How To Beat It
Theres no quick fix or magic pill to make you stop wanting sugar or foods that you crave. Ultimately, you crave what you regularly feed yourself. So the only way to reduce your cravings is to take a break. If you regularly have something sweet to eat after dinner, its very natural for you to always feel like eating something sweet after dinner. Youre in a bad habit, thats all. Research has shown that fasting particular foods doesnt increase the cravings like it does with true drug addiction, it actually reduces them.
Changing your habits and behaviour is hard work. So you need to get prepared. Here are are few tips to help you beat the sugar high and get in control of your eating.
The Downsides Of Thinking In Terms Of Food Addiction
However, the problem with thinking of food as addictive is that we become disempowered.
Once you define yourself as someone who is addicted to food, you see yourself as a victim with no control over your own destiny.
With this mentality locked in, we start to see all food as bad instead of choosing more optimal foods that will empower us.
Instead of feeling grateful for having it, enjoying it and celebrating it for nourishing us, we begin to fear it. All food becomes our enemy.
Food addiction constitutes a medicalisation of common eating behaviours, taking on properties of disease. The use of this medical language has implications for the way in which society views overeating and obesity.
If we medicalise our hedonic overeating, we are less likely to take responsibility for our choices.
Signs And Symptoms Of Food Addiction
Now that you more or less have an idea about what the food addiction is and how it is defined as, it is best to ensure that you know the common signs and symptoms associated with food addiction.
It is beneficial to understand the same mainly because this is what is going to help you understand the ins and outs of the problem and take precautionary steps for the food addiction treatment.
- Sudden cravings of foods and that too certain kinds even though you just finished eating a full meal just a few minutes or so back
- You often end up eating more than you should when you start eating anything that you have been craving along for a long time
- You tend to eat and stuff your face with the food that you like eating or crave till the point that you are stuffed to the core
- Your guilt of eating a few different kinds of foods often takes a backseat when you start eating that food finally
- Your head is filled with excuses for yourself when you feel like eating something unhealthy and such.
- Your attempts in leaving these eating habits behind have not just failed once but multiple times and it is possible that you have given up on trying to do the same more than once
- You try to act as if you are a healthy eater in front of others when in reality, that is far from the truth altogether
- You have an uncontrollable urge when it comes to these foods and such and it is quite hard and most importantly, impossible for you to end over the urge to eat the kind of food you like
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The Signs And Symptoms Of Food Addiction
You might be wondering whether you show signs of food addiction.
According to the available research, there are 12 criteria that underpin a food addiction diagnosis7Gearhardt AN, Corbin WR, Brownell K. Development of the Yale Food Addiction Scale Version 2.0. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors. 2016 30:113..
The 12 criteria are taken from the substance-use disorder diagnostic criteria but are assessed in the context of a persons eating behaviour:
In order to receive a diagnosis of food addiction, the person must meet at least two of the above criteria plus show signs that their eating behaviour causes them clinically significant distress and impairment.
Stop Keeping Foods Off Limits
One of the ways I treat binge eating with clients is by having them actually eat their binge foods. I encourage them to go to the grocery store, buy one binge food, or off limit food, and keep it in their house. If you decide to do this, remove the off limit label, stop calling the food bad and allow yourself unconditional permission to eat this food. You might find in the beginning that you overeat these foods, but overtime, keeping off limit foods in your house and allowing yourself to eat them whenever youd like, causes these foods to lose their alluring effect. If you can have them whenever, and wherever youd like, are they really that special anymore? The more you are exposed to your off-limit, binge foods, the less alluring they become, and the less likely you will be to binge eat those foods. But start slow, with one binge food at a time. Once youd mastered keeping one binge food in the house without overeating it or obsessing over it, repeat the process with a new binge food.
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Psychiatrists And Drug Therapy
While the Food and Drug Administration has not approved any drugs for the treatment of food addiction, medication is another option to consider.
That said, medications are not guaranteed to work for feeding and eating disorders and tend to have side effects.
One drug to consider is approved by the FDA to aid weight loss and contains bupropion and naltrexone. Its marketed under the brand name Contrave in the United States and Mysimba in Europe.
This drug directly targets some of the brain pathways involved in the addictive nature of food. Studies suggest that it may be effective, especially when combined with healthy lifestyle changes (
What Is Happening In The Brain
The brain chemistry that drives the addict to seek pleasure beyond the point of satiety is similar, whether the user favors Jack Daniels or Jack-in-the-Box. On a functional MRI, which can show what is happening to brain chemicals, the results are fundamentally the same whether or not the substance is cocaine, sugar, alcohol, donuts, ice cream, or heroin.
