss and frequently vomit after eating. Anorexics often exercise compulsively, as well.  


    Causes for anorexia include feelings of inadequacy and worthlessness, family and social pressures, and genetic predisposition. 


    Anorexia and Food Addiction

    Most people who have an addiction to food become overweight and, among those where the progression has continued, obesity and morbid obesity are not unusual. Despite these commonalities, there are food addicts who are anorexic and thin to the point that their physical condition is dangerous.


    In a study where participants were asked whether or not they liked a food or would eat a food that was on a list of 50 common foods varying in sugar and fat content, all patients with an eating disorder maintained a lower desire to eat-higher calorie foods. Healthy controls rated both desires equally while anorexics rated their desire for high-calorie foods lower than the controls. Anorexics were also found to like high-fat foods less than controls. 


    These reports do not fit well into the symptomatology for food addiction, but that is precisely why the anorexic who has a history of craving sugar, flour, or fat is a good candidate for being addicted to food. 


    Another indicator of food addiction is if the anorexic has a history of out of control eating, bingeing and purging. Food restriction can become a strategy for compensating for the binge and fasting a strategy for weight gain from periodic overeating. 


    The presence of traditional indicators for food addiction should also be investigated before diagnosing a dependency. Such indicators include lying about what has been eaten, a progression of powerlessness over food, feeling numb or drugged after eating, and symptoms of detox when a binge food is no longer consumed.     


    Anorexia and food addiction both have heavy elements of denial, and breaking these illusions may require more support and time through recovery.   


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    Food Addiction Institute

    Psychology Today

Published On: December 21, 2014