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Why Is Food "Addiction" So Controversial?

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  • lemurcat2lemurcat2 Member Posts: 7,211 Member Member Posts: 7,211 Member
    I think that's a very good way to explain it, janejellyroll.

    Re:
    Antiopelle wrote: »
    after reading some posts stating that people will not chase non-palatable foods or will never eat sugar out of a bag ... well I can say I did.

    Since a couple of my posts might seem like I was saying this, I will clarify. It is my impression that the vast majority of people who come on MFP and claim to have a "sugar addiction," upon questioning or providing more details, are merely saying they struggle to moderate specific tasty foods (usually, but not always, with sugar AND fat, and often other non sugary foods). They don't have trouble moderating foods that have sugar but which they don't like that much, and they don't struggle to control themselves with fruit or eat sugar out of the bag. I think some people do tend to mostly have problems moderating sweet-type foods, but I don't think there's any broad pattern where foods with sugar are generally more difficult to control--it's going to depend on personal food preferences. I just think the sugar addiction thing comes up so commonly because (1) dessert type foods are more obviously perceived as the problem source of extra cals vs what's on a dinner plate; and (2) sugar is the current favorite demon that diet publications and the media generally likes to focus on.

    I am NOT saying no one ever has a form of compulsive eating that involves eating foods just because they are there; in fact my understanding of binging specifically is that it typically CAN involve any foods that happen to be on hand.

    I also tend to see "eating" addiction as more about the activity/feeling of eating probably vs. specific foods (although that's more speculative).
    edited January 25
  • janejellyrolljanejellyroll Member, Premium Posts: 25,470 Member Member, Premium Posts: 25,470 Member
    AnnPT77 wrote: »
    lemurcat2 wrote: »
    I think that's a very good way to explain it, janejellyroll.

    Re:
    Antiopelle wrote: »
    after reading some posts stating that people will not chase non-palatable foods or will never eat sugar out of a bag ... well I can say I did.

    Since a couple of my posts might seem like I was saying this, I will clarify. It is my impression that the vast majority of people who come on MFP and claim to have a "sugar addiction," upon questioning or providing more details, are merely saying they struggle to moderate specific tasty foods (usually, but not always, with sugar AND fat, and often other non sugary foods). They don't have trouble moderating foods that have sugar but which they don't like that much, and they don't struggle to control themselves with fruit or eat sugar out of the bag. I think some people do tend to mostly have problems moderating sweet-type foods, but I don't think there's any broad pattern where foods with sugar are generally more difficult to control--it's going to depend on personal food preferences. I just think the sugar addiction thing comes up so commonly because (1) dessert type foods are more obviously perceived as the problem source of extra cals vs what's on a dinner plate; and (2) sugar is the current favorite demon that diet publications and the media generally likes to focus on.

    I am NOT saying no one ever has a form of compulsive eating that involves eating foods just because they are there; in fact my understanding of binging specifically is that it typically CAN involve any foods that happen to be on hand.

    I also tend to see "eating" addiction as more about the activity/feeling of eating probably vs. specific foods (although that's more speculative).

    Exactly. If I implied that I think no one ever eats sugar plain, nor does that to a dysfunctional degree or for what they consider inappropriate reasons, that was not my intention. It just doesn't seem to be the common case in "sugar addiction!!" posts, which IMO are commonly as Lemur describes.

    I think one good reason for us to be thoughtful around the language of food and addiction is specifically so we have a way to talk about those situations where people are eating sugar right out of the bag or binging on non-palatable foods. It seems to be to be something potentially distinct from the "Help, I just ate the whole pint of ice cream" situations.

    I do think we could still potentially be talking about a compulsion, not an addiction, in these situations. But when it comes to actually tackling the problem, it doesn't seem so important to me that we settle the compulsion/addiction question as long as those who are actually helping with treatment understand the current preferred protocol for treatment.
    edited January 25
  • janejellyrolljanejellyroll Member, Premium Posts: 25,470 Member Member, Premium Posts: 25,470 Member
    lemurcat2 wrote: »
    I think that's a very good way to explain it, janejellyroll.