It all happens deep within our brain in a set of linked structures called the limbic system. The limbic system contains the brains reward circuits, or reward pathway, and is involved in our behavioral and emotional responses, especially when it comes to behaviors we need for survival.
This linked set of structures, often called the ancient mammalian brain, controls and regulates our ability to feel pleasure. Feeling pleasure motivates us to learn and repeat behaviors.
Eating, and other activities that encourage our survival such as sex, social interaction, and exercise are all driven by the same pool of neurochemicals in our brains. Dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins travel specific neural pathways to influence our moods and give us feelings of pleasure, excitement, comfort, and joy.
While some drugs act on only one neurochemical research shows that sugar, refined carbohydrates, and combinations of fat, sugar, and salt, act on and release all three chemicals. No wonder food is addictive. It covers all angles of our pleasure and comfort!
And some of us are more vulnerable than others.
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Ways To Beat Your Food Addiction
And nix your stress-eating for good
Its an all-too-common scenario: You wake up in the morning swearing todays the day when youll eat clean, nourish yourself with a healthy breakfast at home, and pass up the glistening bakery goodies that tempt you every day. You make it to work without incident and then stress hitsany kind of stress, from a new project deadline to a caustic remark from your boss. A little while later, you find yourself with pastries in hand, wolfing down sugary anesthetics and wanting more. When you finally pop out of your food trance, and the reality of what youve done begins to settle in, the ensuing feelings of shame and guilt stoke your stress levels more and youre already plotting your next food fix. You wonder: Why do I keep caving to these cravings? Wheres my discipline and willpower?
This is your brain addicted to food.
Thats right. Addicted. You might tell yourself, “Im not addicted to food I just love a good sweet now and then.” Well, Im here to tell you that food addiction is real it affects more people than you know, and manufacturers actually design food products so that they are as addicting as possible. Yes, that perfect combination of salty, sweet, and savory was created to make sure you keep reaching for more. Thats why I wrote The Hunger Fix, because I want to change the game that is rigged against you.
More From Prevention
Here are six ways to beat food addiction:
Tip #: Invest In Your Knowledge Of Healthy Eating
This is my #1 tip for losing weight and eating more healthy.
Clever tricks to cut down on the amount of food you eat is not as effective as learning about low carb, low calories and high nutrient eating.
Ive just waded through my personal collection of books on healthy eating and Ive included links below where you can purchase these books:
- Grains and Mains by Laura Wilson. This book is my absolute favourite. It includes many recipes for ancient grains such as millet, buckwheat, faro and pear barley
- 100 Best Gluten Free Foods by Love Food Editors
If youre looking for addiction recovery books, check out our guide on the best books on addiction recovery »
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Turning Off Social Media Notifications
Whenever you are starting something fresh, it is essential to let go of things in the past. Concentration is the key here, and if there is a constant notification on your phone, it will distract you. You will feel curious to see what it is, and one thing will lead to another, and you will find yourself lost in the online world for a good hour or two. You might even see something you will not like, affecting your mood. It will cause your work to get affected as well as your relationship with others throughout the day. So, one must conquer the fear of missing out .
How To Get Help For A Loved One
Remember that an addiction disorder has exceeded ones ability to manage it. Simply telling one to stop eating or attempting to restrict household foods may backfire. Rather, it is important to become informed about food addiction and treatment options while being as supportive to your loved one as possible. Further, this may require you to make lifestyle changes as well. For instance, if you also engage in problematic eating, you may support your loved one by eating healthier and setting a positive example.
Participating in treatment is also recommended so long as your loved one and therapist agree that it is a good idea. Also, do not forget that the process takes time. When your loved one struggles, even more support is needed. The more into this you are together, the greater likelihood of recovery.
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Treatment: How To Beat Food Addiction
If the previous sections of this guide have made you feel hopeless, fear not. There is freedom from food and sugar addiction.
The first step is to recognize you have a problem by knowing the signs, as listed above. Then, when you understand what is happening in your brain at a neurochemical level, this helps you give yourself the love and compassion for why it may be so difficult to control your cravings and the impulse to eat and eat despite being full and despite adverse consequences.
The next step is to take an honest inventory of the foods that you simply cannot moderate in your eating, the ones you crave and cannot control. These are your trigger foods.
The most common trigger foods are sugar and sweets, refined flour and carbohydrates, and mixtures of sugar, refined carbohydrates, fat, and salt.
In my experience, food addiction usually starts as a sugar addiction, and then progresses along a continuum from mild to moderate to severe. In the early years a food addict may be triggered only by sugar and have a hard time controlling eating candies and sweets.
