The Shrinking Knitter had a great post today on food addiction, and my comment was ridiculously long, so I thought I'd spare her readers my "all about me" missive and put the voluminous response over here.
Before I started LA Weight Loss in February, I was addicted to sugar/flour/fat combination foods. I really just could not stop myself from buying donuts and/or ice cream on a daily basis. I would walk through Target, tell myself I would NOT buy the powdered donettes, and yet they'd be in my cart anyway. Like someone else was operating my body and I had no choice in the matter. That box would be gone in a day.
Even when I was on Weight Watchers, I would overeat the WW snack cakes, sometimes the whole box in one day (ONLY 12 points, and I still had 10 points for healthy food! What a deal!). And don't forget Skinny Cow ice cream sandwiches, only 2 points each. I played the same points game with those.
When I started my current plan this year, I went through 2 days of cleansing, basically--proteins and veggies only. It sucked, and I did go through withdrawal. It got easier after that, and since I'm on a food exchange program (3 veggies, 2 fruits, 3 starches, etc), I'm free to choose what I eat but within boundaries.
I am not sugar free, I am not carb free, I am not caffeine free. I am, however, very balanced and have set limits of the types of food I can eat.
It's these prescribed limits and the accountability of meeting with a weight counselor (and weighing in) 3 times a week that finally clicked for me. I can't buy donuts, you see, because they aren't on the plan. I can have ice cream, if it's low fat and SF and 1/2 cup, and it counts as a starch (just this past weekend I had ice cream for the first time in 20 weeks; haven't had a donut since February).
So, I haven't gotten rid of the substances that might cause my brain to be addicted to food, but I have gotten rid of the *combination* of substances (fat/sugar/flour) and also of the learned helplessness (or whatever fancy psycho term I should use here) that made me act like a robot around those addictive foods.
I still have cravings once a month for starchy/sugary/chocolatey foods, and obviously those are hormonal/brain induced cravings. I usually eat too much for a couple days a month, but my "too much" now is 300 or 400 calories in one sitting and it's with on-plan foods.
Ultimately, I think every one has to overcome their addictions differently, and no matter what science comes up with, there will never be a one size fits all solution.