I expect there are official medical definitions of the term "addiction" but I'll try a layman's version.

In my mind, an addiction is a physical need that, if not satisfied, leaves you with some unpleasant withdrawal symptoms.

Withdrawal from drugs is the most obvious that comes to mind and withdrawal from cigarettes is none too pleasant in those first weeks, with headaches and lack of energy.

Even giving up coffee may leave you with a headache for a few days. So is there such a thing as an addiction to food?

A naturally slim person would probably mock at such an idea. After all, no one is expected to give up food altogether in order to lose weight.

So there should be no withdrawal symptoms.

Ask anyone who has tried repeatedly to lose weight and they will say it's an addiction like any other. Usually the addiction is to junk food - to carbohydrates.

It has been shown these foods raise the level of endorphins in the body in the same way as exercise.

These are the happy hormones - the ones that make you feel good.

Exercise has been shown again and again to be an antidote for depression, if only you can be persuaded to get yourself out there in the first place.

So it is with the abuse of carbohydrates - chocolate, icecream, cake, crisps - that you're likely to eat if you're feeling low, angry or stressed.

Any of you who have been on countless diets will also know that feeling of disappointment and self-reproach when you go off the wagon.

It's not that different for someone who goes back to alcohol or starts smoking again after a break.

So we have established that a problem with overeating is an addiction. Where does that leave us?

It won't help you to say it's not your fault because one thing is for sure: It's you and you alone who is capable of breaking the addiction.

You are better off than the smoker or the drinker, you don't have to give up food.

On the contrary, you can eat delicious food.

You don't even have to cook it. There's plenty of ready prepared healthy food available.

What you do have to do is to separate food from mood, circumstances and place.

Becoming aware of why, when and where you're eating is vital.

Question whether you're eating because you're cross, because it happens to be tea time or because that's what you do in front of the television.

In brief, you have to realign eating with appetite.

You have to relearn to eat to live instead of living to eat.

This means no food is forbidden - you can eat what you like, as long as you have worked up an appetite.

Once you understand no food is ever forbidden when you're hungry, you suddenly realise it's not so important to eat it right now. It's only forbidden foods that are irresistible.

Once it's permitted, you find the sudden power to say to yourself "perhaps I don't really want it. I can have chocolate tomorrow if I want it".

It's quite a relief. Toss these thoughts around in your mind for a few days and you'll see their potential for changing those habits.

Use your mobile phone to lose weight with Dr Citron's No-Diet Diet. Send the message TXTDIET ARG to 89080 and you will receive three tips a week (50p per text). For other support freephone 0800 074 0260 or visit wwww.thedietcoach.com