There are many physiological responses to certain foods (i.e. sugar and starchy carbohydrates) which we call food addiction, that mimic the response to drugs and alcohol. It is important to know that there may be a physical reason your body is driving you to crave certain foods, and trust that when you eliminate those trigger foods, the cravings will subside.

  1. HYPOGLYCAEMIA – If you haven’t eaten for a long time (approximately 4 hours), an uncomfortable, empty feeling that may be accompanied by light- headedness or the jitters may occur. You are likely to crave food and then overeat because your blood sugars are too low and you’ve let yourself get too hungry. (This can be due to inadequate protein intake also).
  1. FATIGUE – Lack of sleep is a huge factor in how our body gains, maintains or loses weight.  If you’re really tired or not sleeping well you might crave more carbohydrate for a quick energy boost. Poor sleep over time results in burnout and has the same consequences as energy is low.
  1. PMT –  Some people are affected by hormone changes throughout the month and fee less in control at certain times or if suffering from Premenstrual Syndrome (PMT).
  1. PAIN – Chronic pain conditions can use up energy reserves and trigger cravings.
  1. GASTRIC PATHOLOGIES – Gastric problems like excess stomach acid or reflux can result in strong feelings of hunger.
  1. MEDICATIONS – Some medications trigger hunger pangs especially anti-depressant and anti-psychotic prescription drugs.

Real food addiction is way more powerful than any of these physical reasons. Sweet, refined carbohydrate foods cause cravings which are so intense that you eat despite knowing that you’re causing harm. There is NO HUNGER. Your body doesn’t need energy, it’s the brain calling for something that releases a lot of dopamine in the reward system

If there is no hunger and cravings are not coming from the body, then food addiction must stem from the brain. So what’s going wrong? It’s quite fascinating and makes perfect sense. Think of your brain and the signals it gives you. Imagine the signals stop working properly so the one that tells you you’re full switches off and your brain thinks it’s starving. This is called the leptin signal and is linked to the area of your brain called the reward centre (nucleus accumbens).

You end up with an urge you can’t satisfy. The dopamine (a neuro-transmitter that controls ability to experience pleasure) gives those feelings of pleasure which you’d think would be good, but too much pleasure and always wanting more means that you stimulate the reward system over and over to the point where the dopamine becomes less and you end up with an urge you can’t satisfy. So to experience the pleasure (more dopamine) you have to eat more. This is called the tolerance effect and gets worse and worse over time.

Food addiction is the same as other addictive substances.Think of nicotine, alcohol, morphine. Well sugar is exactly the same. When the chemicals are pulled away (withdrawn) the pleasure disappears. All these addictive abusive substances down regulate or lower the reward centre compounds so more and more must be used to get even a little pleasure. This is a food addiction.

No-one chooses to be fat; no-one says “I’d like to be overweight”. You can either be born with a predisposition for this biochemistry which causes obesity OR by becoming overweight the biochemistry balance is affected by overexposure to the wrong foods e.g. too many take always and junk food over the years (which blunts the reward system previously mentioned).

If you have any queries about the Motivation Weight Management programme please contact your local clinic.


Blog Post by Claire Jackson