I’m a Food Addict (and so are you…probably)

Well, technically all living things are food addicts; no food = no life. And at some point, I’m sure we’ve all had cravings for something. But is there a food that haunts you? Is there a food you crave on a daily basis? What about a food that if you try to avoid it, you think about it even MORE?

You’re not alone.¬†

You might not even be to blame, kind of. Blame your brain and biochemistry. More and more research in recent years shows that certain foods, when eaten, result in brain activity similar to that seen with addictive drugs, like heroine and cocaine. Nobody doubts the addictive nature of these drugs, but when it comes to food people say, “Just stop eating it.” For some of us it’s not that easy. This leads to guilt, hopelessness and from the food itself – obesity and disease.

An article from Bloomberg Businessweek thoroughly covers the state of this research, including the opposing views. The research shows that some foods, especially processed foods high in fat and/or sugar excites the reward centers of the brain. Over time, people need more and more to get that reaction, and miss the feeling when it’s not there. The research is still new and developing (as it is in almost every aspect of nutrition) but it does have some implications for people trying to change their eating ¬†habits:

  • Changing any habit is hard, especially when there are addictive qualities.
  • Like with other addictions, the longer you avoid the object, the easier it gets (this is easier said than done).
  • When you’re dealing with a food habit, weaning off can work. Reduce the sugar, cut back on the fat, instead of going cold turkey.
  • Find other sources of happiness, other ways to excite the brain’s reward center. Exercise, laugh, sing, spend time with someone you care about.
  • LOSE THE GUILT. How many of us have thought, “I must be weak, I can’t stop eating these things.” Or, “If only I had more willpower, I could lose the weight.” Acknowledge the role of biochemistry, AND acknowledge the need for behavior change. Be kind to yourself and instead of just stopping something, find something new (and healthy) to replace it.

You might be wondering what my addiction is. My weakness is sugar and sweet things. I can eat them occasionally, but if I have a period of time where I eat a lot of them (baked goods, sweets, pasta…mmm….) then the cravings come back full force. I think about it whenever I’m hungry, and even if I’m not hungry.

But I’ve been here before. I know if I stick to my guns the mind-obsessing desire for a chocolate croissant will pass. So I nibble on my dark chocolate, eat some fruit, and toast some Ezekiel bread. I take a walk and do some yoga. And eventually, my mind is mine again.

What’s your craving?


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