Thought of eating consumes you? You may be a food addict

High fat content is a significant predictor of problematic eating.
PHOTO: The New Paper

It is no wonder people like to indulge in gastronomic delights when they are in a food haven like Singapore.

But if the idea of eating starts to consume you, you may have a problem.

According to the Food Addiction Institute, a food addiction refers to a biochemical dependency on food.

Food addicts experience physical craving, mental obsession and a distortion of basic instincts and will.

This is different from binge eating disorder, a psychological disorder derived from unresolved trauma and family dysfunction, or a lack of cognitive feeling and behavioural skills to deal with difficult emotions.


Food addiction is classified as a process addiction - one which involves a malfunction of the brain reward system.

When the reward system is activated, our body releases dopamine.

Some people get addicted to this pleasant rush and seek out certain foods that give us these good vibes.

The cravings may be accompanied by guilt or deprivation.

Food addiction can be diagnosed through the Yale Food Addiction Scale, developed by Yale University's Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity.

All-in-one healthy bowls gaining popularity in Singapore

  • Aloha Poke at Change Alley @ Chevron House.
  • Poke (say “po-kay”), or marinated Hawaiian raw fish salad from Aloha Poke at Amoy Street.
  • The owners of Aloha Poke (from left) Lee Yue Xian, John Chen and Selene Ong love the raw fish dish so much they set up a cafe selling it.
  • A Standard Bowl of Ahi Tuna in Original Sauce from Aloha Poke.
  • Fried Chicken Skin from Alter Ego at Esplanade Mall.
  • Grilled Cheese with Short Rib from Alter Ego at Esplanade Mall.
  • Poke & Chips from Alter Ego at Esplanade Mall.
  • Pizza Fries from Alter Ego at Esplanade Mall.
  • Cacaoholic Smoothie Bowl from Alter Ego at Esplanade Mall.
  • Black Angus striploin from Chalong.
  • At Grain Traders located at CapitaGreen, 138 Market Street, diners get a bowl with one grain, one hot vegetable, two servings of cold vegetables, one sauce and one topping, for $16.
  • Health salad meal from Grain Traders.
  • Salad options from Grain Traders at 138 Market Street.
  • Yasai from Ninja Bowl at 15 Duxton Road.
  • Fancy French from Ninja Bowl.
  • Kaisen Ninja Bowl from Ninja Bowl at 15 Duxton Road.
  • Kabuki (chicken thigh marinated in miso, soya sauce, garlic and honey, with delicious pickled beets) from Ninja Bowl at 15 Duxton Road.
  • Ebisu (seared Hokkaido scallops and mussels, with bread) from Ninja Bowl at 15 Duxton Road.
  • Tsukiji dish with tuna tataki, asparagus andedamametossed in lemon juice and sesame oil, topped with an onsen egg from Ninaja Bowl.
  • Da Kama’Aina poke bowl from Pololi.

The criteria include:

  • Substance often taken in larger amounts or over a longer period than intended
  • Persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to lower or control substance use
  • Craving, or a strong desire or urge to use the substance
  • Recurrent substance use resulting in a failure to fulfil major role obligations at work, school or home
  • Continued use despite having persistent or recurrent social or interpersonal problems caused or exacerbated by the effects of the substance
  • Recurrent substance use in situations in which it is physically hazardous

According to a 2015 study, processed food is associated with behavioural indicators of an eating addiction.

Highly processed foods are altered to be particularly rewarding through adding fats or refined carbohydrates like white flour and sugar, said researchers at the University of Michigan and the New York Obesity Research Center.

A high glycemic load (GL) - measure of blood sugar spike after consumption - is also indicative of whether a type of food is associated with addictive-like eating behaviours.

Previous research suggests foods with higher GL may be capable of activating reward-related neural circuitry - much like addictive substances - and increasing craving and hunger.

A higher fat content is also a significant predictor of problematic eating.

Previous research also shows that fat may enhance palatability in the mouth.

The way out of food addiction is to get to the root and figure out what is triggering the need for comfort food, said experts.

Consider seeking help at a centre qualified and experienced in treating food addiction, like The Cabin Singapore.

