‘Addicts use alcohol and drugs to change their mood,’ says Don Serratt, founder of Life Works treatment centre which specialises in addictions and eating disorders.
‘Tragically, food has now become Britain’s latest mood-altering drug. Over the last six months we have seen a 25% rise in clients presenting with Credit Crunch Munch – binge eating and over-eating to deal with serious mental health issues caused by the recession. People are choosing to literally stuff back their negative feelings with food rather than face them. The danger Credit Crunch Munch presents to the UK, which is already in the grip of an obesity epidemic due to over-eating, is epic.’
‘The UK’s leading grocery multiples have recently achieved record-breaking profits totalling billions of pounds despite the worst recession in 50 years,’ says Serratt.
‘They are cashing in on the nation’s mental ill-health by selling poor quality food at extraordinarily low prices and encouraging consumers to eat, eat, eat through high-profile promotions. Where is the morality?’
According to Serratt, relying on food, alcohol or drugs to feel better eventually develops into psychological dependency. Every time someone Credit Crunch Munches and achieves a transitory positive mood change the addictive pattern is reinforced, with disastrous results.
‘When people use food as a mood-altering drug they create triggers that ignite emotions, setting up a cycle of stress, eating, relief and more stress that becomes unstoppable,’ Serratt explains.
‘British food is now cheap, available 24/7 and it’s socially acceptable to over-eat and be overweight, exactly mirroring American society over the last 25 years. Combine this with a population under extreme financial duress and you have the beginnings of a mental health pandemic.’
Research has shown that carbohydrates stimulate serotonin production, so eating carbohydrate-rich foods is an attempt to self-medicate depression. Higher glycemic index carbohydrates like sugar have a greater effect on serotonin levels than starchy, lower glycemic index foods.
‘Additionally, some alkaloids that may raise brain serotonin levels have been found in chocolate, giving rise to a chemical foundation for ‘chocoholism’. Chocoholics effectively make their own drugs in their brains with low-cost chocolate products and it is incredibly addictive.’
‘We believe that an unacceptably high proportion of the British public may be Credit Crunch Munching,’ says Serratt. ‘We urge anyone reaching for the biscuit tin or a cheap bag of doughnuts to stop and think about what you are eating and why. If you are Credit Crunch Munching because you are depressed or anxious about your financial situation, seek professional help. Your GP is a good staring point.’
According to beat, the leading UK charity for people with eating disorders, around three per cent of the British population has a binge eating disorder.
DON SERRAT IS AVAILABLE FOR INTERVIEW ON MONDAY 25 MAY ON: 07775 618 884.