How To Break Food Addiction By Understanding Your Brain Chemistry
Do you ever feel addicted to food?
You may have heard that sugar lights up your brain with dopamine just like cocaine.
With that logic, its no wonder so many people claim they feel addicted to eating!
But sugar isnt the only thing that gives us a dopamine hit. There are many other things that trigger our dopamine rewards system to make us feel good and want more, like:
- giving or receiving a hug,
- getting a like on Facebook or Instagram,
- catching a smile from someone cute across the room,
- receiving a promotion, and
- helping that old lady cross the road!
If food is addictive because it stimulates your dopamine reward system, should we classify everything that makes us feel good and want more as addictive?
Our dopamine pathways help to ensure we do the things necessary to survive. If we didnt get a dopamine hit from food, we wouldnt seek it out, forget to eat, and starve to death!
So, perhaps its more useful to ask:
- What is it about some foods that drive us to eat more than is good for us?
- How can we manage our instincts to gorge on foods we find addictive? and
- How can I change what I eat to lower my risk of addictive behaviour around food?
This article will help you understand why some foods make you feel addicted to them and how you can change how you eat to ensure you give your body what it needs.
First Steps In Overcoming Food Addiction
A few things can help prepare for giving up junk foods and make the transition easier:
- Trigger foods. Write down a list of the foods that cause cravings and/or binges. These are the trigger foods to avoid completely.
- Fast food places. Make a list of fast food places that serve healthy foods and note their healthy options. This may prevent a relapse when hungry and not in the mood to cook.
- What to eat. Think about what foods to eat preferably healthy foods that are liked and already eaten regularly.
- Pros and cons. Consider making several copies of the pro-and-con list. Keep a copy in the kitchen, glove compartment, and purse or wallet.
Additionally, dont go on a diet. Put weight loss on hold for at least 13 months.
Overcoming food addiction is difficult enough. Adding hunger and restrictions to the mix is likely to make things harder.
After taking these preparatory steps, set a date in the near future like the coming weekend from which point onward the addictive trigger foods wont be touched again.
To overcome food addiction, its important to plan. Make a list of trigger foods and know what is going to be eaten instead.
How To Overcome An Addiction
John C. Umhau, MD, MPH, CPE is board-certified in addiction medicine and preventative medicine. He is the medical director at Alcohol Recovery Medicine. For over 20 years Dr. Umhau was a senior clinical investigator at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism of the National Institutes of Health .
People who have a substance use disorder often find that overcoming it is more challenging than they expected. They may feel that addiction is a myth and they can quit any time they want or that they are an exception to the rule. This can also occur with behavioral addictions involving activities such as eating, sex, gambling, shopping, and exercise.
Learning how to overcome an addiction is important for anyone experiencing a substance use disorder , alcohol use disorder , or behavioral addiction. While challenging, recognizing that there is a problem and learning more about the process of quitting are important first steps in recovery.
This article discusses what you will need to do to overcome an addiction and offers tips that can help. It also covers the symptoms of withdrawal that you might experience and some of the effective treatment options that are available.
For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.
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Adopting A Healthy Eating Plan
Food addiction is unique in the sense that you cannot resolve it by giving up the subject of the addiction namely, food. Your only recourse is to change your relationship with food and learn how to incorporate it in your life in a way that is healthy.
If your food addiction is focused on a specific food item or group, such as burgers or chocolate, you may be able to simply cut those things out of your eating plan. If your problem lies with food in general, you may have to learn about nutrition, how different foods behave once you ingest them, and how you can control your intake of food.
Overcoming Addictive Urges Towards Food: A Five Step Plan
It may not always be easy to tell if what you are feeling is an addictive urge, or simply hunger. Hunger is a physiological function of the bodyâs real need for food, often occurring once you havenât eaten for some hours. Your body may try to inform you it is lacking in energy supply with signals from your stomach such as growls, pangs, or hollow feelings. Alternatively, your brain may send signals including fatigue, fogginess, or lack of concentration. Hunger doesnât tend to subside if ignored for a small period of time.
