Yes, we know that some foods are irresistible to the point that we ourselves declare we are addicted to them. Nearly universally they are the foods high in fat, sugar and salt. We may call them snack foods, junk foods, fast foods, comfort foods, but they are the foods we crave. If we’re not eating the foods we are thinking about them. While we have our goals firmly in mind and our calorie counters and food diaries and meal plans, we may feel virtually helpless when confronted with these cravings for foods comprised of fat, sugar and salt.
Recent studies, notably the Yale Food Addiction study conducted by lead researcher Ashley N. Gearhardt, a doctoral candidate, show the severity of food addiction, producing similar effects on the brain as those produced by drugs such as cocaine. It has been widely discussed. Another highly publicized study was conducted at The Scripps Research Institute showing the similarity between food addiction and drug addiction. Dr. David Kessler, former FDA commission and author of The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite discussed these issues at length in the book, and went a step further, examining how the food industry has deliberately engineered foods comprised of the sugar, fat and salt to be even more addicting.
So there is the problem, documented in the memory of our last overindulgence as well as in the pages of research science. So now what do we do?
It’s a matter of staying focused on the goal and doing what we need to do. How many of us would go to a job interview and instead of staying engaged and focused on the interviewer would look away and start texting? What’s more important, getting the job — knowing the odds of getting hired these days with so many competing candidates — or the immediate gratification that comes from texting?
The foods we eat or don’t eat have to be taken that seriously as well. Otherwise, we’re not going to succeed — the biochemistry is not in our favor and we may spiral out of control, not just gaining weight but threatening our health. If we need help, we should absolutely seek it out. There are many online resources from Overeaters Anonymous to The National Eating Disorders Association. It may not be a battle we can undertake on our own.
To quit all of the foods cold turkey and go through the withdrawal and discomfort — widely reported and documented — may be the best option. It’s important to recognize how serious the problem is. The mere fact that the drug analogy is in fact not an analogy to our brains but an equivalent, sets the tone of the severity of this. We know we would not treat ourselves to a reward cocktail if we were a recovering alcoholic. No, we would not even allow for a sip of a wine spritzer or a light beer.
I think we have to do the same for foods. After all these processed foods are not good for us — using them as treats is not good psychologically as it puts us into the struggle to not succumb to a binge or relapse.
So we can take massive action to reclaim our health and reach our goal weight. We can quit cold turkey; avoid all processed foods. No refined sugar, no refined carbohydrates, no high fructose corn syrup, no fast food, no soft drinks, etc. — essentially no foods or beverages whose ingredients sound like a chemistry experiment. This will create a literal withdrawal; possibly headaches and irritability. But in a few days those symptoms subside.
Instead focus on eating nutrient dense foods, the healthy foods to lose weight. Drink more water, as this is extremely helpful in curbing appetite. A tall glass of water before meals works wonders.
Yes, it may seem difficult at first, but I can tell you from experience, you will feel much better and your weight loss efforts will be much less burdensome. Diets based on nutrient dense, real foods are diets that work.
Check out the video below for some additional tips, both defining the scope of the problem and offering solutions.
Skinny Bliss readers, let us know…have you struggled with food addictions? What steps have you taken? What is working for you?
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