The lived experience of obese people who feel that they are addicted to food

Sophie Edwards, Joanne Lusher, Esther Murray

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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Abstract

Aims
Self-perceived food addiction is a controversial and poorly understood concept. Little is known about how individuals experience feeling addicted to food and the possible role this plays in obesity. This study used a qualitative design to explore the feelings and behaviours of self-diagnosed food addicts and the impact this has on their attempts to lose weight.

Methods
Semi-structured interviews were conducted with six obese, self-perceived food addicts. Verbatim transcripts of the interviews were then analysed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA).

Results
There were four overarching themes ‘I breathe food’, which describes a life that has been completely overtaken by thoughts of food and uncontrolled eating; ‘Isolation’, feelings of being alone which are driven by experienced weight stigma, an inability to function in a food-obsessed world and having an addiction that is viewed as somewhat of a joke; ‘Identity’, how shame about weight and eating habits have meant that individuals feel as if they have lost their real selves and ‘Diagnosis and treatment’, a desire to have their perceived condition formally recognised in order to receive appropriate treatment, but without a clear idea about what form effective treatment would take.

Conclusions
Uncontrolled eating and its related bingeing, grazing, obsessional thoughts, cravings and secret eating were all identified as evidence of being addiction to food. Although food addiction is not an officially recognised disorder, healthcare professionals working in this field should have an appreciation of the feelings of self-perceived food addicts and the barriers this can cause in losing weight and moderating eating behaviour amongst this obese population.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)79-86
Number of pages8
JournalInternational Journal of Psychology and Cognitive Science
Volume5
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 27 May 2019

Keywords

  • Food
  • Eating
  • Addiction
  • Obesity
  • Qualitative
  • IPA

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