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Is food addictive?

Posted by Nancy Clark RD CSSD Oct 28, 2013

To listen to my clients talk, I’m left wondering if food is addictive:


“I don’t do cookies; I eat too many of them.”

“I stay away from M&M’s otherwise I’ll eat the whole bagful.”

“I’m addicted to french fries…I eat them uncontrollably”.


If clients have addictive-like patterns of overeating, does that mean food is addictive?


The topic of whether or not food addiction is a real disorder was addressed at the 26th European College of Neuropsychopharmacology Congress. According to Dr. Dickson, a Swedish neuroscientist, "Food consumption, unlike alcohol, cocaine, or gambling, is necessary for survival. But we don't completely understand why certain vulnerable individuals become addicted, transferring something rewarding to [something they become addicted to.] For drugs, it's much easier to separate what's going on,"


"The evidence itself is insufficient to support the idea that food addiction is a mental disorder. We do not have a clinical syndrome of food addiction so far, and it is very important to establish the validity of a condition before putting it forward for inclusion in the [diagnostic manual for mental disorders]."


"In man, there is no solid evidence that any food, ingredient, combination of ingredients, or additive (with the exception ofcaffeine) causes us to become addicted to it. That is different from drugs, which we know engage the brain and cause us to become addicted to them," she explained. "Still, if we move away from food and concentrate on the individual, we can see that certain obese individuals express addiction-like behaviors."


Hisham Ziauddeen, PhD of University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom, notes that although the idea of food addiction is appealing, there is little evidence so far showing that it exists in humans. "It is a very important idea to explore, but it is essential that we have sufficient research to conclusively support it.


Source: Medscape Medical News (c) 2013 WebMD, LLC


What I have seen in my clients who describe themselves as being addicted to food is they become too hungry. The physiological response to extreme hunger is to over-eat. Perhaps a simple solution to perceived food addiction is a heartier breakfast?


For more information on how to stay in control of food:

the chapters on snack attacks, weight management and dieting gone awry in the new 2013 edition of Nancy Clark's Sports Nutrition Guidebook.

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Football Sunday can take it’s toll on your waistline. If you have trouble over indulging in “football food,” enjoy this yummy-yet-healthy recipe for oven-fried chicken. It's one of many crowd pleasers from the new 5th edition of my SportsNutrition Guidebook.

For best results, bake  the chicken on a wire rack; this allows air to circulate on all sides and you’ll get crisper chicken. Plus, you won’t have to turn it during cooking. Meanwhile, the foil pan lining speeds your clean-up time.

1 box (5 ounces) Melba toast

2 to 4 tablespoons olive or canola oil

2 egg whites or 1 egg

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Optional: 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard; salt and pepper as desired

       1.             Heat oven to 400 °F (200 °C).

       2.             Place a wire rack in a shallow baking pan lined with foil.

       3.             Add the Melba toast to a heavy-duty plastic bag, seal, and crush with a rolling pin (or other hard object) into crumbs, leaving some crumbs as large as small corn kernels.

       4.             Pour the crumbs into a shallow dish and drizzle the oil over them. Toss well to distribute the oil evenly.

       5.             Beat the egg in a medium bowl. Add mustard, salt, and pepper if desired.

       6.             Dip each piece of chicken into the egg mixture, allow excess to drip off, and then place each coated breast in the crumbs. Sprinkle the crumbs over the chicken and press them in. Shake off excess crumbs and place the chicken on the rack.

       7.             Bake for 40 minutes. The coating should be deep brown and the juices should run clear when the meat is cut.

Yield: 4 servings for a main course

Nutrition Information?1,200 total calories; 300 calories per serving; 12 g carbohydrate; 40 g protein; 10 g fat

Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated magazine, May/June 1999.

For more family-friendly sports recipes: Nancy Clark's Sports Nutrition Guidebook, 5th Edition (2013)

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My best-selling (550,000+ copies) Sports Nutrition Guidebook is now available in a new Fifth Edition!!! The mission of the new edition is to create clear and simple solutions to your food challenges.


This Sports Nutrition Guidebook is fast-reading, entertaining, and filled with real-life stories. If you are not a “reader” (or have “no time” to read), that’s not a reason to overlook this book. It is well indexed so you can simply look up a specific topic and find practical tips and food information that resolves your food and fueling questions. Simply leave the book on your kitchen counter and use it as a resource! You might even end up making some of the yummy recipes!


If you have already enjoyed one of the first four editions of this book, why would you want to buy this new fifth edition?

Why? The Fifth Edition offers the cumulative wisdom gained during 35 years of being an effective “food and weight coach” for both casual exercisers and competitive athletes. Just maybe the information will help you resolve the barriers that block you from getting what you want from your current diet and teach you how to enjoy more energy, lose undesired body fat, and have more fun.


Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook has four sections:

1. Day-to-Day Eating on the Run

2. Sports Nutrition: Fueling for Success

3. Weight Management Tactics / Tips to Resolve Diets Gone Awry

4. Simple Recipes for non-chefs and active families


In the information-packed pages, you’ll get the tools you need to resolve your food, weight, and energy problems—as well as take your performance to the next level. When ordering, think about adding a few extra copies for your active family members, friends and teammates. What better gift than practical solutions to the challenges of our daily food environment?! Plus, everyone loves the quick-and-easy recipes that are family-friendly!


With best wishes for high energy, good health and improved performance,



Nancy Clark MS RD CSSD

For more information:

1,671 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: sports, nutrition, nancy_clark's_sports_nutrition_guidebook, fifth_edition, new_book

A new client (an avid exerciser) came into my office reporting her parents “highly encouraged” her to come see me. She wasted no time telling me, “I already know all about nutrition. I know what to eat and I eat very healthfully. I’m just not sure what you can teach me.”


Her thoughts are common; many active people are already healthy eaters. They have no idea how a sports nutritionist can help them. (More correctly, how a sports dietitian who is both a registered dietitian (RD) and a board certified specialist in sports dietetics (CSSD) can help them.) You may have had the same thoughts?


Unfortunately, you don’t know what you don’t know. Athletes who have never met with an RD CSSD just don’t know how valuable a personalized consult can be to help take them to the next level. Performance, after all, actually starts with fueling—and not with training.


If you are putting hours of effort into training, you might want to learn how to overcome the food and weight barriers that hinder you from getting the most from your workouts. Overly-compulsively exercisers can also learn how to find a better balance of food and exercise. They can then find peace both with food and with their bodies--and enjoy better quality of life.


After we’d talked for 90 minutes, my “reluctant client” reported, much to her surprise, the meeting had actually been very helpful. She left my office with a plan that could enhance her daily eating, diminish her food obsessions, and start to resolve her weight issues. She felt happier.


To find a local sports dietitian (RD, CSSD), please check out the referral network at just might be glad you did!


Best wishes

Nancy Clark MS RD CSSD


For a sports nutrition resource:

Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook NEW 5thEdition (October 2013)

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Nancy Clark RD CSSD

Nancy Clark RD CSSD

Member since: Jul 8, 2007

Hi! I specialize in nutrition for exercise, and help active people figure out how to manage food, weight, exercise, energy and enjoyment of eating. Let me know if you have any questions!

View Nancy Clark RD CSSD's profile