food addiction

Look But Don’t Touch: Sexy Food

I’m doing an experiment.

Well, there’s an ‘n’ of just 1, so it won’t be appearing in any peer reviewed journal anytime soon.

I have bought a whole lot of chocolate and I am sitting here trying not to eat it. I ate some yesterday. And the day before. I’m well and truly hooked. I’ll probably eat some tomorrow, but for today I want to know how hard it feels to deny yourself something, especially something addictive.

It’s calling to me. It’s hidden away from sight (to reduce its power) in a tin at the top of the cupboard and I am the other side of the room, but I can almost hear it whispering ‘eat me! eat me!’

At the eating disorders and obesity conference last month I learned about the effects of ‘food porn’ on our brains. Advertising happens for a reason. Our neurons light up in response to these stylised, more-delicious-than-life images. We want it. We eat it…and are often left dissatisfied as the real thing doesn’t compare.

I also heard about food addiction, particularly junk food addiction; how it is an underrecognised problem and is a major factor in obesity

The types of food that are particularly addictive are the high-energy low-nutrient processed foods. They were designed especially to make our reward pathways go ‘zing!’ and to make us seek them out in preference to lower energy foods that provide vital micronutrients- read, fruit and veg. We have evolved to seek out energy-dense foods, our lives used to depend on it. Now kilojoules are abundant. We just about breathe them in down at the shops. Then we stack them on around our waistlines in case of famine.

I’m going to take a photo of the chocolate now to put up with this post. This will be the hard part. I will have to look that glistening wonder-substance in the eye, handle it, probably accidentally smell it- but then put it away uneaten. Hide it again in a tin (though the tin is decorated with pictures of tiny cakes, which probably defeats the purpose).


Gah! ‘Accidentally smell’? That seductive aroma bloody filled the room! My mouth watered. Maybe my eyes even watered. But I did it! I think only cos I didn’t want to ruin the blog post- I feel like all your beady eyes are watching. Thanks for the support. Couldn’t have done it without you.

I am famous in family circles for my sweet devouring abilities. I wanted to see just how strong a pull these foods could have, and get an idea for what it must be like for some of my bariatric-surgery patients. Those with a family often feel they need to buy things like ice cream, chocolate, cakes and so on as they want to give their kids dessert. Knowing it is in the fridge however, they are so vulnerable to eating it and if they’re like me, once they start, they just keep on eating.

I am blessed with a constitution that means I don’t stack on weight as readily as some- I would have been among the first to die in a famine. But I know what it is to feel out of control when eating.

Some of my patients have another problem- family saboteurs. The person who doesn’t want you to lose weight and sometimes says so outright. They present you with a slab of cheesecake on a plate, with a scoop of ice cream leaning just so against its creamy edge. They sit down with theirs and act mortally wounded when you say you don’t want it. They say ‘go on. One bite won’t hurt’. So hard to say no again when it’s sitting right there.

The chocolate is sitting right there…right there…right there…