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Piggybacking off of the food addiction controversy post...

Speakeasy76Speakeasy76 Member Posts: 456 Member Member Posts: 456 Member
I saw this article on WebMd today about "Hedonic Hunger." It's quite long, but discusses eating for pleasure, and how some people may be more predisposed to partake in hedonic eating (like binge eating) due to genetics, environmental influences and a person's inhibitory response. The article doesn't go so far as to say "food addiction," but does discuss how sweet foods in particular flood the brain with dopamine, and some people may seek them out repeatedly for that "pleasure hit."

It gets a bit depressing in talking about how people who are predisposed to this have a hard time losing weight and keeping it off. The article suggests based on information from a metabolism expert at the NIH. WE all know your BMR slows when you lose weight, but your hunger hormones are "ramped up" and your satiety signals are turned down. Wow. I had not heard of this before, but I'm guessing one big reason why "slow and steady wins the race" is really true for weight loss.

There is hope, though, and it sounds like some new treatment methods are being tested for people who have a "strong hedonistic drive" to overeat.

Edited to add: I hope this doesn't discourage anyone from losing weight, as there are several of us here who have been successful. However, when we tell you that it's better to lose weight slowly, listen :) .

https://www.webmd.com/diet/story/hedonic-hunger-and-why-we-cant-stop-eating?ecd=wnl_emw_031021&ctr=wnl-emw-031021&mb=/n19qTaotHhXGAxSW82BAA==_CTA_1_Support
edited March 11

Replies

  • ninerbuffninerbuff Member, Greeter Posts: 44,774 Member Member, Greeter Posts: 44,774 Member
    The sense of pleasure can lead many to indulging in what gives it to them. Some get it through having kids, buying clothes, fixing up their car, etc. The one thing they have in common is focusing on what is giving them that pleasure. For a guy into cars, it would mean spending money on high end performance parts. For an animal lover it could be just caring for a lot of them. And of course for food eaters it's food. And I think food is the biggest because I don't really know of anyone who doesn't have a favorite food they like or dislikes food in general. Even pro ana people like food, they just like being skinny more. So food is always going to be a challenge for many people IMO. Even myself, I like to indulge in certain foods and sometimes forget about limits. Which is why weight loss is a difficult challenge for some. But I truly believe behavior can be changed enough on how to control over eating.

    A.C.E. Certified Personal and Group Fitness Trainer
    IDEA Fitness member
    Kickboxing Certified Instructor
    Been in fitness for 30 years and have studied kinesiology and nutrition

    9285851.png
  • Speakeasy76Speakeasy76 Member Posts: 456 Member Member Posts: 456 Member
    ninerbuff wrote: »
    The sense of pleasure can lead many to indulging in what gives it to them. Some get it through having kids, buying clothes, fixing up their car, etc. The one thing they have in common is focusing on what is giving them that pleasure. For a guy into cars, it would mean spending money on high end performance parts. For an animal lover it could be just caring for a lot of them. And of course for food eaters it's food. And I think food is the biggest because I don't really know of anyone who doesn't have a favorite food they like or dislikes food in general. Even pro ana people like food, they just like being skinny more. So food is always going to be a challenge for many people IMO. Even myself, I like to indulge in certain foods and sometimes forget about limits. Which is why weight loss is a difficult challenge for some. But I truly believe behavior can be changed enough on how to control over eating.

    A.C.E. Certified Personal and Group Fitness Trainer
    IDEA Fitness member
    Kickboxing Certified Instructor
    Been in fitness for 30 years and have studied kinesiology and nutrition

    9285851.png

    I agree! I'm a good example of it. I've been an overeater/pleasure eater for most of my life and didn't seem to register hunger and especially fullness signals like others. I always seemed to eat more and think about foods more than my friends growing up. I struggled with binge eating for several years. But even though I still struggle with overeating at times, I don't fear falling back into old habits and know I am in control of my behavior.
    edited March 11
  • lemurcat2lemurcat2 Member Posts: 7,085 Member Member Posts: 7,085 Member
    The conflation of hedonic eating and binge eating disorder seems pretty wrong to me based on everything I've read about binge eating disorder (and also the conflation of hedonic eating and some addiction connection). People typically report it being about food that is available, related to stuffing feelings, and not especially pleasurable. (I acknowledge, of course, that outside of the BED context many people will call eating even 500 extra cals or having a couple of unplanned donuts or the like binges, and those things are typically driven by pleasure in eating, probably, even if they don't feel totally chosen in a mindful way. But I also think those things are incredibly common and more about being human and how humans interact with food than some kind of disorder or condition that needs to be diagnosed and labeled as if it were abnormal or unusual compared with what others experience.) I don't think hedonic eating is really something that's surprising -- food is tasty and we have likely evolved to be motivated by taste and pleasure and not just getting the exact cals we need (there's no reason for humans, evolutionally, to have clear "full" signals or find it difficult to eat tasty food even when they don't need the cals and most probably do not without training themselves to, if even then). People who seem to think there must be something wrong or "addiction" if it's easy to overeat always surprise me.

    Anyway, I could be wrong, of course, but I'd like to hear thoughts from people who struggle with BED or have in the past, as well as how the hedonic focus relates to the treatment plans. As someone who struggled with alcohol addiction, the focus on it being about pleasure, specifically taste pleasure, seems incredibly off-base (I'll note again that I do think disorders related to compulsive excessive eating in various ways are likely at least addiction-like and it wouldn't bother me to classify them as "addictions" to the extent "addiction" even is a useful term).

