Have you ever pre-planned your cheat meal? Have you ever convinced yourself that you deserved that chocolate bar, that bag of chips or tub of ice cream, just to find yourself overdoing it and being left with an overwhelming feeling of guilt and regret? Pretty much everyone has had the experience of going to the restaurant, eating a huge and filling meal, then still craving desert even if you knew you stomach was already bursting at the seams. Some experts would describe these as pathological food behaviors. Proponents will quickly say that doctors are overreacting and labeling normal behaviors with diagnoses that stereotype, cause stigma, or marginalize people with such behaviors. People suffering from addiction will continue to eat unhealthily even despite negative consequences on their health or on their relationships. People addicted to food will have trouble stopping the bad habit, either because they're convinced they don't need to or because they have trouble stopping. People who continue bad behaviors with negative consequences often have a way of minimizing the negative effects. Poor insight on their part is often due to the fact that the immediate positive effects of dopamine overrides the possibility of future negative effects down the road. This is similar to the dopamine hijacking that happens with smoking, or drugs. Turns out that you can get hooked on fat, sugar and salt in much the same way.
It's important to point out that eating is something we do to survive until reproduction. It's not normal to feel guilt, regret or to have a bad relationship with food. Let's not forget that over 2/3 of people in western society are either overweight or obese, when a few generations ago, the stats were one in thirty. Having a healthy body weight is now only seen in a minority of people, which further normalizes the modern relationships that people have with food. Mother Nature never intended for us to discover food processing or to exploit our carefully crafted biology so that food company CEOs could buy a second yacht. Junk food is carefully created in order to hijack our brain’s biology, and like it or not, it’s here to stay. Now, I’m not suggesting that people avoid indulging in what life, food and culture has to offer. I’m simply hoping that you can reflect on your current relationship with food. Ask yourself if you have true control on what you eat, how much you eat, and whether or not eating comes with feelings of regret or guilt.