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How To Tell If You May Be A Food Addict

sharma-obesity-fat-dietingFollowing the recent guest posts by Drs Vera Tarman and Pam Peeke on food addiction, many readers have left comments about how this notion rings true to them and how the ideas of treating their “eating disorder” as an addiction has helped them better control their diet and often lose substantial amount of weight.

Others have asked how to tell if they might be food addicts. For them, I am reproducing the following list of 20 questions taken from Food Addicts in Recovery Anonymous.

Although it is important to note that “food addiction” has yet to be officially recognized as a medical/psychiatric condition and the following questions are by no means “diagnostic”, I would still support the idea that the more of these questions you answer with yes, the more likely you may benefit from discussing this problem with someone who has expertise in addictions (rather than simply going of on another diet or exercise program).

1. Have you ever wanted to stop eating and found you just couldn’t?

2. Do you think about food or your weight constantly?

3. Do you find yourself attempting one diet or food plan after another, with no lasting success?

4. Do you binge and then “get rid of the binge” through vomiting, exercise, laxatives, or other forms of purging?

5. Do you eat differently in private than you do in front of other people?

6. Has a doctor or family member ever approached you with concern about your eating habits or weight?

7. Do you eat large quantities of food at one time (binge)?

8. Is your weight problem due to your “nibbling” all day long?

9. Do you eat to escape from your feelings?

10. Do you eat when you’re not hungry?

11. Have you ever discarded food, only to retrieve and eat it later?

12. Do you eat in secret?

13. Do you fast or severely restrict your food intake?

14. Have you ever stolen other people’s food?

15. Have you ever hidden food to make sure you have “enough?”

16. Do you feel driven to exercise excessively to control your weight?

17. Do you obsessively calculate the calories you’ve burned against the calories you’ve eaten?

18. Do you frequently feel guilty or ashamed about what you’ve eaten?

19. Are you waiting for your life to begin “when you lose the weight?”

20. Do you feel hopeless about your relationship with food?

Burlington, ON


  1. “Food addiction” isn’t the right name.

    I think it would help to have separate names to identify an addiction to a type of food (like sugar or a sugar-salt-fat combination or some other ingredient), and an addiction to “food”.

    If your addiction really is to “food”, you’d be overeating uncontrollably even if you were eating only meat and fish and vegetables.
    There could be people like that, who have to eat constantly. Even if they eat only healthy food, that would be an addiction.

    Identifying what exactly the addictive substance is would be a first step.
    You have to know what you’re fighting before you draw up battle plans.

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  2. I don’t understand what the difference is between “food addiction” and Binge Eating Disorder.

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    • Hi Daisy – let me answer your question.
      You ask a good question. There is certainly a lot of overlap – especially if you look only at the behaviour. Probably a great many questions listed above would qualify both a food addict and a binge eater. I don’t doubt that many people can be both – dual diagnosed.

      The major difference is in the cause – I believe that a Binge Eating Disorder is a psychological disorder. Therefore this person can be treated with psychological interventions and a modified eating program.

      A person with food addiction may find psychological treatment helpful but this is not the cause of their problematic eating. It is the actual eating or food itself – this is what drives the behaviour. Therefore if a person STOPS eating particular foods (or particular eating style) – they will be able to manage their cravings and get better. Treatment involves identifying the trigger foods that spark off the craving.

      If you want more information = please read my book Food Junkies: The Truth About Food Addiction.

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  3. I have been following this whole series of post on food addiction and I feel like I have had a revelation. Thanks so much for sharing these posts.

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  4. Tough topic. Bravo for taking it on. No matter what, people need help out there. In whatever way they find a pathway to better health, then who cares what we call it? Whatever we name things, there will eventually be a new name anyway. It’s the best practices which matter. Give people a structure to live in and they will weather the storms. Interesting read.

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