    I am a hedonic eater, but I think lots of people who haven't been obese or overweight are too, and for me losing weight wasn't so much about not being a hedonic eater or thinking eating for pleasure is bad, but addressing other issues with how I tended to eat/use food. In fact, I find associating hedonic eating with the most simple high cal low nutrient sugary type foods to be wrong as in many cases people most focused on the hedonic experience of eating have much more sophisticated palates (foodie types, people who will spend significant money to try different dishes or different restaurants, etc.) and what one actually craves is very much determined by what one eats. I'd guess that there's more obesity with people who eat quite mindlessly, and often foods they don't love (both of which used to be me, even though I wasn't as extreme as many) vs those who focus closely on the enjoyment of the food and pleasure of the experience. (I often get the feeling some of these food researchers who seem to think it's some big mystery why so many people are obese are people who are very much "food as fuel" types and find it weird that others eat foods for other reasons and find it easy to overeat, and thus that doing so must necessarily be pathologized.)
    edited March 12
  • penguinmama87penguinmama87 Member, Premium Posts: 263 Member Member, Premium Posts: 263 Member
    @lemurcat2 I agree with what you say here. I'll have to read and think about this a little bit more. I have definitely full-out binged in the past, though my behavior was actually on the low end of what would be considered disordered from a clinical perspective. In those situations, the flavor of the food almost didn't matter, though I was picking high calorie, intense-flavored food (very high in fat and sugar, typically). My eating became much better when I was treated for anxiety and depression and I have not had a true binge in a very long time. I enjoy food quite a lot, but binging seems very different from that, at least that's been my experience. Looking back on it, it felt more like self-harm.

    I don't like the "hedonic" label because to me it seems associated with the (IMO mistaken) idea that eating should be seen as fuel only and the idea that we derive pleasure from it is bad. Perhaps that's not the connection that's intended by the WebMD author, but I have seen that idea floating around for a long time and honestly I really don't like it. Our bodies are the way they are for a reason. I do think it's true that some people are more tempted to excess in some behaviors but not others. That could be a factor of both genetics and environment. There's also an idea that's popular today that just because you want something, that makes it good and you can have as much of it however you want, and if someone says it's not good for you they're just being mean. I reject that idea too, whether we're talking about substances or behaviors.

    I do think people can overcome temptation even if it's one that they're more inclined to, to treat our bodies with respect but also gently. It might be helpful to know that you're more inclined to one behavior over another. Some people with alcoholism in their families decide straight up to just never drink to deal with that. I can respect that. If you know you're more likely to keep eating for emotional reasons, that CAN be helpful, but I suppose it could also make you more defeatist.

    I suppose I'm doing my thinking "out loud," here, instead of just in my head. :p
  • Speakeasy76Speakeasy76 Member Posts: 456 Member Member Posts: 456 Member
    lemurcat2 wrote: »
    The conflation of hedonic eating and binge eating disorder seems pretty wrong to me based on everything I've read about binge eating disorder (and also the conflation of hedonic eating and some addiction connection). People typically report it being about food that is available, related to stuffing feelings, and not especially pleasurable. (I acknowledge, of course, that outside of the BED context many people will call eating even 500 extra cals or having a couple of unplanned donuts or the like binges, and those things are typically driven by pleasure in eating, probably, even if they don't feel totally chosen in a mindful way. But I also think those things are incredibly common and more about being human and how humans interact with food than some kind of disorder or condition that needs to be diagnosed and labeled as if it were abnormal or unusual compared with what others experience.) I don't think hedonic eating is really something that's surprising -- food is tasty and we have likely evolved to be motivated by taste and pleasure and not just getting the exact cals we need (there's no reason for humans, evolutionally, to have clear "full" signals or find it difficult to eat tasty food even when they don't need the cals and most probably do not without training themselves to, if even then). People who seem to think there must be something wrong or "addiction" if it's easy to overeat always surprise me.

    Anyway, I could be wrong, of course, but I'd like to hear thoughts from people who struggle with BED or have in the past, as well as how the hedonic focus relates to the treatment plans. As someone who struggled with alcohol addiction, the focus on it being about pleasure, specifically taste pleasure, seems incredibly off-base (I'll note again that I do think disorders related to compulsive excessive eating in various ways are likely at least addiction-like and it wouldn't bother me to classify them as "addictions" to the extent "addiction" even is a useful term).

    I am a hedonic eater, but I think lots of people who haven't been obese or overweight are too, and for me losing weight wasn't so much about not being a hedonic eater or thinking eating for pleasure is bad, but addressing other issues with how I tended to eat/use food. In fact, I find associating hedonic eating with the most simple high cal low nutrient sugary type foods to be wrong as in many cases people most focused on the hedonic experience of eating have much more sophisticated palates (foodie types, people who will spend significant money to try different dishes or different restaurants, etc.) and what one actually craves is very much determined by what one eats. I'd guess that there's more obesity with people who eat quite mindlessly, and often foods they don't love (both of which used to be me, even though I wasn't as extreme as many) vs those who focus closely on the enjoyment of the food and pleasure of the experience. (I often get the feeling some of these food researchers who seem to think it's some big mystery why so many people are obese are people who are very much "food as fuel" types and find it weird that others eat foods for other reasons and find it easy to overeat, and thus that doing so must necessarily be pathologized.)

    I don't think I captured the gist of the article well in my article, so there may be some misinterpretation based on what I wrote. That's my fault.

    Hedonistic eating is only one part of the BED equation. The articles acknowledges that most humans participate in hedonistic eating at some time or another. It didn't demonize or pathologize it, as I think most people can agree enjoying food because it tastes good has become a human trait. I didn't get the sense that the researchers were "food is only to be used as fuel" people, and to ignore that we eat food sometimes because it tastes good is doing a disservice to those who struggle with weight. It does suggest that the rise in obesity is that as a whole we're partaking in hedonistic eating more frequently vs. eating just because we're hungry and have nutrient and caloric needs we need to satisfy. These (overly) sweet, and/or highly processed, highly palatable foods that people partake in when eating for pleasure are so readily available now.

    The theory with BED is that it's possibly a stronger response to hedonistic eating combined with decreased inhibitory response control mechanisms, as well as genetics and environmental influences, such as upbringing and trauma. The treatment method that was being described focuses more on inhibitory control training in response to pleasurable foods. Some medication (like Wellbutrin) was discussed as well.

