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The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

Do you think that chronic overeating is a personal choice or an addiction?

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25 Answers

nikipedia's avatar

Addiction is a tricky word. People use it to mean so many different things that sometimes I don’t think it’s very useful. It sounds like the question you’re asking is, “are people who chronically overeat in control of this behavior or not?”

It seems to me that if someone is overeating so much that it’s causing problems in his/her life, s/he clearly does not have full control over that behavior. Whether that falls under the umbrella of “addiction” or not doesn’t seem important to me.

The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

I specifically used the word “addiction” because it is as relevant as gambling addiction. Eating can trigger chemicals in the brain that generate a rush.

Addicts can’t stop on their own most times.

nikipedia's avatar

@The_Compassionate_Heretic: It might be helpful to define what you mean by “addiction” for the purposes of this question, then.

The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

Addiction: compulsive need for and use of a habit-forming substance (as heroin, nicotine, or alcohol) characterized by tolerance and by well-defined physiological symptoms upon withdrawal ; broadly : persistent compulsive use of a substance known by the user to be harmful

I’m not talking about the ocassion person who eats too much which we have all done.
I’m talking about consumption of massive amounts of food on a daily basis to the point where it seriously affects their health and social lives.

Hence: Addiction.

nikipedia's avatar

@The_Compassionate_Heretic: So hopefully now you can see my problem with using the word “addiction” in this context. We all have a need for food, we all use it habitually, we all tolerate it, and we all experience physiological symptoms upon withdrawal. The only difference, then, between a normal eater and a compulsive overeater seems to be that the compulsive overeater is using food in a way that is harmful.

TheWatcher's avatar

I say it’s an addiction. A friend of mine actually went to therapy for it

seekingwolf's avatar

In a psychological sense, yes, overeating can be addicting. People have bad relationships with food and have “cravings” that cannot be overcome easily, much like how alcoholics crave a drink.

I think the word “addiction” here can apply. Just because people need to eat doesn’t mean that someone who abuses the food isn’t suffering with addiction. People who overeat often do it to produce good feelings in their psyche or fill a need or an emptiness. If they don’t do it, they suffer consequences. Much overeating is subconscious as well and the people cannot stop. Sounds like an addiction to me.

The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

@nikipedia Good. I’m glad we agree on the premise.

SirBailey's avatar

The problem with your question is that obesity has a number of origins and two obese people may be obese for different reasons. So definitely it’s an addiction in some. In others, it’s a personal choice. For still others, it’s a psychological reason related to a host of things including depression, attention, obsessive compulsive disorder, etc. And there are some that overeat because they choose to overeat. For some it’s genetic. For some it’s related to the medications they take.Then there are people who overeat for combinations of these things, to varying degrees. Not to mention those that are obese because they don’t exercise, or can’t. It’s a very complex thing.

TheWatcher's avatar

I read in an article that food is the new sex! Some relationships have gone south, just becuz someone cheated on their partner with food.

The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

@SirBailey I’ll put you in the column of “not a personal choice” then.

SirBailey's avatar

@The_Compassionate_Heretic, it’s your question so you can do what you want, but I never said that. Some people like to eat, no matter the consequences.

EmpressPixie's avatar

I think it’s like most things—for some people it is an addiction. They honestly cannot stop, no matter how much they want to. For some people it is a complete and utter choice.

The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

Perhaps I should have used the words “Compulsive overeating”.

TheWatcher's avatar

Me hungry! (eats his way through all kfc) can’t stop…..mmmm

hungryhungryhortence's avatar

I think overeating for most people is a gradual building up and accustoming thing rather than initial addiction. You eat more than your body can handle and get used to it then the body wants that much and you keep pushing until you realize you’re not in a healthy size anymore. Believe it or not, when you first start gaining weight, you don’t really see it because you look at yourself everyday and your brain adjusts constantly to what it thinks is normal. Usually takes a snarky relative or horrible photograph to shock the hell out of you.

YARNLADY's avatar

As with any question of overeating, each person has a different reason/story for their behavior. Would you call it a choice or an addiction when a person is having difficulty changing a life time habit, because of a radical change in metabolism?

As a personal observation, I was always considered painfully thin and ate as much of everything as I wanted to. This all changed about 20 years ago, when I started gaining a pound or two every month. At first I chalked it up to normal aging, and only made small changes. Then I started getting serious about it, and tried various ‘diets’ without much success.

With the onset of ‘Pre-diabetes’ my doctor referred me to a dietitian, and she worked with me on a healthy eating plan I can stick to. My downfall is not exercising, rather than overeating. I much prefer to just sit here, or do small amounts of housework. I have never been an active person, even when I was young. I was always the subject of teasing in gym class, last in everything.

stardust's avatar

I do think that if someone is overeating to the extent where their health is suffering, it can be an addiction. It is as valid an addiction as tobacco, alcohol or heroin. Addictive behaviour is addictive behaviour, regardless of the substance. I think it’s sad that society doesn’t appreciate the struggle people have with such an addiction. It needs to be addressed more openly and head on. There’s vast numbers of obese people all over the world. I don’t know if people choose this for themselves in the long run

ubersiren's avatar

I say it’s an addiction from my own struggles. I try very hard to eat well. I mean, sometimes it makes me cry. There have been times when I’ve had friends over, for example, and we’ll be watching a movie, and I can’t even concentrate on the movie because I want them to go home so I can get into the fridge. I know, disgusting, right? But I’m working on it and have gotten a lot better.

YARNLADY's avatar

@ubersiren What I do is add a few drops of lemon to my ice water, and then go for the celery.

prude's avatar

not choice, not addiction.

tedibear's avatar

@ubersiren – That is not disgusting. Please, please, please try to not think of yourself that way, difficult as it may be. If you’re working on it, all you can do is keep working, and forgive yourself the occasional slip up. To quote a friend of mine, “Keep your chin up and your mouth closed!”

To answer the question, I think that it is an addiction for some people. Not everyone, but it is for me.

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ItsAHabit's avatar

It’s a result of not deferring gratification and one’s subsequent choices The non-profit Jude Thaddeus program teaches people how to overcome this problem and free themselves of “addiction.”

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