Instead, a craving or addictive urge is more psychological. It may occur after a nutritious meal, or consistently be targeted towards a certain food . Addictive urges towards food may also be responding to trigger events or emotions, and involve a process of continuous eating. Cravings, unlike hunger, if managed appropriately, can subside. Ultimately, observing yourself, your emotions, and your physical cravings can help you develop a better awareness of when you are actually hungry and when youâre just having a craving.
There is no single way to tackle addictions, however below we present a 5-step technique created by Dr Gabor MatÃ©âs, a renowned addiction expert. It puts compassionate curiosity and self-understanding at the core of overcoming addiction. When youâre feeling an addictive urge to eat a specific food, give these five steps a try.
Step 1: Reframe the addictive urge into a dysfunctional thought
Step 3: Re-focus your urges
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Take It A Step At A Time
Gradually taking positive steps is the healthiest way to overcoming addiction. You will be working towards changing your behavior in small ways until it becomes a habit. Doing this is not easy. There will be moments where you will relapse and go back to your old habits.
In those moments, acknowledge and accept that you made a mistake and try to avoid repeating it.
Beating yourself up over a mistake can easily cause you to fall back to old patterns. Therefore, being compassionate and forgiving yourself in such moments is crucial for this journey.
Remembering that this is a process that will take time and effort will keep you from being too hard on yourself. It will also ensure that you keep pushing even in the face of difficulties and self-doubt.
To keep you motivated to get to your final goal, always remember to reward yourself when you succeed in making any small step forward.
Symptoms Of Food Addiction
There are no blood tests or laboratory exams that can diagnose the existence of food addiction. Like other addiction disorders, the diagnosis of food addiction is based on the persons behaviors. Here are the symptoms of food addiction:
Can you relate to at least four signs above? You should start to worry about having a food addiction. But if you have six signs or above, go seek professional help because its most likely food addiction.
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Why 21 Days Isnt Enough
The assumption that it takes 21 days to break a habit comes from a book called Psycho-Cybernetics. In the book, author and plastic surgeon Dr. Maxwell Maltz noticed that his patients need about 21 days to get used to their new faces. But addiction is more powerful than an ordinary habit, and recent studies show that for most people, 21 days isnt enough time to see any substantial change.
Research shows that it takes about 66 days to change repetitive behavior patterns. One landmark study conducted by researchers at the University College London discovered that the time individuals needed to change their behavior patterns varied from 18 to 254 days. The study also concluded that most people take at least 2 months to develop new behavior patterns.
How To Get Rid Of Food Addiction
Some people eat when they are not hungry. Some people in fact eat until they are way past the point of being full, and when not eating they fantasize about eating.
They may also be preoccupied with getting their next food fix. Oftentimes this is a form of comfort for people as well.
Controlling the Addiction
Part of getting rid of a food addiction is in identifying your personal triggers, or what most causes you to want to eat. The triggers for some people are usually certain comfort foods that people eat when they get stressed out.
Two of the hugest contenders include pasta or cheese, but chocolate, ice cream, or rich pastries and deserts could also be huge triggers. Fast food-like fried chicken or French fries also are addiction foods.
Caffeinated beverages such as coffee, soda, cappuccino, and other beverages also can be a trigger. Caffeinated beverages can cause a person to gain weight, especially if an avid coffee drinker needs to accompany that addiction with dunking of donuts, cookies, or other deserts.
One way to deal with trigger foods is to write a list of them in one column on a piece of paper. Then, alongside that column to the right you should write another list of replacement foods, such as apples, carrot sticks, and other fruits and vegetables.
You can also cut up smaller bite-sized snacks and space out the number of snacks you eat in a days time. In general, you can also eat on smaller plates that are filled up instead of eating on a bigger plate.
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Are You A Food Addict
To answer this question, ask yourself the following questions and answer them as honestly as you can.
Learn Healthy Ways To Cope With Stress
After addressing your immediate problems with addiction and starting treatment, youll still have to face the problems that led to your drug abuse. Did you start using to numb painful emotions, calm yourself after an argument, unwind after a bad day, or forget about your problems?