    I don't know if I could have been diagnosed officially as having BED, but I have participated in binge eating a lot throughout my life, sometimes with attempts at purging. It was enough for me to seek therapy for it (which was pretty much useless). At first my bingeing started in response to a very restrictive diet, then in my late teens/early 20's it became about that and self-soothing. I would buy food just to binge--although I think I told myself it wasn't for that purpose. The foods I would binge on were always foods that tasted good to me, even if they weren't high quality or fancy (dry cereal and trail mix were a few of mine). Once I started, it was like the "off switch" had disappeared, almost as if in a trance-like state. Even though I felt sick as I was eating, I was just using the food to numb whatever was bothering me. And at that point, it definitely wasn't about taste anymore. Most times, I didn't even really know what was bothering me, but even the fact that I was bingeing and felt "out of control" made me seem to go off the rails with bingeing even more, if that makes sense. I hid food in my room, stole roomate's food, etc. I think the link to hedonistic eating is that those with BED will choose foods to binge out that do taste good and bring some pleasure initially, even if the food isn't all that high quality. I believe that's the argument for why someone with this disorder could binge on cookies, but not carrots (unless for some reason they find carrots highly pleasurable).
  • lemurcat2lemurcat2 Member Posts: 7,085 Member Member Posts: 7,085 Member
    @lemurcat2 I agree with what you say here. I'll have to read and think about this a little bit more. I have definitely full-out binged in the past, though my behavior was actually on the low end of what would be considered disordered from a clinical perspective. In those situations, the flavor of the food almost didn't matter, though I was picking high calorie, intense-flavored food (very high in fat and sugar, typically). My eating became much better when I was treated for anxiety and depression and I have not had a true binge in a very long time. I enjoy food quite a lot, but binging seems very different from that, at least that's been my experience. Looking back on it, it felt more like self-harm.

    I don't like the "hedonic" label because to me it seems associated with the (IMO mistaken) idea that eating should be seen as fuel only and the idea that we derive pleasure from it is bad. Perhaps that's not the connection that's intended by the WebMD author, but I have seen that idea floating around for a long time and honestly I really don't like it.
    Our bodies are the way they are for a reason. I do think it's true that some people are more tempted to excess in some behaviors but not others. That could be a factor of both genetics and environment. There's also an idea that's popular today that just because you want something, that makes it good and you can have as much of it however you want, and if someone says it's not good for you they're just being mean. I reject that idea too, whether we're talking about substances or behaviors.

    I do think people can overcome temptation even if it's one that they're more inclined to, to treat our bodies with respect but also gently. It might be helpful to know that you're more inclined to one behavior over another. Some people with alcoholism in their families decide straight up to just never drink to deal with that. I can respect that. If you know you're more likely to keep eating for emotional reasons, that CAN be helpful, but I suppose it could also make you more defeatist.

    I suppose I'm doing my thinking "out loud," here, instead of just in my head. :p

    My train of thought -- and I also have been thinking while typing -- is really similar, and I especially resonate with the parts I bolded.
  • lemurcat2lemurcat2 Member Posts: 7,085 Member Member Posts: 7,085 Member
    It does suggest that the rise in obesity is that as a whole we're partaking in hedonistic eating more frequently vs. eating just because we're hungry and have nutrient and caloric needs we need to satisfy. These (overly) sweet, and/or highly processed, highly palatable foods that people partake in when eating for pleasure are so readily available now.

    I think we clearly are eating just for pleasure, even when excess of calorie needs, more frequently now, but I don't think that has anything to do with addictiveness -- at least, it's quite easily explained through other more obvious causes and affects people who don't binge or think they have "addictive" responses to specific foods (or eating generally). The idea that one needs "addiction" so explain something like this is what I find odd -- food is easily available, really cheap, and around all the time in many cases, and cultural restrictions on when and what we eat have been largely erased for many. Mindless eating because something looks tasty is super easy, and yes, because of cost and ease and availability it's often highly processed dessert or snack foods or restaurant delivery stuff or fast food, etc., although hardly limited to that.

    Where I would strongly disagree is the idea that such foods, and specifically "(overly) sweet, and/or highly processed, highly palatable foods" are the main things that people, given their druthers, would eat for pleasure or find the most pleasurable. They are easily available. Personally, even when I was gaining that type of stuff didn't particularly attract me or give me pleasure vs other kinds of foods (and I adore food). It is often easily available, but once I started forcing myself to think about calories that stuff dropped out since it wasn't even stuff I liked all that much. It was just usually there (there meaning my office).
    At first my bingeing started in response to a very restrictive diet, then in my late teens/early 20's it became about that and self-soothing. I would buy food just to binge--although I think I told myself it wasn't for that purpose. The foods I would binge on were always foods that tasted good to me, even if they weren't high quality or fancy (dry cereal and trail mix were a few of mine). Once I started, it was like the "off switch" had disappeared, almost as if in a trance-like state. Even though I felt sick as I was eating, I was just using the food to numb whatever was bothering me. And at that point, it definitely wasn't about taste anymore. Most times, I didn't even really know what was bothering me, but even the fact that I was bingeing and felt "out of control" made me seem to go off the rails with bingeing even more, if that makes sense. I hid food in my room, stole roomate's food, etc. I think the link to hedonistic eating is that those with BED will choose foods to binge out that do taste good and bring some pleasure initially, even if the food isn't all that high quality. I believe that's the argument for why someone with this disorder could binge on cookies, but not carrots (unless for some reason they find carrots highly pleasurable).

    See, this to me seems more like eating as a process addiction to the extent it is an addiction, and not that it's about hedonism or driven by specific foods tasting so good. It's just of course you eat foods you like best when wanting to eat (or ones you like that are easily available and not too expensive). When I drank to excess (and when I emotionally ate/ate to self-soothe, which for me wasn't entirely like the relationship I had with alcohol but had some connections and I think it could be for some), I would generally choose drinks I liked (or food I liked), but I don't think the issue was I just loved the taste of those items so much. With booze specifically, I liked wine, but was picky about what I liked (being an oenophile is a good way to pretend you aren't a drunk for a while), and I would typically choose wines I liked and not drink wines I thought were unpleasant or, say, rum, which I did not like. But that doesn't mean the problem related to the wine just tasting too darn good or me just having an overly developed appreciation and love for the taste of wine. I was no more hedonistic when it came to enjoying the taste than plenty of people who weren't drinking in a dysfunctional manner. I was drinking for the effect, largely self-medicating in some ways, among other things. And absolutely by the end (heck, by the middle) it wasn't even enjoyable at all, and it was a form of self-harm, as alistairsmom said about binging (and although I didn't have the same issues with food, even getting to be quite obese, I get that too--I would definitely at times eat beyond what I really wanted since I didn't want it to end due to the other benefits I was getting in the moment from eating).
    edited March 12
  • penguinmama87penguinmama87 Member, Premium Posts: 263 Member Member, Premium Posts: 263 Member
    Hedonistic eating is only one part of the BED equation. The articles acknowledges that most humans participate in hedonistic eating at some time or another. It didn't demonize or pathologize it, as I think most people can agree enjoying food because it tastes good has become a human trait. I didn't get the sense that the researchers were "food is only to be used as fuel" people, and to ignore that we eat food sometimes because it tastes good is doing a disservice to those who struggle with weight. It does suggest that the rise in obesity is that as a whole we're partaking in hedonistic eating more frequently vs. eating just because we're hungry and have nutrient and caloric needs we need to satisfy. These (overly) sweet, and/or highly processed, highly palatable foods that people partake in when eating for pleasure are so readily available now.

