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Is Junk Food Your Drug Of Choice?

Just how far away is junk food eating from other forms of addiction, like the taking of illicit drugs or drinking too much alcohol?

Not very far, eating junk food can lead to health problems and emotional problems that are not unlike any other addiction.

Normally, when we eat, we take a signal in the form of “ghrelin”—a hormone secreted by the stomach in response to hunger. It tells the brain that it is time to eat. When the body receives enough food, the fat cells release “leptin”—also known as the satiety hormone. It tells your brain that you have eaten enough and you stop eating.

People who use junk food as part of an abnormal eating pattern do not pay enough attention to these signals and they tend to overeat, stuffing themselves with junk food.

Rather than paying attention to ghrelin and leptin, junk food eaters are eating for the rush of positive feelings associated with eating food high in fat, salt, or sugar. When you eat these kinds of foods under stress or distress, the food has the capability of releasing endorphins in the brain. Endorphins are the feel-good chemicals that give us a temporary rush or a feeling of wellbeing when we eat certain foods. Temporarily, we feel happy. Unfortunately, you must keep feeding your body in order to re-experience the “high” that eating junk food has caused.

Junk foods especially have a high addiction potential. In such cases, junk food can be high salt foods like potato chips, snack crackers, or popcorn. They can also be high sugar foods, such as ice cream, cookies, and pastries. If you find yourself drawn to these types of foods, it is likely that you have more of a food addiction rather than using food as a normal part of fueling your body.

If you are overweight, it is more likely that you have found food as your drug of choice and are using food to release endorphins in your brain, which make you feel better in situations where you would otherwise be angry, sad, bored, or depressed. Food becomes a way to feel better that has nothing to do with getting the right nutrients and eating a healthy quantity of foods that could be providing you with proper nutrition.

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