Are We Hooked On Food?

Growing up I often wondered if I had an addiction to food.

As I became an adult, I would jokingly offer it up for conversation when asked if I had vices.

Food has always seemed to hold a great deal more fascination for me than for most other people I know.  I relish eating it, I enjoy preparing it, and in my off time I take pleasure in reading (and writing) about it.  For a long time I naively assumed that most people felt like this, that there were 2 kinds of people when it came to food; those who live to eat and those who eat to live.  But, as I’ve grown older, I find the more I talk to others about food, the more I encounter glazed looks of incomprehension.  To wit, it seems I have become a “food geek”.

Over the years I’ve been all sorts of shapes and sizes too, owing to my complex relationship with food.  From the rail thin years, to the Rubenesquely plump ones, (again, thanks to Mr. Lee for searing those words permanently into my consciousness) my love affair with food has seen me at all points in between.  The worst was probably in 2003-ish, (what I fondly refer to as my binge-drinking bender years) when a friendly cashier who I often chit-chatted with at the grocery store inquired when I was due.  What made up for it was the sheer look of horror on her face when I sputtered that I was not pregnant at the time, and the back-pedaling that ensued.  A rule to live by when it comes to women; if you’re not sure, don’t ask.  You only risk making yourself look like an insensitive moron if you’re wrong.

At any rate, back to food.

It used to be that addictions were primarily the stigma of gamblers and druggies, but it seems like modern day psychiatry and psychology have expanded their definition.  Now we have addictions to sex, addictions to pain, addictions to just about anything you can dream up.  So why not food?

From personal experience I can tell you that while I happen to overindulge in certain kinds of foods (chocolate, great bread, charcuterie, cheese and Tempranillos, specifically) I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a food I felt inclined to eat so badly that I wasn’t able to stop.  I don’t suffer from Doritos-itis or Pringle-ocity, just the occasional bouts of rampant gluttony.  My brand of obsession is slightly more complicated; I have an affectation for diversity.  When I go out, I want to consume as many different flavours as possible, and I’ve often said that if I were to ever open a restaurant one day, it would be for those people who are just like me.  I envision a place specializing in tiny nibbles of all manner of things, from a duck confit sliver, to a fresh fig stuffed with cheese, to a chocolate covered strawberry, I want it all… just in minuscule portions.

A former colleague of mine once related an anecdote she’d heard, claiming that Canadian coffee giant Tim Hortons laced their cups with vanilla extract to make the coffee “addictive”.  I found this highly unlikely at the time and dismissed it as nothing more than an urban legend.  Being that I don’t drink coffee to begin with and actually find it rather foul and offensive, I don’t see the correlation, but a new book that’s come out has caused me to question her statement once again.

The End Of Overeating: Taking Control Of The Insatiable American Appetite by David Kessler seeks to uncover the link that food companies may have in making their products more addictive, and thus aiding in expanding the consumer’s already bloated waistline.  I haven’t read it just yet, though I picked up a copy recently to add to my “light summer reading” list, and will report back once I’ve digested more.  It’s certainly an intriguing concept, and one that I look forward to exploring a little further once I’ve finished reading the book.  Until then, NY Times has an article you can peruse that covers off the high points.

What do you think?  Can food be addictive?

Until next time…

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