    Re:
    Antiopelle wrote: »
    after reading some posts stating that people will not chase non-palatable foods or will never eat sugar out of a bag ... well I can say I did.

    Since a couple of my posts might seem like I was saying this, I will clarify. It is my impression that the vast majority of people who come on MFP and claim to have a "sugar addiction," upon questioning or providing more details, are merely saying they struggle to moderate specific tasty foods (usually, but not always, with sugar AND fat, and often other non sugary foods). They don't have trouble moderating foods that have sugar but which they don't like that much, and they don't struggle to control themselves with fruit or eat sugar out of the bag. I think some people do tend to mostly have problems moderating sweet-type foods, but I don't think there's any broad pattern where foods with sugar are generally more difficult to control--it's going to depend on personal food preferences. I just think the sugar addiction thing comes up so commonly because (1) dessert type foods are more obviously perceived as the problem source of extra cals vs what's on a dinner plate; and (2) sugar is the current favorite demon that diet publications and the media generally likes to focus on.

    I am NOT saying no one ever has a form of compulsive eating that involves eating foods just because they are there; in fact my understanding of binging specifically is that it typically CAN involve any foods that happen to be on hand.

    I also tend to see "eating" addiction as more about the activity/feeling of eating probably vs. specific foods (although that's more speculative).

    I agree with you that a big part of this could be that our current nutritional moment has it drummed into us that sweet foods are "empty calories" and also that we tend to tack sweet foods on at the end of meals or between meals, so when we're thinking of the "extra" stuff we ate, it just jumps out.

    If the average person has a meal with some large servings/seconds of standard dinner foods followed by cake, I'm guessing that a few days later they're much more likely to remember the cake as an extra instead of, say, the extra helping of cheddar broccoli soup.

    This isn't to say that some people aren't genuinely struggling with sweets, but I think there are a lot of people who are just struggling with excess calories overall, but framing has us more likely to remember the M&Ms we have on Thursday afternoon than the chicken wings on Friday night.

    (This is just speculation, I don't know of any research on this specific area of calorie intake self-reporting).
  • AnnPT77AnnPT77 Member, Premium Posts: 19,821 Member Member, Premium Posts: 19,821 Member
    lemurcat2 wrote: »
    I think that's a very good way to explain it, janejellyroll.

    Re:
    Antiopelle wrote: »
    after reading some posts stating that people will not chase non-palatable foods or will never eat sugar out of a bag ... well I can say I did.

    Since a couple of my posts might seem like I was saying this, I will clarify. It is my impression that the vast majority of people who come on MFP and claim to have a "sugar addiction," upon questioning or providing more details, are merely saying they struggle to moderate specific tasty foods (usually, but not always, with sugar AND fat, and often other non sugary foods). They don't have trouble moderating foods that have sugar but which they don't like that much, and they don't struggle to control themselves with fruit or eat sugar out of the bag. I think some people do tend to mostly have problems moderating sweet-type foods, but I don't think there's any broad pattern where foods with sugar are generally more difficult to control--it's going to depend on personal food preferences. I just think the sugar addiction thing comes up so commonly because (1) dessert type foods are more obviously perceived as the problem source of extra cals vs what's on a dinner plate; and (2) sugar is the current favorite demon that diet publications and the media generally likes to focus on.

    I am NOT saying no one ever has a form of compulsive eating that involves eating foods just because they are there; in fact my understanding of binging specifically is that it typically CAN involve any foods that happen to be on hand.

    I also tend to see "eating" addiction as more about the activity/feeling of eating probably vs. specific foods (although that's more speculative).

    I agree with you that a big part of this could be that our current nutritional moment has it drummed into us that sweet foods are "empty calories" and also that we tend to tack sweet foods on at the end of meals or between meals, so when we're thinking of the "extra" stuff we ate, it just jumps out.

