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  • Anne Mullens

Learn about food addictions at our Nov. 15 webinar

Could food addiction, such as an inability to stop eating sugary foods despite knowing their negative impact on health, be underlying your patients’ challenges with managing their type 2 diabetes or obesity?

How can you as a health professional diagnose and treat patients who may have addictive behaviors around certain foods?

For the answers to these questions, and more, be sure to attend our November 15 webinar: Sugar and Food Addictions: Best Practices in Diagnosis and Treatment presented by noted Canadian food addiction expert Dr. Vera Tarman.

Dr. Tarman is a Toronto-based, board-certified addiction medicine specialist who for more than 30 years has treated patients with a wide variety of addictions, not only to sugar and other foods, but to alcohol, drugs, gambling, sex, gaming, and more.

Dr. Tarman notes that for many years, food addiction was dismissed as not being a true addiction, in part due to the general disbelief that a substance — food — that we need for survival could have addictive potential. Instead, health providers blamed patients who could not control their compulsions around trigger foods as being morally weak, lazy, or lacking willpower. Evidence mounting that food addiction is real

“While the existence of food addiction has been controversial, in recent years evidence is mounting that just like other addictive substances, certain foods in susceptible people light up the ancient neurochemical reward pathways in the brain and become a chemical dependency,” explains Dr. Tarman. “This creates an addictive brain response that is beyond the control of individual willpower and is unable to be managed with vows of moderation. “

Dr. Tarman herself is a former food addict who has lost more than 100 pounds and kept it off by recognizing, understanding, and avoiding the triggers of her addiction. She is also the author of the bestselling book Food Junkies: Recovery from Food Addiction, which examines both the growing science around food addiction and the recovery journey of some of her patients. She also has a website, Addictions Unplugged, and a Facebook page support group, I’m Sweet Enough: Sugar-Free for Life.

During her 90-minute IPTN webinar, Dr. Tarman will summarize the growing science about the neural chemical pathways of addiction responses and which food types are typically most problematic in lighting up this pathway.

She will also describe the five signs of food addiction, which are similar to other addictions: cravings and obsessions, tolerance, lack of control, impairment, and dependence.

Food addiction is not the same as emotional eating

Dr. Tarman notes that food addiction is different than emotional eating, in which you eat in order to help cope with uncomfortable emotions. Food addiction is a form of neurochemical dependency on certain foods. The food addict eats uncontrollably whenever the trigger food is re-introduced, regardless of their emotional or mental state. Just like drinking alcohol, some people will self-medicate with food, using their favorite "comfort food" to cope with or numb difficult emotions, but not everyone develops a true food addiction. However, in susceptible people, recurring bouts of emotional eating can develop into a food addiction that becomes a neurochemical dependency. What is the most effective treatment?

Abstinence from triggers is a cornerstone of all addiction treatment, whether it's alcohol, drugs, gambling, or food. But, Dr. Tarman notes, since humans cannot abstain from eating, the treatment for food addiction is to avoid food triggers. This usually means abstaining from addictive foods such as sweets, refined flour, or ultra-processed foods, especially those that combine sugar, fat, and salt.

During the webinar, Dr. Tarman will delve into the growing evidence around various dietary treatments, such as low-carb and ketogenic diets that help people abstain from trigger foods while still being nourished.

The November 15 webinar takes place at 3 pm Pacific and will have ample time for discussion and questions, so come with your queries about food addiction among your patients, your practice, or your own daily life. Click on the button to register.

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