Did you know that you can be addicted to processed food? Addiction is a chronic disease, which means it’s long-lasting and some people may suffer worse than others as well as having very contrasting recovery journeys. There are several phases to a processed food addict’s life. The addiction can start as early as infancy, or can start well and truly into their adult life. Read on to learn about the journey of a processed food addict. Can you identify with any of these?
The Exposure/Vulnerability Phase
There are many people in this world who have never eaten a single mouthful of processed food, but most of these people are toddlers. As children, we are at some point exposed to processed food by a parent, family member or at a friend’s birthday party. A special treat from grandma, colourful wrappers of sweets in the pantry, a pretty birthday cake, or a reward for being well behaved or accomplishing a milestone. Although there is no malice behind the gesture of offering the child this kind of food, the initial intake of processed food can stimulate a physiological response that makes us want more.
The Inquisitive Eater Phase
After being exposed to processed food and knowing what kind of treats are available, the inquisitive eater will take advantage of experiencing new foods for the first time. Those curious, enticing treats that seem to have an air of specialty to them. These are often called ‘sometimes foods’, ‘naughty food’, ‘treats’, or ‘rewards’- the list goes on. However ‘sometimes’ they may be, the inquisitive eater finds it almost impossible to say no to trying something new, and most often will not even consider rejecting the chance of trying new food.
The Social and Emotional Eater Phase
As humans, it’s in our nature to enjoy eating together. We come together to eat when we are happy, when we are sad, during times of celebration, loss, religious occasions and anniversaries of all different kinds. During these times, a processed food addict will enjoy being ‘allowed’ to eat processed foods as the social event is a kind of excuse or reason to do so. However, it is when they are alone and eating because they are happy, sad, angry or just bored, that the real danger presents itself. There is no one around to witness their eating which makes it all the more acceptable for the potential processed food addict to eat uncontrollably.
The Health Fanatic/ Recreational Eater Phase
This stage concerns those who are somewhat masking their processed food addiction by means of excessive exercise, or reward themselves for being extremely strict on their diet during the week by binging on the weekend. These people can be perceived as extremely fit and healthy gym junkies or sportspersons but in reality, they are dealing with an addiction to processed food in a way that allows them to believe their eating habits are being justified by exercise as compensation.
The Impulsive Eater Phase
Leading to the next phase, the impulsive eater has constant conversations with that little voice in our heads; the one that tells us it’s alright to eat that fast food meal because we’ve been so good for days now. The one that tells us to pick up that chocolate bar while doing the grocery shopping, or to even just turn into the junk-food aisle. The impulsive eater will, over and over again, think that it’s alright to eat what has attracted their attention and justify it against their actions over the past while. Many instances of this kind of behaviour lead to eating a lot of processed food. This type of eater differs from the recreational eater, as there is no structured discipline or control over the impulse.
The Processed Food Abusers Phase
As the disease of processed food addiction progresses, the effects of the next phase drive a person to become psychologically dependent on processed food. They want, they eat, they feel good. This creates the processed food abuser; someone who is not addicted to processed foods but is dependent on it for feeling good and peaceful. The difference being that the abuser can be treated with intervention such as cognitive behaviour therapy or weight loss services, but the addict has a very different journey ahead.
The Processed Food Addiction Phase
The last stage, after having started their lives in a vulnerable position against processed foods, being inquisitive about them and leading to the physiological effect of feeling good after eating them, the processed food addict is realised. This stage is where those people cross the line from being a processed food abuser to a processed food addict. It is the physiological level – deeper into ‘needing’ processed food to function. This disease then leads to consequential symptoms; secondary complications include other diseases such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, fatty liver disease, heart disease, and being at higher risk of cancers.
It is possible to be a recovered processed food addict, as Karren-Lee exemplifies in her book, Processed Food Addict: Is This Me?. If you would like to learn more about processed food addiction or seek help for an addiction you’re experiencing, Karren-Lee Addictionology®️ is available for consultations. Make a booking here. Processed food addiction can be managed with personalised treatment plans, mixed in with a lot of dedication, patience and a strong support network.