    The theory with BED is that it's possibly a stronger response to hedonistic eating combined with decreased inhibitory response control mechanisms, as well as genetics and environmental influences, such as upbringing and trauma. The treatment method that was being described focuses more on inhibitory control training in response to pleasurable foods. Some medication (like Wellbutrin) was discussed as well.

    Thanks for the clarification! This makes sense to me. I think you can probably broadly apply the availability issue to a lot of problematic substances and behaviors, not just food. When you're a species built for scarcity, and now contend with plenty, it requires a very different and deliberate approach. I know that a big part of my success is in creating artificial scarcity - I'm selective about what food I bring home, I have a set budget for restaurants/takeout, etc. I think a lot of people who are trying to give up bad habits of all kinds do things like that.

    I think hedonism in general is a huge problem in contemporary modern society, but that's much more a philosophical issue and probably not suited really to MFP. But it's interesting to look at from a medical perspective and how that actually plays out in the brain. It's like executive functioning training for some neurological disorders - it's something that's automatically learned and practiced for many of us, but for those who struggle with it explicit instruction is much more helpful.

    ETA: Your description of how binging feels definitely feels familiar to me. Numbing is a very apt way to describe it. I'm very sorry you've been through that. I did have a dark laugh when you said the therapy was useless - I actually sought out help for eating specifically once - the first time I ever sought out counseling for anything - and the therapist looked me in the eye and said, "well, you're not doing hard drugs, so you don't really have a problem!" I went for three more sessions and she repeated that line at every one. Then I realized it wasn't going anywhere and quit. It came up organically several years later with a different, much better therapist and then I was finally able to work through it.
    edited March 12
  • Speakeasy76Speakeasy76 Member Posts: 456 Member Member Posts: 456 Member
    lemurcat2 wrote: »
    It does suggest that the rise in obesity is that as a whole we're partaking in hedonistic eating more frequently vs. eating just because we're hungry and have nutrient and caloric needs we need to satisfy. These (overly) sweet, and/or highly processed, highly palatable foods that people partake in when eating for pleasure are so readily available now.

    I think we clearly are eating just for pleasure, even when excess of calorie needs, more frequently now, but I don't think that has anything to do with addictiveness -- at least, it's quite easily explained through other more obvious causes and affects people who don't binge or think they have "addictive" responses to specific foods (or eating generally). The idea that one needs "addiction" so explain something like this is what I find odd -- food is easily available, really cheap, and around all the time in many cases, and cultural restrictions on when and what we eat have been largely erased for many. Mindless eating because something looks tasty is super easy, and yes, because of cost and ease and availability it's often highly processed dessert or snack foods or restaurant delivery stuff or fast food, etc., although hardly limited to that.

    Where I would strongly disagree is the idea that such foods, and specifically "(overly) sweet, and/or highly processed, highly palatable foods" are the main things that people, given their druthers, would eat for pleasure or find the most pleasurable. They are easily available. Personally, even when I was gaining that type of stuff didn't particularly attract me or give me pleasure vs other kinds of foods (and I adore food). It is often easily available, but once I started forcing myself to think about calories that stuff dropped out since it wasn't even stuff I liked all that much. It was just usually there (there meaning my office).
    At first my bingeing started in response to a very restrictive diet, then in my late teens/early 20's it became about that and self-soothing. I would buy food just to binge--although I think I told myself it wasn't for that purpose. The foods I would binge on were always foods that tasted good to me, even if they weren't high quality or fancy (dry cereal and trail mix were a few of mine). Once I started, it was like the "off switch" had disappeared, almost as if in a trance-like state. Even though I felt sick as I was eating, I was just using the food to numb whatever was bothering me. And at that point, it definitely wasn't about taste anymore. Most times, I didn't even really know what was bothering me, but even the fact that I was bingeing and felt "out of control" made me seem to go off the rails with bingeing even more, if that makes sense. I hid food in my room, stole roomate's food, etc. I think the link to hedonistic eating is that those with BED will choose foods to binge out that do taste good and bring some pleasure initially, even if the food isn't all that high quality. I believe that's the argument for why someone with this disorder could binge on cookies, but not carrots (unless for some reason they find carrots highly pleasurable).

    See, this to me seems more like eating as a process addiction to the extent it is an addiction, and not that it's about hedonism or driven by specific foods tasting so good. It's just of course you eat foods you like best when wanting to eat (or ones you like that are easily available and not too expensive). When I drank to excess (and when I emotionally ate/ate to self-soothe, which for me wasn't entirely like the relationship I had with alcohol but had some connections and I think it could be for some), I would generally choose drinks I liked (or food I liked), but I don't think the issue was I just loved the taste of those items so much. With booze specifically, I liked wine, but was picky about what I liked (being an oenophile is a good way to pretend you aren't a drunk for a while), and I would typically choose wines I liked and not drink wines I thought were unpleasant or, say, rum, which I did not like. But that doesn't mean the problem related to the wine just tasting too darn good or me just having an overly developed appreciation and love for the taste of wine. I was no more hedonistic when it came to enjoying the taste than plenty of people who weren't drinking in a dysfunctional manner. I was drinking for the effect, largely self-medicating in some ways, among other things. And absolutely by the end (heck, by the middle) it wasn't even enjoyable at all, and it was a form of self-harm, as alistairsmom said about binging (and although I didn't have the same issues with food, even getting to be quite obese, I get that too--I would definitely at times eat beyond what I really wanted since I didn't want it to end due to the other benefits I was getting in the moment from eating).