But over time, and increasing exposure to sugar, food like refined flour and other carbohydrates that rapidly digest to sugar may become a problem. The more addicted an individual becomes, the more foods exist that trigger the binges and disordered eating.
What are your trigger foods? Generally, if you have even a small bite of your trigger food, a binge or some food issue that you cant control typically follows.
What Causes Addictive Eating
To quote Robb Wolf, we are Wired to Eat.
A large amount of our biology and the technology we have developed throughout human evolution revolves around getting enough food. Our survival has centred around creative ways to obtain more food that we needed.
During autumn, the stars aligned, and mother nature provided a bounty of comfort foods we needed to get fat to survive the coming winter. In this sense, we are just like Beadnose the Bear, pictured in both photos below, just four months apart.
However, in nature, those foods werent available for long! If we didnt gorge on them when we had the opportunity, we might not have survived the winter. Our dopamine response to these unique foods was critical. Humans that forgot to binge on the available foods were less likely to survive through winter and procreate and become our ancestors.
But after winter comes spring, and the foods naturally available to us allowed us to shed our winter fat so we could start the cycle over again.
It makes sense that we have such a significant dopamine response for these rare and unique foods. During evolutionary times, it was what encouraged us to gorge on them when they became available so we could ensure our survival.
For more background on circannual nutrition, check out:
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How Do You Become Addicted To Food
Current research and experiments looking at both animals and humans show that for some people, the same reward centers in the brain triggered by addictive drugs like heroin are also activated by food.
In particular, these brain centers may be activated by junk foods high in sugar, salt, and fat. Junk foods are described as highly palatable.
These highly palatable processed foods can trigger a flood of dopamine into the brain. Dopamine is a feel-good brain chemical. When someones reward response is triggered by the release of dopamine, the brain can then signal someone they need to continue eating those feel-good foods.
Reward signals stemming from certain foods can overpower the other signals sent by the brain, such as fullness. With food addiction, because of these factors in the brain, a person will continue eating despite no longer being hungry.
Food addiction can also be described as compulsive overeating, which is categorized as a behavioral addiction. Other behavioral addictions can including shopping and gambling.
Mental Hack #: Emotional Learning
For many of us, emotional eating has become a habit of comfort in other words, its a behavior induced by certain cues like situations, feelings, people, commercials, etc.
In the vast majority of people, uncontrolled eating happens in two situations:
So heres how you use emotional learning to take the smart approach to beating food addiction, which ultimately revolves around your habits.
Ive previously talked about this quite a lot in a post called Why all diets fail and why you dont need a diet to lose weight, but heres a recap for emotional eaters.
#1 Figure Out Your Cues
Most of us emotionally eat because of cues outside or inside of us.
For example: were at a company party. Food is there, so we eat it .
Another example: Its 2:30 at work, and youre on the home stretch. You start getting low energy, and youre looking for something to do so you go upstairs to the cafe and grab a cookie .
So the secret for many of us is to A. learn our cues, and then B. avoid them.
A technique I commonly recommend for figuring out your cues is what I call the Awesomesauce Index Card Method.
But to keep it simple, spend time for 1-2 weeks recording a few things:
- What time of the day do I crave food?
- What moods make me crave food?
- In what situations do I usually over eat?
- With what people do I usually eat the wrong foods?
- What places usually end up causing cravings?
#2 Swap The Routine
Another incredibly common origin of bad habits is boredom.
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The 15 Best Books On Food Addiction
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Obesity has become one of Americas top health issues. Many people suffer from eating disorders and food addiction. Unlike other types of addiction, it is not possible to stop consuming food. We all must eat to survive.
Our lives are full of quick fixes. We often go to a fast-food drive-through on the way home from work, so cooking and cleaning can be averted.
Preparing meals and eating healthy takes time and energy. Many of us get caught up in this cycle and end up gaining weight and craving foods that are unhealthy.
Is it possible to eat healthy on a daily basis? What if we are truly addicted to food and are unable to stop eating? Is there hope for escaping tasty, fat and sugar-filled fast food?
The truth is, we are what we eat. Eating healthy food gives us more energy, helps fight off disease and makes us feel better in general.
Breaking the unhealthy eating cycle is well worth it. Kicking a food addiction or eating disorder to the curb may save your life.
I have listed the fifteen best books available today to help win this war. Please take some time to look through the list. There is something for everybody here. Eating disorders are as diverse as the people who have them.
There is no magic bullet for treatment. The secret is to find a remedy that works for you.
Remember to live a happy, healthy, healing life!