The cry of I have no willpower! often emerges from the consumers who jokingly surrender to their lack of will when it comes to eating something clearly unhealthy. However, scientific nutritional research has identified that something much more serious much more dangerous is often at work here. For many people, what they perceive as a harmless lack of willpower is actually an addiction to chemicals that the brain secretes in response to stimulation by certain foods, such as chocolate or cheese[i].
As dangerous as this addiction is, however, recent studies suggest that it is actually much more frightening than it first seems. According to one notable study, the human brain can release dopamine, which is a neurotransmitter linked with feelings of enjoyment, when a person merely sees or smells certain foods[ii]. As such, people who may be sensibly avoiding foods that release serotonin and other chemicals (such as chocolate) may still be susceptible to a sight and smell-based addiction to unhealthy food.
Understanding this complex problem begins with understanding the word addiction. Defining a clear-cut definition of addiction is in itself a challenge and a rather hotly debated pursuit at the moment. Still, there is enough unity among credible social and biological scientists to say that a person who is powerless to stop an action is addicted[iii]. When applying this rather grave concept to eating, it becomes starkly clear that choosing an extra slice of pizza or bar of chocolate may be the expression of a very serious addiction to unhealthy food.
Remarkably, unlike how addictions to things like alcohol, drugs, and sexual activity viewed as biological and psychological illnesses, addiction to eating are often ignored or, at the very least, diminished to be something that is based on willpower. The insulting advice of just dont eat it if you dont want to get fat! that some obese people actually hear from their doctors, relatives or colleagues is one of the most common manifestations of this often well-meaning, but potentially harmful, ignorance.
The bottom line fact and one that more medical professionals are accepting based on scientific evidence is that obesity and related eating disorders are often the results of an addiction they are a serious health condition that must be approached methodologically like other diseases[iv].
Understanding that food addiction is indeed a problem a severe disease, in fact, is a fundamental key in addressing this unique health challenge. At the same time, the notion of willpower should be removed, in most cases, from the eating disorder vocabulary, and replaced with the word addiction. This will make that extra piece of pizza or that third slice of chocolate cake be seen for what they often are: the means to satisfy a bonafide addiction.
Once the eating disorder as an addiction paradigm is in place, then and only then can both unhealthy eaters and those supporting them take steps to solve the problem. While there are no overnight solutions, there are paths that eaters can take that head in the right direction: freedom from eating addiction. The first step on this path is to eat a complete and balanced source of nutrition.
Taking this first step, like so much else associated with the addiction to unhealthy food, is easier said than done. Eating sensibly is unusually difficult in a time-starved culture and even more difficult when there are arrays of self-described nutritious dietary sources to choose from. Whether it is energy bars or fad diets, finding a simple, convenient, and practical source of balanced nutrition is hard to find.
However, some exceptional products are garnering serious positive attention from the scientific community. These products deliver complete protein in a vitamin-enriched formula. Furthermore and of critical value is that these products contain no carbohydrates, no unsaturated fat, and few calories none of which are from fat. These products are helping people unchain themselves from food addictions, and reflect a trend towards nutritious and ethical nutritional supplement manufacturing.
Of ultimate importance, however, is that these products return eating choice control back to where it must always remain: with conscious and empowered consumers, and not to some hidden and potentially destructive addiction.