    I wanted to point out that the article didn't mention food addiction or claim certain foods were "addictive." It says that that sweet foods,especially, "flood the brain with dopamine" and once triggered, "may seek them out for the pleasure they bring." It doesn't go so far as to call it "addictive," though.

    I agree (and the article does as well) that those types of foods are easy to get, and therefore can lend themselves more easily to overdoing it. From the article:

    "And those tasty triggers are everywhere. Ultra-processed foods such as soft drinks and fruit drinks, breads, breakfast cereals, chips, and frozen pizzas make up almost 60% of Americans’ daily calories. They’re an alchemy of sugar, salt, fats, artificial flavoring, color, and texture -- a precisely calibrated industrial recipe for temptation."

    What's interesting, though, is that when I first started bingeing at age 15 due the extreme dieting, I had all kinds of snack foods at my parents' house from which I could choose. (Lucky me, I was the only one with the "weight problem" in our family). There were all kinds of potato chips, snack cakes, and cookies, but I almost always chose cereal; specifically, granola. When I lived on my own with a roommate, I would get my binge foods from the grocery store. I could've just as easily chosen grapes, carrots, or even a can of soup or chips. However, I always gravitated towards certain foods (sweet). When I started eating these foods, I don't think I consciously acknowledged I was going to binge, although I knew they were my "binge foods." I would start eating because they tasted good, but then it switched from just overeating because it tasted good to me to eating to numb--getting into that almost trance-like state. Once I got there, ironically the food I ate didn't matter so much as it wasn't for pleasure anymore, and by that point I was probably feeling sick.

    I will say I think that I do have a "stronger hedonistic drive" with foods and maybe other things as well, but have managed to override that now, I guess. I also think I've had anxiety and depression or tendencies towards that for longer than expected, so that combined with possible other factors (extreme dieting) led to the bingeing.
  • lemurcat2lemurcat2 Member Posts: 7,085 Member Member Posts: 7,085 Member
    I wanted to point out that the article didn't mention food addiction or claim certain foods were "addictive." It says that that sweet foods,especially, "flood the brain with dopamine" and once triggered, "may seek them out for the pleasure they bring." It doesn't go so far as to call it "addictive," though.

    I was making assumptions based on the title of the thread and how you associated with the other, so apologies if I misunderstood. (The article seemed to be pushing that way too, by suggesting we need to focus on specific fods to explain something that seems to me easy to explain without assuming that somehow cheap, easily available, highly processed foods are somehow far more "hedonistic" and different in their effect than the incredibly delicious foods humans have been making forever.)

    Re the idea that sweet foods are a special case (are you suggesting we should single out "sugar" as the issue vs talking about food disorders more broadly?), it's simply not true, and tons of studies support this,that it's specifically sweet foods that do that -- and again foods that are merely sweet are less likely to be issues (see apples) than combinations -- pizza, fat and sugar, fat and salt, etc., from everything I've seen measuring the supposed "addictiveness" of foods.

    I find it interesting that you seem to be pushing the "it's something specific about these foods" -- again, unless I am misunderstanding you, and I realize I might be -- when the alternative explanation for at least part of the out of control feeling is usually a reaction to a restriction pattern. In other words, when one understands one cannot have something, it is not uncommon to lose control when one does (the must eat my fill because this is my last chance for a while kind of thing). This is because you yourself say you understand your binging to be connected to restriction, at least at the beginning.

    I also think -- and here I will draw in part on my own experience -- that when particular foods or eating behaviors get associated with emotional needs (anxiety, self soothing, being able to blot out or postpone scary feelings), feeling out of control is also not uncommon. I don't really like a lot of the supermarket type sweets, so for me those things weren't related to sweet foods (or fast food, for that matter), but that doesn't make it less of a real thing or different in kind. I am sure what one preferences or has learned to associate with this type of thing ends up being what one gravitates too, but that doesn't mean specific foods CAUSE it or, especially, that it is specifically caused by sugar (which again it seems to me is what you are maybe suggesting).
    What's interesting, though, is that when I first started bingeing at age 15 due the extreme dieting, I had all kinds of snack foods at my parents' house from which I could choose. (Lucky me, I was the only one with the "weight problem" in our family). There were all kinds of potato chips, snack cakes, and cookies, but I almost always chose cereal; specifically, granola. When I lived on my own with a roommate, I would get my binge foods from the grocery store. I could've just as easily chosen grapes, carrots, or even a can of soup or chips. However, I always gravitated towards certain foods (sweet). When I started eating these foods, I don't think I consciously acknowledged I was going to binge, although I knew they were my "binge foods." I would start eating because they tasted good, but then it switched from just overeating because it tasted good to me to eating to numb--getting into that almost trance-like state. Once I got there, ironically the food I ate didn't matter so much as it wasn't for pleasure anymore, and by that point I was probably feeling sick.

    I suspect it's common to have foods one gravitates to or has learned to find extra comforting. I would just disagree that it's something caused by, say, granola or the sweet foods you later bought vs a type of thing that could be associated with a wide variety of foods depending on the circumstances, person, history of the behavior and taste preferences, among many other things. And I would reject the idea that it's about love of food or being more hedonistic with food.
    I also think I've had anxiety and depression or tendencies towards that for longer than expected, so that combined with possible other factors (extreme dieting) led to the bingeing.

    This bit, to me, sounds quite likely. It's something similar for me, although I didn't specifically do anything I would have described as binging with food (I did overeat quite a bit for emotional reasons or to address anxiety). I think I'm super lucky that although I thought I was fat growing up (I wasn't), I never actually tried dieting until I was in my 30s (and by that point into the obese category) and I happened to start with a pretty balanced approach, so I never got the bad effects of dieting culture or restricting in an extreme way (I did from a health approach at one point, but that was more about food snobbery than real anxiety about eating foods I thought were less healthy, even if couched in a health/eating "real food" only context, and I didn't crave foods other than those I ate, I just found I could easily eat that way and overeat, since the food was of course tasty).
  • Speakeasy76Speakeasy76 Member Posts: 456 Member Member Posts: 456 Member
    lemurcat2 wrote: »
    I wanted to point out that the article didn't mention food addiction or claim certain foods were "addictive." It says that that sweet foods,especially, "flood the brain with dopamine" and once triggered, "may seek them out for the pleasure they bring." It doesn't go so far as to call it "addictive," though.

