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Food cravings 'like drug addiction'

Slimming World | Slimming World

4 min read Partner content

Three-quarters of people trying to lose weight suffer cravings in the same way as drug addicts, according to a new survey.

94% of slimmers admitted they have tried using food to make themselves feel better when they were feeling low.

Cravings for food can feel like an addiction, the survey of 5,139 Slimming Worldmembers has found.

76% compared their cravings for high-fat food with drugs, alcohol or tobacco.

Conservative MP and former general practitioner Dr Sarah Wollaston has backed the results of the survey.

“I have no doubt that sugar cravings or fatty salty food cravings are a form of addiction and that for some people being part of a support group helps them to regain control,” she told Central Lobby.

“We are awash with cheap sugar and fat in ever greater portions.

“The chances of any pricing mechanisms being introduced look very remote as these would inevitably be portrayed as restricting choice or punishing those on low incomes rather than trying to reduce the epidemic of obesity.”

55% of respondents in the Slimming Worldsurvey said they had got 'a buzz' out of those foods in the past, and 67% felt that society judges people who have a difficult relationship with food in a similar way to how it judges smokers, alcoholics and drug-users.

“We live in world that encourages people to eat more unhealthily," says Dr James Stubbs, Slimming World research specialist.

"People get used to using certain foods as a way to try to make themselves feel better and it becomes a habit, so when they're feeling down they're always likely to turn to those foods and it quickly becomes a cycle. With high-fat and high-sugar foods being so readily available it's really difficult for people to ignore those signals.”

76% of those surveyed said they felt 'bombarded' by advertisements for unhealthy food and 89% said the modern world made it easier to eat unhealthily than healthily.

Getting an unhealthy meal or snack in their local area after 10pm would be 'very easy' for 78% of respondents, but only four per cent felt it would be very easy to get a healthy meal or snack.

"There is growing evidence that high fat, high sugar foods have some addictive qualities and this survey suggests that slimmers feel trapped by food cravings, aggressive marketing and easy availability of less healthy foods,” said Dr Stubbs.

"The real danger is that it's very easy for people to enter into a vicious cycle where they try to take comfort in food when they're feeling down, but then feel guilty and judged for what they perceive as a lack of self-control. These feelings of failure and sense of feeling judged affect self-esteem and so people take comfort in food again - and so the cycle continues."

“The social support network provided by slimming clubs, and this is especially true of Slimming World where the emphasis is on caring and compassionate understanding, helps to create a safe environment where slimmers can be honest about their relationship with food.

“Being part of the group provides motivation and gives people the confidence to make their own decisions. In a world that encourages people to make unhealthy choices, having the skills and knowledge to eat healthily and the confidence to take responsibility for your own decisions makes healthy eating much easier,” adds Dr Stubbs.

Dr Wollaston said:

“On a personal level, after years of talking to women in their 50s finding it ever harder to keep control of their weight, now that I am 51, the supersize chickens are coming home to roost!

“As someone who finds it hard to walk past a crisp, my only solution is to go 'cold turkey' and set some fitness challenges. I volunteer for back marking at events; a great excuse for coming last even if i'm running my fastest.”

The BBC documentary ' Welcome to the World of Weight Loss', which airs on BBC2 tonight at 9pm, looks at how clubs like Slimming Worldsupport people to understand their emotional attachment to food and manage their weight, while enjoying the sense of community in a journey taken with other people in a similar position - rather than the long hard slog of going it alone.

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