    If the average person has a meal with some large servings/seconds of standard dinner foods followed by cake, I'm guessing that a few days later they're much more likely to remember the cake as an extra instead of, say, the extra helping of cheddar broccoli soup.

    This isn't to say that some people aren't genuinely struggling with sweets, but I think there are a lot of people who are just struggling with excess calories overall, but framing has us more likely to remember the M&Ms we have on Thursday afternoon than the chicken wings on Friday night.

    (This is just speculation, I don't know of any research on this specific area of calorie intake self-reporting).

    I think that's true - though of course the desserts can be a good plan to reduce, when it's time to reduce calories, if they're less central to our needs and desires.

    The . . . hmmm . . . nutritional mythology, maybe even? . . . that many of us had before improving our nutrition education will play into this, too, IMO.

    For example, one might think of broccoli cheese soup as a pretty healthy thing (maybe a little high in cheese, but calcium is good, right?), and gosh, broccoli - at least superfood adjacent. But reading the labels on prepared foods like that can reveal that in terms of nutrition/calorie balance, depending on the recipe/formula, we might not be lots worse off if we'd had pumpkin pie or perhaps even some of the more moderate forms of cheesecake instead.

    The whole health-aura of salads is legendary, in this respect: After calorie counting for a while, many of us realize that the cheesy pasta or rich meaty entree at a restaurant *may* be fewer calories than some entree salads, and the salad not hugely better in nutrition, if the other mains had some decent veggies in/with. (Crispy chicken salad, anyone? Taco salad with the crispy tortilla bowl and plenty meat/cheese/beans? 😆)

    Not that any of that has anything to do with addiction, specifically, though. But now I want pumpkin pie. 😐
  • janejellyrolljanejellyroll Member, Premium Posts: 25,470 Member Member, Premium Posts: 25,470 Member
    AnnPT77 wrote: »
    lemurcat2 wrote: »
    I think that's a very good way to explain it, janejellyroll.

    Re:
    Antiopelle wrote: »
    after reading some posts stating that people will not chase non-palatable foods or will never eat sugar out of a bag ... well I can say I did.

    Since a couple of my posts might seem like I was saying this, I will clarify. It is my impression that the vast majority of people who come on MFP and claim to have a "sugar addiction," upon questioning or providing more details, are merely saying they struggle to moderate specific tasty foods (usually, but not always, with sugar AND fat, and often other non sugary foods). They don't have trouble moderating foods that have sugar but which they don't like that much, and they don't struggle to control themselves with fruit or eat sugar out of the bag. I think some people do tend to mostly have problems moderating sweet-type foods, but I don't think there's any broad pattern where foods with sugar are generally more difficult to control--it's going to depend on personal food preferences. I just think the sugar addiction thing comes up so commonly because (1) dessert type foods are more obviously perceived as the problem source of extra cals vs what's on a dinner plate; and (2) sugar is the current favorite demon that diet publications and the media generally likes to focus on.

    I am NOT saying no one ever has a form of compulsive eating that involves eating foods just because they are there; in fact my understanding of binging specifically is that it typically CAN involve any foods that happen to be on hand.

    I also tend to see "eating" addiction as more about the activity/feeling of eating probably vs. specific foods (although that's more speculative).

    I agree with you that a big part of this could be that our current nutritional moment has it drummed into us that sweet foods are "empty calories" and also that we tend to tack sweet foods on at the end of meals or between meals, so when we're thinking of the "extra" stuff we ate, it just jumps out.

    If the average person has a meal with some large servings/seconds of standard dinner foods followed by cake, I'm guessing that a few days later they're much more likely to remember the cake as an extra instead of, say, the extra helping of cheddar broccoli soup.

    This isn't to say that some people aren't genuinely struggling with sweets, but I think there are a lot of people who are just struggling with excess calories overall, but framing has us more likely to remember the M&Ms we have on Thursday afternoon than the chicken wings on Friday night.