    I was making assumptions based on the title of the thread and how you associated with the other, so apologies if I misunderstood. (The article seemed to be pushing that way too, by suggesting we need to focus on specific fods to explain something that seems to me easy to explain without assuming that somehow cheap, easily available, highly processed foods are somehow far more "hedonistic" and different in their effect than the incredibly delicious foods humans have been making forever.)

    Re the idea that sweet foods are a special case (are you suggesting we should single out "sugar" as the issue vs talking about food disorders more broadly?), it's simply not true, and tons of studies support this,that it's specifically sweet foods that do that -- and again foods that are merely sweet are less likely to be issues (see apples) than combinations -- pizza, fat and sugar, fat and salt, etc., from everything I've seen measuring the supposed "addictiveness" of foods.

    I find it interesting that you seem to be pushing the "it's something specific about these foods" -- again, unless I am misunderstanding you, and I realize I might be -- when the alternative explanation for at least part of the out of control feeling is usually a reaction to a restriction pattern. In other words, when one understands one cannot have something, it is not uncommon to lose control when one does (the must eat my fill because this is my last chance for a while kind of thing). This is because you yourself say you understand your binging to be connected to restriction, at least at the beginning.

    I also think -- and here I will draw in part on my own experience -- that when particular foods or eating behaviors get associated with emotional needs (anxiety, self soothing, being able to blot out or postpone scary feelings), feeling out of control is also not uncommon. I don't really like a lot of the supermarket type sweets, so for me those things weren't related to sweet foods (or fast food, for that matter), but that doesn't make it less of a real thing or different in kind. I am sure what one preferences or has learned to associate with this type of thing ends up being what one gravitates too, but that doesn't mean specific foods CAUSE it or, especially, that it is specifically caused by sugar (which again it seems to me is what you are maybe suggesting).
    What's interesting, though, is that when I first started bingeing at age 15 due the extreme dieting, I had all kinds of snack foods at my parents' house from which I could choose. (Lucky me, I was the only one with the "weight problem" in our family). There were all kinds of potato chips, snack cakes, and cookies, but I almost always chose cereal; specifically, granola. When I lived on my own with a roommate, I would get my binge foods from the grocery store. I could've just as easily chosen grapes, carrots, or even a can of soup or chips. However, I always gravitated towards certain foods (sweet). When I started eating these foods, I don't think I consciously acknowledged I was going to binge, although I knew they were my "binge foods." I would start eating because they tasted good, but then it switched from just overeating because it tasted good to me to eating to numb--getting into that almost trance-like state. Once I got there, ironically the food I ate didn't matter so much as it wasn't for pleasure anymore, and by that point I was probably feeling sick.

    I suspect it's common to have foods one gravitates to or has learned to find extra comforting. I would just disagree that it's something caused by, say, granola or the sweet foods you later bought vs a type of thing that could be associated with a wide variety of foods depending on the circumstances, person, history of the behavior and taste preferences, among many other things. And I would reject the idea that it's about love of food or being more hedonistic with food.
    I also think I've had anxiety and depression or tendencies towards that for longer than expected, so that combined with possible other factors (extreme dieting) led to the bingeing.

    This bit, to me, sounds quite likely. It's something similar for me, although I didn't specifically do anything I would have described as binging with food (I did overeat quite a bit for emotional reasons or to address anxiety). I think I'm super lucky that although I thought I was fat growing up (I wasn't), I never actually tried dieting until I was in my 30s (and by that point into the obese category) and I happened to start with a pretty balanced approach, so I never got the bad effects of dieting culture or restricting in an extreme way (I did from a health approach at one point, but that was more about food snobbery than real anxiety about eating foods I thought were less healthy, even if couched in a health/eating "real food" only context, and I didn't crave foods other than those I ate, I just found I could easily eat that way and overeat, since the food was of course tasty).

    I don't personally believe sugar in and of itself is "addictive" or "bad," although I do *try* to be conscious of added sugar (but am not hypervigilant by any means). We're born with a preference for sweet foods (breastmilk is naturally sweet), so it makes sense we'd gravitate towards those tastes. I also think tastes preferences are individual: my oldest brother's favorite snack every day after school was potato chips (and he still likes salty and spicy), the other brother's was peanut butter and crackers (so salty and a little sweet) whereas I'd always go for the sweet snack. I do think it's the sweet in combination with other factors that make it more tempting for a lot of people. Some people really like super-sweet treats like gummy worms and cotton candy, whereas I never cared for those. It was the sweet with fat that I preferred.

    I think for me yes, the binges started out of restriction, but I wasn't being super-restrictive when they started again full-force in my 20's. I also am pretty sure of the reason why I gravitated towards sweet or sweet/salty and crunchy foods. The act of chewing (especially crunch and/or chewy foods) can be calming in and of itself. If you've ever worked with or have known children with special needs (or even a neurotypical child with some sensory needs), you'd know about the wide array of "chewies" available to help kids who can't seem to stop biting and chewing on things as way to help them calm their nervous system.
  • lemurcat2lemurcat2 Member Posts: 7,085 Member Member Posts: 7,085 Member
    I don't disagree with any of that. (I think it's consistent with what I said before, in fact.)
  • AnnPT77AnnPT77 Member, Premium Posts: 19,493 Member Member, Premium Posts: 19,493 Member
    I've long considered hedonism to be a crucial factor in how I became and stayed obese (and my hedonism isn't strictly limited to eating).

    Probably, I'm just restating differently what others have already said above, but in the article, I feel as if there's some facile elision of things that are separable, to the point of slightly murky reasoning: Pleasure, overeating, binge eating, so-called hyperpalatable foods, desire, compulsion, anxiety, guilt, etc.

    For some people, I fully believe that some of those factors conspire and reinforce each other, and that childhood experience can have an influence on that. I think the article overplays the hedonism part, and underplays the other factors, I guess. There's an air of "New discovery: People eat for pleasure. This may be doom for body weight!"