Once youre sober, the negative feelings that you dampened with drugs will resurface. For treatment to be successful, youll first need to resolve your underlying issues.
Once you have resolved your underlying issues, you will, at times, continue to experience stress, loneliness, frustration, anger, shame, anxiety, and hopelessness. These emotions are all a normal part of life. Finding ways to address these feelings as they arise is an essential component to your treatment and recovery.
There are healthier ways to keep your stress level in check. You can learn to manage your problems without falling back on your addiction. When youre confident in your ability to quickly de-stress, facing strong feelings isnt as intimidating or overwhelming.
Quickly relieve stress without drugs
Different quick stress relief strategies work better for some people than others. The key is to find the one that works best for you.
Movement. A brisk walk around the block can be enough to relieve stress. Yoga and meditation are also excellent ways to bust stress and find balance.
Step outside and savor the warm sun and fresh air. Enjoy a beautiful view or landscape.
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The Science Of Food Addiction
Food addiction arises because eating lots of food makes us feel better.
But why does food make us feel better? And why does this cause addiction?
The answer is simple: foods rich in sugar, fat and salt stimulate the brains reward centre i.e. feel good hormones such as dopamine.
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that allows us to feel good about ourselves.
Over time, the brain becomes more tolerant to dopamine. This means an ever greater quantity of food is needed in order to achieve this feel good factor.
Activities such as sex, exercising and eating all trigger dopamine. Each activity is essential for survival, so its essential we feel good when doing these activities.
Otherwise, we might not do them and die .
Replace Bad Habit With The Good Habit
It is the fact that you cant quit any habit, you just can replace it with the good one.
Here, you can also replace the habit of drinking alcohol with another good habit such as playing sports, visiting a new place, reading books, or anything that you like.
If you get a strong urge to drink alcohol, drink non-alcoholic beer, juice, or something else except alcohol.
I will recommend you to become spiritual in life. It is my personal experience that spirituality literally modifies any person from the soul.
You will never find the calmness that spiritual practices can provide you.
You might have heard all these about spirituality.
But if you really want to get rid of alcohol addiction then the real-time for it has come.
Go and find a spiritual mentor, join spiritual communities, read spiritual books. These will help you very much.
In the previous article on how to get rid of masturbation habits, I talked about the benefits of spirituality in detail.
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Social Causes Of Food Addiction
Scientists believe there are many social pressures that contribute to food addiction.
This includes social pressure to be thin and the social disapproval for people who are overweight.
This pressure fuels the food addicts self-disgust.
The resulting depression causes the food addict to overeat in an attempt to feel better about themselves.
What Is Samhsas National Helpline
SAMHSAs National Helpline, , or TTY: is a confidential, free, 24-hour-a-day, 365-day-a-year, information service, in English and Spanish, for individuals and family members facing mental and/or substance use disorders. This service provides referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups, and community-based organizations.
Also visit the online treatment locator, or send your zip code via text message: 435748 to find help near you. Read more about the HELP4U text messaging service.
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How Do You Stop Binge Purging
Food Addiction Can Also Lead To:
Weight gain, especially if you exercise regularly or eat too much at one time.
- Feeling less intelligent, less motivated, or feel as if you are unable to manage your own emotions.
- Losing interest in your children, work and career.
- Losing relationships.
- Increased physical pain.
What are some of the best and bad habits of eating that are responsible for food addiction?
The foods that cause food addiction are very specific, and can be categorized into three general categories:
- Fiber based foods
Fiber based foods consist of seeds, grains, fruits, and vegetables that are naturally high in fiber. Fiber can act as a natural pain reliever, and can be used to prevent food cravings and give you satisfaction when you do eat. Fruits and vegetables have an energy-releasing effect on the body. Fruits and vegetables can be good to avoid, as they are not as tasty as other foods.It is important to get more fiber in your diet. If you have difficulty getting fiber from your food, consider supplementing with fiber-rich foods, such as whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds, and avocados. Fruits and vegetables can also be used as snacks by eating them after a strenuous activity. If you find yourself feeling tired after a meal, eat some fruit to get some extra energy.
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