    (This is just speculation, I don't know of any research on this specific area of calorie intake self-reporting).

    I think that's true - though of course the desserts can be a good plan to reduce, when it's time to reduce calories, if they're less central to our needs and desires.

    The . . . hmmm . . . nutritional mythology, maybe even? . . . that many of us had before improving our nutrition education will play into this, too, IMO.

    For example, one might think of broccoli cheese soup as a pretty healthy thing (maybe a little high in cheese, but calcium is good, right?), and gosh, broccoli - at least superfood adjacent. But reading the labels on prepared foods like that can reveal that in terms of nutrition/calorie balance, depending on the recipe/formula, we might not be lots worse off if we'd had pumpkin pie or perhaps even some of the more moderate forms of cheesecake instead.

    The whole health-aura of salads is legendary, in this respect: After calorie counting for a while, many of us realize that the cheesy pasta or rich meaty entree at a restaurant *may* be fewer calories than some entree salads, and the salad not hugely better in nutrition, if the other mains had some decent veggies in/with. (Crispy chicken salad, anyone? Taco salad with the crispy tortilla bowl and plenty meat/cheese/beans? 😆)

    Not that any of that has anything to do with addiction, specifically, though. But now I want pumpkin pie. 😐

    Desserts can be a good place to cut, absolutely. It's just that that second bowl of broccoli-cheddar soup may ALSO be a great place to cut, I just think that current "nutritional wisdom" may lead some of us to focus on the desserts to the exclusion of the excess savory calories than many of us are probably also eating.

    (And this is, of course, a vast over-simplification, as the person who is successful at weight management is likely making a bunch of smaller cuts instead of just focusing on sweet stuff).

  • ndj1979ndj1979 Member Posts: 29,148 Member Member Posts: 29,148 Member
    MsCzar wrote: »
    Technically, cocaine isn't physically addictive, but no one much argues the semantics there. For a cocaine user, the dopamine rush can become an all-consuming compulsion. Being able to survive without a craved substance doesn't define addiction and that argument defies all logic. IMO, anything which lights up the pleasure centers of the brain and results in an irresistible obsession for more more more despite any negative consequences constitutes an addiction.
    Given this logic then petting puppies is as physically addictive as cocaine..,
  • L1zardQueenL1zardQueen Member Posts: 8,634 Member Member Posts: 8,634 Member
    qhob_89 wrote: »
    Lots of people rob grocery stores to get their cheese fix.

    👀 who told you about my Friday night habits?!

    Shh, it’s a secret.
  • gigius72gigius72 Member Posts: 183 Member Member Posts: 183 Member
    Lots of people rob grocery stores to get their cheese fix.

    That can be easily proven (it was also proven through MRI). Take a person who eats a lot of cheese and keep them 1 month without dairy, yet living cheese in their refrigerator.
  • gigius72gigius72 Member Posts: 183 Member Member Posts: 183 Member
    AnnPT77 wrote: »
    gigius72 wrote: »
    Lots of people rob grocery stores to get their cheese fix.

    That can be easily proven (it was also proven through MRI). Take a person who eats a lot of cheese and keep them 1 month without dairy, yet living cheese in their refrigerator.

    Yeah, pleasure centers in the brain light up on fMRI when contemplating tasty food, in receptive individuals. Also for things like petting cute kittens. Definitive: Petting kittens is addictive.

    I eat cheese daily. Pretty sure I could go a month with some in the fridge, but not eat it. Maybe not if it was a fully ripe well-made brie, or Cypress Grove Humboldt Fog, but y'know, just general cheese, sure, no problem. No dairy at all for a month? Hard for me to get enough protein given current habits, but as long as I get to eat anything else I want, probably could. Cheese in the fridge wouldn't make it harder, except the ones I mentioned. (<= this paragraph is just joking around.)

    Only if you get aroused by kittens...
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3083244/
    Sorry I couldn't resist it. I wanted to play the smartass too this time.
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