    When a person eats for pleasure, even over-eats for pleasure, I don't think there's always some inescapable, irresistible impulse or psychological compulsion involved. I admit, I may be biased, because I think I'm reasonably well-adjusted, psychologically even keel, but I could be wrong.

    Even now (year 5+ at healthy weight), I can can eat up to 2 or 3 times my TDEE in a day, and sometimes do. I don't feel *compelled* to do that, occasionally I choose to, because it's pleasurable, just as I might choose to do other pleasurable things that can have consequences, acting in full consideration of those consequences. There's not typically an emotional or stress trigger. (I understand that some other people seem to have a "too full" feeling that's unpleasurable, that I don't seem to have to the same extent.) To think of it as other than a choice would be really unhelpful, for me.

    To put it in a different way, I think there's a difference, in the personal psychology, between deciding to have the nachos *and* the sangria *and* the enchilada dinner *and* the desert sopapilla for dinner at my favorite Mexican restaurant (which will easily get me to 2x TDEE or more, after a normal breakfast/lunch) . . . and an evening where I sat in my kitchen unable to stop myself from impulsively, compulsively eating a whole box of crackers, box of cereal, Oreos, or IDontCare, anything at hand, because I can't stop myself, and weeping along the way. (I don't believe I've ever done anything like that.)

    Those may both get to the same gross calorie intake, they may both involve what is technically hedonic vs. homeostatic "hunger", but they're psychologically quite different states, and suggest the need for very, very different intervention strategies for a person who'd prefer to avoid doing one or the other. They have different root causes.

    I'd consider the 2nd scenario a true binge, in a strict sense, and the first something that many people would call "a binge" in casual conversation. Both involve some kind of comfort seeking, probably, but I'm not sure the 2nd would usually be considered pleasure-seeking behavior. The woman who's the subject of the article, in her childhood secret eating, seems to me have been seeking something distinct from or in addition to pleasure in the normal sense . . . control, maybe? Dunno.

    It seems simplistic to suggest that if one is not constrained by homestatic hunger signaling, then hedonic eating is the main deal. Is pleasure a factor? Maybe. But it's not that simple, IMO.

    I feel like the article is a little over-dramatic with the parallels to addiction, as if the author likes to paint the issue of hedonic overeating as more inescapable than IMO it actually is. I don't like things that imply that it's out of our control, because they're disempowering. I understand that one can be psychologically in a place where one can't exercise control, and empathize with that. (In non-food scenarios, I've felt something similar at times). The article seems a bit like "it's the hedonism!!!" in overall tenor, in a way that's simplistic, though it does include some limitations/caveats about the idea. (I don't mostly like drama, either, but it does drive clicks.)

    As an aside, I agree with lemur that the "OMG hyperpalatable evil foods" sort of thing is common to call out as a factor, but that for me most of the foods usually meant are really not very desirable or tasty, which makes me doubt that they're as powerful as some of these articles imply.

    But maybe I'm the one that's broken, lacking the right hyperpalatability signals or something. Fast food doesn't push my buttons, Oreos are not even worth eating (a non-food, pretty much), soda pop isn't appealing, etc., in my world. A nice home-made cheesecake? Sure. Good Indian restaurant buffet? Gimme. Baked brie in puffed pastry stuffed with cranberries and toasted almonds and some good bread alongside? You betcha. Good beer-battered fresh mushrooms, with well-made DIPA on the side? Yes, please. People's tastes differ, so their pleasures differ. (I think there's an element of common culture, i.e., what's popular to eat, in perceived "desirable" food choices, too.)

    As an aside, the idea that HIIT suppresses hunger seems weird to me. Intense exercise has the opposite effect for some people, based not only on personal experience, but on what I've seen some others say here on MFP. On a quick search, the evidence seems more mixed than the article implies.
  • lemurcat2lemurcat2 Member Posts: 7,085 Member Member Posts: 7,085 Member
    That's a much better way of explaining what really bothered me about the article, Ann. Thanks! I feel like I know what hedonistic eating is, find it easy to overeat for such reasons, and think it's likely common and needs no "eating disorder" kind of explanation and likely has little to do with the processed foods that get focused on specifically (but that they are easily available and some find them extra tasty).

    I also feel like I have some experience with eating for dysfunctional reasons, most specifically emotional eating or stress eating, and with a use disorder NOT food related, and neither of those had anything to do with hedonism (except to the extent that one wants to call hedonism a difficulty dealing with/reaction to with negative feelings). So the seeming conflation of the two (or at least insufficient distinction and claiming enjoyment=irresistible impulse vs normal human response) really bugged me. Loving food may make weight control a bit more difficult than for someone who genuinely doesn't care about it from anything but fuel perspective (and I have known such people, although I tend to think they are relatively rare), but I don't think that in itself actually is the big difficulty with weight control once one realizes that calories matter -- and I'll note that there are plenty of people on MFP who say they hate food, interestingly enough. It's not an uncommon thing with new person posts.
  • ahoy_m8ahoy_m8 Member Posts: 2,303 Member Member Posts: 2,303 Member
    Hedonistic eating is only one part of the BED equation. The articles acknowledges that most humans participate in hedonistic eating at some time or another. It didn't demonize or pathologize it, as I think most people can agree enjoying food because it tastes good has become a human trait. I didn't get the sense that the researchers were "food is only to be used as fuel" people, and to ignore that we eat food sometimes because it tastes good is doing a disservice to those who struggle with weight. It does suggest that the rise in obesity is that as a whole we're partaking in hedonistic eating more frequently vs. eating just because we're hungry and have nutrient and caloric needs we need to satisfy. These (overly) sweet, and/or highly processed, highly palatable foods that people partake in when eating for pleasure are so readily available now.

    The theory with BED is that it's possibly a stronger response to hedonistic eating combined with decreased inhibitory response control mechanisms, as well as genetics and environmental influences, such as upbringing and trauma. The treatment method that was being described focuses more on inhibitory control training in response to pleasurable foods. Some medication (like Wellbutrin) was discussed as well.

    Thanks for the clarification! This makes sense to me. I think you can probably broadly apply the availability issue to a lot of problematic substances and behaviors, not just food. When you're a species built for scarcity, and now contend with plenty, it requires a very different and deliberate approach. I know that a big part of my success is in creating artificial scarcity - I'm selective about what food I bring home, I have a set budget for restaurants/takeout, etc. I think a lot of people who are trying to give up bad habits of all kinds do things like that.

