The Psychology of Weight Loss: Understanding Addition

whey proteinIn a broad sense addictions can be both psychological or physical. Psychological addictions are those where the individual feels that they require a particular food or drug, but there are no changes that suggest the substance is required for a physical reason. In other words the addition is simply an altered through process. An example of a psychological addiction may be repeating an activity that an individual finds fulfilling or enjoyable, although possibly to a level that causes neglect of other activities and is therefore damaging to other areas of their life. A physical addiction is far more dangerous because actual physical changes occur in the individual, often in the brain, and this causes the individual to required the substance in order to be able to satisfy or quell this physical requirement. Most recreational drugs for example, if taken chronically cause physical changes in the tissues of the individual and the individual then becomes dependent on the substance for function and may in some cases die if the substance is withdrawn.

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High fat and high sugar foods are physically addictive and may cause withdrawal symptoms once intake is curtailed. Preparing for this withdrawal is a pivotal strategy in any fat loss programme. Once intake is stopped, the addictive properties decline over time as the brain remodels itself to its original and normal configuration.

Most people are aware that foods and eating can be psychologically addictive as eating something that humans tend to find comforting and derive great satisfaction from. However, few are aware that studies also suggest that certain foods act like drugs. The latter is not surprising in some cases, because some foods such as coffee, tea and chocolate actually contain a group of drugs called the methylxanthines, one of which is caffeine. Caffeine is physically addictive because if an individual with habitual caffeine intake stops consuming caffeine, they show signs of withdrawal, and these signs indicate a physical need for the drug. Many foods contain known drugs and many plants synthesise these drugs as insecticides or herbicides to prevent predation. When we consume the plants, we often absorb these drugs and many have physical effects in humans. Some such as cyanide may be highly poisonous, whereas others can cause additions. Alcohol is also present in foods and is physically addictive to those who consume it.

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Sugar is physically addictive to rodents and it is likely it is physically addictive in humans. A particularly insidious form of concentrated sugar is found in most soft drinks, including fruit juices.

Macronutrients in foods have also shown to be physically addictive. For example, sugar and high fat meals have been shown to cause physical changes in the brains of rats when fed chronically, and these changes induced withdrawal symptoms when availability of the food was curtailed. Foods containing high amounts of sugar and fat may therefore be physically addictive to humans which is why they are so difficult to stop eating in those who have consumed them for long periods of time. It should be understand that to give up these foods often requires similar strategies to those who are addicted to recreational drugs. It must be accepted that physical symptoms of withdrawal can be expected if these foods are removed from the diet and it should also be expected that a very strong drive to consume them will engulf the individual once intake has stopped. Working with a nutritionist to create a strategy to avoid these foods until the addictive properties have worn off is therefore pivotal in any fat loss strategy.


About Robert Barrington

Robert Barrington is a writer, nutritionist, lecturer and philosopher.
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