Photographed By Janelle Jones.
The question of whether or not food should be considered an "addictive" substance has been the topic of particularly heated debate in recent months. While an increasing number of Americans suffer from eating disorders and obesity, critics argue that it's not possible (or at least not logical) to be addicted to something that your body fundamentally needs. Despite scientific evidence of chemical processes that prevent us from being able to stop eating when we're full, many in the addiction community (as well as Internet trolls who like to shame those with eating disorders) think that there's a fundamental difference between the inability to control drinking or drug use and compulsive eating.
Still, an increasing number of studies have found that, at least where patients are concerned, having an eating problem is a lot like having an alcohol problem. Both adults and children who have trouble controlling their eating habits use language that's remarkably similar to that of addicts.
Of course, much of the reason food addiction hasn't been widely accepted is that relatively little research has been done that treats food as an addictive substance. One notable exception: Yale University's Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity. Researchers at the Rudd Center have been tackling the obesity epidemic from an addiction-centric angle for several years, coming up with a comprehensive diagnostic quiz to assess where patients fall on the eating disorder spectrum. Called the Yale Food Addiction Scale, the quiz looks a lot like the National Council on Alcohol and Drug Dependence's widely used alcohol abuse test, with yes-or-no statements, like "My food consumption has caused significant psychological problems such as depression, anxiety, self-loathing, or guilt" and "I have found that I have elevated desire for or urges to consume certain foods when I cut down or stop eating them." Of course, the quiz reveals more than whether or not you're addicted to food; it highlights some of the unhealthy ways that we use food, even when that use falls short of addiction.