    I think hedonism in general is a huge problem in contemporary modern society, but that's much more a philosophical issue and probably not suited really to MFP. But it's interesting to look at from a medical perspective and how that actually plays out in the brain. It's like executive functioning training for some neurological disorders - it's something that's automatically learned and practiced for many of us, but for those who struggle with it explicit instruction is much more helpful.

    ETA: Your description of how binging feels definitely feels familiar to me. Numbing is a very apt way to describe it. I'm very sorry you've been through that. I did have a dark laugh when you said the therapy was useless - I actually sought out help for eating specifically once - the first time I ever sought out counseling for anything - and the therapist looked me in the eye and said, "well, you're not doing hard drugs, so you don't really have a problem!" I went for three more sessions and she repeated that line at every one. Then I realized it wasn't going anywhere and quit. It came up organically several years later with a different, much better therapist and then I was finally able to work through it.

    Weighing in with lemurcat & AnnPT on a clear distinction between:
    - hedonism (doing a lot, maybe too much, of something enjoyable) and
    - a compulsive disorder (doing something to such excess that it feels unenjoyable and out of control)
    I'm also interested in how to differentiate those from
    - addiction, commonly associated with loss of control to the point of negative major life impacts (job loss, relationship loss, incarceration, etc.)

    I guess I'm thinking about this today because of the mass murders in Atlanta yesterday. The police chief said the perpetrator was acting out in opposition to his sex addiction. (Controversial since the statement avoided the hate crime element, but I'm not addressing that controversy here.) Sex, gambling, shopping addictions are interesting because they seem to be driven by brain chemistry untouched by foreign substance. Certainly behaviors, even thinking patterns, can change brain structure. Love the interesting studies on how meditation does this! Hence, we can change our brains for the better or worse. But dopamine, serotonin, and whatever other neurotransmitters are involved must be really powerful to drive people to allow the behavior to trash their lives (and sadly, innocent victims' lives).

    I put disordered eating into the behavior category, not the foreign substance category. Yes, when we binge sweets we are technically putting something into our body, but the brain impact is to stimulate existing neurotransmitters vs. a foreign substance (like opiods or alcohol). That's not to say neurotransmitters aren't powerful. All the behavior addictions show that they are.

    So back to the thread title, how do you all relate behavior addiction to a compulsive disorder? Is it just a matter of degree?
  • chocolate_owlchocolate_owl Member Posts: 1,599 Member Member Posts: 1,599 Member
    ahoy_m8 wrote: »
    So back to the thread title, how do you all relate behavior addiction to a compulsive disorder? Is it just a matter of degree?

    Addiction and compulsive disorders have somewhat different underlying motives. Addiction is driven by a need to derive pleasure or relieve pain or discomfort. Gambling better fits the addiction model than the compulsion model because the gambler is seeking out the pleasure/thrill of winning. Compulsive behavior is an insatiable urge, usually triggered by anxiety. Think of a person with OCD excessively washing their hands. This is not pleasurable, and there's not physical pain being relieved. It's easy to see how eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia are compulsive disorders, but the hedonistic component of BED makes it a little blurrier IMO.

    These behaviors are usually classified differently because they're treated differently. CBT is used for both, but an addict might need adventure therapy (i.e. replace your drug high with a physical accomplishment high), whereas compulsive disorders respond better to exposure therapy (the patient imagines what will happen if they don't do their compulsive behavior). Drugs for an addict are might be things specific to their drug of choice, while compulsive disorders are often rooted in anxiety and can be treated with anti-depressant and anti-anxiety medication.
  • Speakeasy76Speakeasy76 Member Posts: 456 Member Member Posts: 456 Member
    ahoy_m8 wrote: »
    So back to the thread title, how do you all relate behavior addiction to a compulsive disorder? Is it just a matter of degree?

    Addiction and compulsive disorders have somewhat different underlying motives. Addiction is driven by a need to derive pleasure or relieve pain or discomfort. Gambling better fits the addiction model than the compulsion model because the gambler is seeking out the pleasure/thrill of winning. Compulsive behavior is an insatiable urge, usually triggered by anxiety. Think of a person with OCD excessively washing their hands. This is not pleasurable, and there's not physical pain being relieved. It's easy to see how eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia are compulsive disorders, but the hedonistic component of BED makes it a little blurrier IMO.

    These behaviors are usually classified differently because they're treated differently. CBT is used for both, but an addict might need adventure therapy (i.e. replace your drug high with a physical accomplishment high), whereas compulsive disorders respond better to exposure therapy (the patient imagines what will happen if they don't do their compulsive behavior). Drugs for an addict are might be things specific to their drug of choice, while compulsive disorders are often rooted in anxiety and can be treated with anti-depressant and anti-anxiety medication.

    I have thought a lot after reading this article with my own experience with binge eating. I don't know if it would've been classified as a disorder at the time and if so probably mild, but as I mentioned above I did seek therapy for it.

    I personally believe BED is a mix of a compulsive disorder mixed with the hedonistic aspect, as you mentioned. However, I think the initial pleasure that comes from eating yummy foods is replaced with the compulsion to use the binge eating to relieve discomfort. OCD is also what came to mind when I was distinguishing a compulsion without the hedonistic aspect vs. one with hedonism. Again, I don't think hedonism is the driving force behind BED, but again I personally never started a binge with foods that I didn't find especially tasty (and usually had some crunch too them). I don't think the foods I chose were "addictive" for me either, and I don't think I had an addiction to food.

    I have a history of some compulsive-like behaviors since childhood, well, really only one. I started pulling my eyelashes out at age 7, so trichotillomania. I believe this is now classified as an obsessive-compulsive type behavior, although I don't have any other manifestations of OCD. I've experienced this at different times in my life: the first at around age 7, then as a teenager, then as a young adult living and working on my own. It's been in "remission" for awhile, but hair-twirling is still a "bad habit" when I'm stressed. I distinctly remember that the only time I sought professional home was around the same time my binge eating got really bad. I'm sure there is a correlation there, for me, anyway.

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