Fast Food Addiction: Causes, Symptoms, Effects, And Treatment

Fast food addiction has become a significant health problem in the United States over the past 40 years.

Nowadays, you can find Mc Donald’s and KFC stores on every other street corner.

Experts have even called the new wave of obesity that is caused by fast food an epidemic.

Fast food addiction

The days where people took brown paper bags and packed lunch to work has now become a quick pop-in at the fast food joint near work due to increased accessibility and reduced time for home-cooked meals.

Unfortunately, not only is fast food unhealthy, minimally nutritional, and expensive over time, it is also very appealing and addictive.

Without even realizing it, this country and its people have become addicted to fast food to the point that the President himself likes fast food burgers and diet soda for dinner.

What Is Fast Food Addiction?

Fast food addiction is a problem in which you are addicted to eating fast food with the brain responding to the food in the same way as a drug addict responds to taking their drug of choice.

While many people may scoff at me for making such a comparison, food addiction is not something you should look down upon or underestimate as this can ruin your health, relationships, and life, just like being addicted to drugs.

Back in the day, fast food addiction was nonexistent as everyone ate home cooked and healthy nutritious meals, but the chemically enhanced fast foods we get today to manipulate our brains to crave more of the unhealthy substance. The situation has gotten so bad that food addiction is considered an eating disorder.

How Do People Get Addiction To Fast Food?

The most popular and loved fast foods were chemically altered to make us like and crave them. These foods have a strong effect on the brain and the production of neurotransmitters.

Dopamine is one such neurotransmitter that is secreted when eating junk foods which often contain high levels of sugar, salt, and wheat. For those who are not aware, dopamine is the neurotransmitter that is responsible for your perception of pleasure and pain, along with some other function.

The increase in this neurotransmitter causes you to feel pleasure, and your brain is wired to want to do more of whatever that causes you to get more of the neurotransmitter.

So, one burger in a blue moon becomes a fast food meal every weekend which then becomes junk food on a nightly basis. All this ends up with people getting fat, overweight and obese as the fast foods are low with nutritional value while being high in processed foods like sugar and salt.

Most Common Causes Of Being Addicted To Fast Food:

When researching on the addiction to fast foods, I found there are quite a number of factors that can lead to becoming addicted to eating or bingeing on unhealthy foods.

Here is a summary list of the most common causes of fast food addiction:

  • Biological: These include brain structure abnormalities, pharmaceutical side effects, hormonal imbalance, and familial cases of addiction problems.
  • Psychological: These include grief, sexual abuse, physical abuse, low self-esteem, experiencing a traumatic event, and difficulty dealing with problems well.
  • Social: These include other eating disorders, unhealthy eating environment, poor role models, and a lack of meaningful/important relationships.

Unhealthy eating environment

Fast Food Addiction Symptoms:

It is difficult to test for food addiction like with other diseases as this often requires a behavioral analysis of the subject.

If you think you are addicted to fast food, you should see how many of the symptoms of fast food addiction you have.

If it’s between 4 to 5, you may have a serious health problem related to food or your diet, and if it’s over 6, you may be addicted to fast food.

The symptoms of being addicted to fast food include:

  • You crave certain foods, even when full.
  • You don’t like to tell others how much of the unhealthy foods you have eaten.
  • You have tried different diets but found them to end up failing in the end.
  • You find that you end up eating more then you intended when you eat food you crave.
  • You end up overeating and feeling unwell from eating food you crave.
  • You end up eating foods you know you shouldn’t eat, even while feeling guilty for eating them.
  • You make too many excuses you don’t believe yourself to eat food you crave.
  • You know you are going to have many health problems including weight gain when eating, but still can’t control yourself.

Harmful Effects Of Food Addiction:

While eating a little more of the good (but unhealthy) stuff may seem like a non-issue today, if you don’t get your food addiction in control, it can lead to severe negative effects.

When it comes to the physical effects of food addiction, here is what you should expect:

  • Weight gain followed by obesity
  • Diabetes
  • High cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • Osteoarthritis of the knees
  • Fungal infections in the skin folds
  • Coronary artery disease
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Congestive heart failure
  • And death

And when it comes to the physiological effects of food addiction:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Shame
  • Isolation
  • Hopelessness
  • Powerlessness
  • Guilt
  • Self-injurious behaviors
  • Suicidal thoughts/attempts

How To Break Fast Food Addiction?

Food addiction is a serious problem and needs to be handled as such. So, if you or your loved ones are struggling with food addiction, it may be time to talk to a doctor.

While there is no quick fix or pharmaceutical pill that you can take that will make the problem go away, many people have tried different methods of weight loss including diet pills to prevent getting obese as well as a step towards a healthier future.

How To Break Fast Food Addiction

Alternatively, experts suggest going to a specialized food addiction treatment center that works with their patients to slowly but effectively understand and combat food addiction.

These support groups include Food Addicts in Recovery Anonymous, Food Addicts Anonymous, and Overeaters Anonymous that often follow a 12-step program that has shown to be effective at help men and women cope with being addicted to fast food.

On a final note, you should remember that while food addiction may seem like a minor problem when it’s just a piece of cake every night, it can turn your life into a nightmare quickly. So, don’t underestimate the addictive nature of fast food by simply avoiding to eat junk food whenever possible.

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