10 herbs and spices that boost your health

  • Awesomely flavourful and healing for digestion (killing bugs, worms, and viruses), with flavonoids that help protect cell structure and function. High in vitamin K, which strengthens bones. Delicious in pesto, salads, soups (especially tomato), stir-fries, or as basil tea (delicious, honestly). The oils are volatile, so add to food at the end of the cooking process.
  • It reduces blood sugar levels; when eaten with sweet foods it helps stabilise sugar spikes. It's also anti-inflammatory, kills bacteria and fungi so is fantastic for the gut, and is cholesterol-reducing. Try adding it to sweet foods - desserts, cakes, breads, smoothies - or eat with fruit to minimise sugar rushes.
  • Cumin aids detoxification as well as stimulate the production of pancreatic enzymes. And it's thought to protect against cancer. Buy as seeds or ground spice and use it liberally in soups and rice, grain, and bean dishes. Sprinkle in homemade nut cheese. Good in breads, mixed-seed crackers, smoothies, and carrot cake.
  • Studies have found ginger helpful with osteoarthritis, aching muscles, and musculoskeletal disorders and also in halting tumour growth. It's super versatile in sweet or savory foods and in smoothies. Great as a tea. Use root or ground ginger.
  • An anti-aging multitasker containing powerful antioxidants and anti-inflammatories, which also works as a gentle liver detoxer. This herb also stimulates the immune system and helps to improve the digestion. Goes with roasted vegetables, meat, and fish, as well as delish in breads, crackers, and salads. Drink as tea or use to flavor nut milk.
  • A great antioxidant that helps brain function and boosts immunity in the gut. One study showed it even slowed the effects of ageing in animals. Its essential oil - thymol - is one of the main ingredients of commercial mouthwashes because of its antiseptic qualities. Thyme is delicious in soups, broths, casseroles, fish, meat, and egg dishes.
  • Whoppingly high in chlorophyll, vitamin C, folic acid, iron, and other minerals, with anti-inflammatory flavonoids that act as free-radical scavengers, this herb also has anti-cancer properties and blood-sugar-reducing effects. Parsley can be used as you would salad greens, in smoothies, and tabbouleh, or add it to soups, pesto, casseroles, or stir-fries. Add the leaves near the end of cooking, to retain the nutritional value.
  • A mood and sleep enhancer used to help with anxiety and depression and soothe the nervous system. It can ease headaches, too. The essential oil found in the flowers is what you need and you can dry the buds. Some people inhale the essential oil or use a lavender pillow, but I like to eat it, too. You can add dried lavender to meat dishes instead of oregano, sage, or thyme and use it to flavour cakes and baked goods, too. Drink lavender tea before bedtime.
  • Turmeric is one of nature's most effective anti-inflammatories, making it adept at fighting age-related diseases from arthritis to Alzheimer's disease. Curcumin, turmeric's active ingredient, inhibits the growth of cancer cells in laboratory studies and slows the spread of some cancers in animal studies. Studies also suggest curcumin may improve heart health. Researchers found curcumin helped reduce levels of triglycerides (circulating fats linked with heart disease) and increased levels of nitric oxide, which can help lower blood pressure. In Asia, turmeric is used as a beauty treatment to tighten skin and reduce inflammation.
  • Studies have found ginger helpful with osteoarthritis, aching muscles, and musculoskeletal disorders and also in halting tumour growth. It's super versatile in sweet or savory foods and in smoothies. Great as a tea. Use root or ground ginger.

Swop the calories for these healthier options

The more processed your food, the more it leaves you wanting more. Here is how you can have your cake and eat it too.


Ditch the salami and opt for pizzas with fresh ingredients.

Go easy on the cheese too, as the crust is already highly processed.

If you are making your own pizza, try using a crust made of cauliflower, a vegetable commonly used in place of carbohydrate staples.


A great deal of butter and sugar go into every disc of buttery goodness you pop into your mouth.

Be a smart cookie and bake your own version so you can control the amount of fat and sugar that go in.


Portion control is key when it comes to ice cream.

Rather than owning a pint at home, head for an ice cream parlour for a scoop if you have to. Or better still, make your own healthier but equally creamy alternative with blended frozen bananas.


Behind a box of cereal's promises of whole grains and fibre is its high sugar content.

Look for a brand that contains no more than 4g of sugar a serving.


The crispy, salty and deep-fried breading is what leaves you wanting more.

This article was first published on Mar 20, 2017. Get The New Paper for more stories.