Food For Thought

Young man covering his eyes to unhealthy food

Hunger and Food Addiction

Coach Melanie, 12/10/2015

Are you really hungry or is it the food addiction calling your name?

Good question! Most people would say they aren’t food addicts, but in reality, they are. How do you know if you are? Answer the following questions honestly and see what it reveals!

1. Do you feel weak if you don’t eat every few hours?
2. Do you get a headache if you don’t eat on time?
3. If you drink coffee and miss it one morning, do you get a headache and feel nervous and anxious?
4. Do you crave certain foods and feel unsatisfied if you don’t consume them?
5. Are there any foods you just can’t live without or can’t eat in moderation?

If you answered yes to most or all of the above questions, chances are you’re addicted to something in your diet.

How can that be, you ask…I’m hungry when I eat. According to Dr. Joel Fuhrman, you must consume enough nutrients to meet your body’s biological needs. If you’re eating low-nutrient food, even if there is enough volume, your body will have a nutrient deficit and you’ll develop food cravings which will cause you to overeat1. When you’re addicted to food, many times these addictions will manifest themselves in ill feelings and cravings.

Food addictions are the main reason why people eat too much and are overweight2. There are nerve fibers with stretch receptors in your stomach that detect the volume of food eaten and the nutrient density of your diet. If you’re not filled up with nutrients and fiber, your brain will send out signals telling you to keep eating3. The saying “overweight but under nourished” describes that phenomenon. Your brain requires micronutrients, fiber, and calories to turn down its appetite regulator4

Dopamine is a chemical produced in the brain that makes people feel good. Several studies show that eating high-calorie foods leads to dopamine stimulation, and over-indulging can become addictive. In the addiction cycle, there is a “feel good” phase when the substance is consumed and a “feel bad” phase when the body attempts to withdraw from the toxins created5. So, if you don’t eat your addictive food, you feel bad; but if you do eat it, you feel better. Many people take this to mean that they were hungry and the food made them “feel” better, when in reality, you were just feeding the addiction.

Dr. Fuhrman states that “feeling bad when you try to stop (a food) is the hallmark of addiction. Feeling bad demonstrates the body is working to protect itself. Feeling bad means you are getting well, or detoxifying”. Toxic hunger includes: headaches, weakness, stomach cramping, lightheadedness, esophageal spasms, growling stomach, and irritability6.

When you eat healthy food, you don’t feel stimulated, you do not feel like it gives you energy, you feel nothing7. That is a hard concept for people to grasp because they’ve been eating to feel better.

True hunger has three primary characteristics8:

  • A sensation in your throat
  • Increased salivation
  • A dramatically-heightened taste sensation   

When you experience true hunger, it doesn’t require any special food to satisfy it. If you are “craving” something in particular, it isn’t hunger, but addiction9

So, how do you help your body get rid of toxic hunger10?

  • Don’t eat when not hungry
  • Try not to snack, unless it’s true hunger
  • Try to get your body on a regular schedule by eating 3 equal size meals a day, without overeating at any of the meals.
  • Don’t eat a big dinner, and right after eating, brush and floss your teeth.
  • Discontinue or wean off addictive substances like caffeine, alcohol, salt, sugar, butter, cheese, processed foods, and soda.  

If you eat nutrient-dense foods like greens, beans, onions, mushrooms, berries, nuts, and seeds, you will be fueling your body with the nutrients it needs and you will be much less likely to overeat.



Dr. Fuhrman's Group Start Program, chapter 3.

  1. p.9
  2. p. 13
  3. p. 21
  4. p. 21
  5. p. 41

Differential activation of the dorsal striatum by high-calorie visual food stimuli in obese individuals. Neuroimage. 2007; 37(2):410-21

Corsica JA, Pelchat ML. Food Addiction: true or false? Curr Opin Gastroenterol, 2010 Mar; 26(2):165-69

6.  p. 49
7.  p. 47
8.  p. 53
9.  p. 53
10. p. 55

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