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  • Kelly O'Donnell

Food addiction is real.

I am here to tell you, food addiction is real!


Most people do not think about food being addictive. Alcohol, yes. Heroin, yes. But food? We all have to eat! How could food possibly be an addiction?


As a society, we are very forgiving to addicts when it comes to alcohol (think Don Draper). We romanticize other addictions as well (think about all those genius musicians who die tragic drug overdoses, but live on in our hearts forever!) But food addicts? Forget it. These people are labelled lazy and weak. They often internalize this feeling and feel deeply shamed. It is not fair.

We need to look at the reality of food addiction. I want to clarify a few things…


The DSM V (the handbook of mental health diagnosis) says the following about alcohol addiction. I am going to replace the word “alcohol” with “food”, and “alcohol use” with “overeating” in the following passage…


A problematic pattern of use leading to … distress…. occurring within a 12 month period of at least 2 of the following…

  1. Food is often eaten in larger amounts or over a longer period than was intended.

  2. There is a persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control eating.

  3. A great deal of time is spent in activities necessary to obtain food, or recover from the effects of overeating.

  4. Cravings or a strong desire or urge to eat.

  5. Overeating or the effects of overeating resulting in a failure to fulfill major role obligations at work school or home.

  6. Continued overeating despite having persistent or recurrent social or interpersonal problems caused by or exacerbated by the effects of overeating.

  7. Important social, occupational, or recreational activities are given up or reduced because of overeating or the effects of overeating.

  8. Recurrent eating of a food which is physically hazardous.

  9. Overeating continues despite having a persistent or recurrent physical or psychological problem that is likely to have been caused or exacerbated by overeating.

  10. Tolerance….

  11. Withdraw…

So… This is addiction. Why don’t we treat it that way? Why do we treat alcohol addiction as a “disease”, and food addiction as a character flaw?


If you beat yourself up about eating, obsess over food, restrict and binge, or east to the point of discomfort regularly, you may need help. There is nothing wrong with admitting you have a problem and getting help. You do not have to face this alone.

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