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Silvia Bigatti


Obesity has become a worldwide epidemic and limiting one's food intake, or dieting, is usually unsuccessful. The purpose of the study was to explore the effect of food addiction (FA) on the current clinical and behavioral epidemic of obesity. FA, synonymous with food-dependency, is tentatively defined as an eating disorder based on substance dependence, as defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Measurement of FA has been operationalized by the Yale Food Addiction Scale (YFAS) by applying the diagnostic criteria of substance dependence to eating behaviors. This study was based on the biological theory of chemical addiction and the evidence that highly processed, high-fat, and high-sugar foods may be addictive and may contribute to unsuccessful dieting. To explore the difficulty of adhering to healthy food choices, 6 women were identified who satisfied the diagnostic criteria of FA using the YFAS. These women were invited to participate in a qualitative study. The full transcripts, which were coded via interpretative phenomenological analysis, revealed 6 major themes. The most salient master themes were the loss of control over food intake, the need for external control for successful weight loss, and the significant distress caused by food and eating. All the women interviewed agreed that FA is an eating disorder and that (a) best results were obtained from sugar and flour abstinence and (b) success was found in a 12 Step program for FA based on an addiction model. Once identified with the YFAS, FA has a large impact for social change. Those recognized as having a FA can be offered a specific treatment, based on an addiction model, which differs from the usual treatment for obesity and offers a solution for successful weight management.

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