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.
Getting Cravings Despite Feeling Full
Its not uncommon to get cravings, even after eating a fulfilling, nutritious meal.
For example, after eating a dinner with steak, potatoes, and veggies, some people may crave ice cream for dessert.
Cravings and hunger arent the same thing.
A craving occurs when you experience an urge to eat something, despite having already eaten or being full.
This is pretty common and doesnt necessarily mean that someone has food addiction. Most people get cravings.
However, if cravings happen often and satisfying or ignoring them becomes hard, they may be an indicator of something else .
These cravings are not about a need for energy or nutrients its the brain calling for something that releases dopamine, a chemical in the brain that plays a role in how humans feel pleasure .
Cravings are very common. While a craving alone doesnt indicate food addiction, if you often get cravings and ignoring or satisfying them is difficult, it may indicate a problem.
Help For Food Addiction
Science is still working to understand and find treatments for food addiction.
Some argue that recovery from food addiction may be more complicated than recovery from other kinds of addictions. Alcoholics, for example, can ultimately abstain from drinking alcohol. But people who are addicted to food still need to eat.
A nutritionist, psychologist, or doctor who is educated about food addiction may be able to help you break the cycle of compulsive overeating.
There are also a growing number of programs that help people who are addicted to food. Some, like Food Addicts in Recovery Anonymous, are based on the 12-step program that has helped many people addicted to alcohol, drugs, or gambling.
Others, like Food Addicts Anonymous, use the principles of the 12-step program along with strict diets that advise people to abstain from problem ingredients, like sugar, refined flour, and wheat.Ã
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What Does Food Addiction Do To The Brain
Modern, processed, hyper-palatable foods that combine carbs and fat year-round effectively send our subconscious instincts a message to binge NOW because winter is coming.
Despite our conscious brains best efforts, our strong-willed self-deprivation is no match for our reptilian survival instincts. So, resisting when your Lizard Brain takes over is almost impossible!
It is not a failure of your willpower but rather your innate biology working to ensure you survive.
The tension between our conscious brain trying to restrict and our subconscious mind telling us to EAT IT ALL NOW eventually drives us crazy. We feel addicted and cant live without modern, hyper-palatable, engineered foods.
A Culpable Food Industry
Many people believe the food industry spikes food with processed sugars and flours knowing this will lead to food addiction.
Indeed, many supermarket premade dishes contain more sugar than a bar of chocolate! The sweetness of these dishes is often hidden by an infusion of salt and spices.
In fact, some even say processed sugar is more addictive than cocaine!
I recommend you read the book Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us by Michael Moss.
Studies conducted on rats exposed to junk food prove the rats suffer withdrawal symptoms when the junk food is removed similar to that suffered by rats addicted to drugs or alcohol.
This was particularly the case for rats addicted to sugar. When sugar was withdrawn, the rats suffered several withdrawal symptoms: shaking, anxiety and a change in body temperature.
Scientists say youre least likely to become addicted to unprocessed natural foods such as vegetables, nuts, beans and seeds.
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Is The Problem You Or Our Modern Food Environment
To understand how you are wired to eat, it can be helpful to think in terms of circannual chrononutrition and how the foods naturally available change in autumn, winter, spring, and summer, and how our bodies respond to them.
Its interesting to see how the seasons correspond to different popular dietary approaches that many people find success with.
|Fat + carbs with less protein and fibre||Modern processed food||Weight gain|
Over the past century, with the increase in industrial agriculture and food processing, our food has become more autumnal, with a similar combination of fat and carbs. Popular diets like low fat, low carb and high protein effectively turn back the clock in our food system to days gone by before we had ultra-processed foods that mix cheap fat and carbs to overdrive our dopamine circuits.
Identifying If You Suffer From A Food Addiction
Food addiction carries a number of tell-tale signs. These signs are commonly known as symptoms.
- You eat food in order to cope with negative emotions such as stress
- Your mind is constantly preoccupied with food to the point of obsession
- You eat food even though you are aware of the negative health consequences of doing so
- You eat so much food that you suffer from nausea or to the point where you vomit
- You do not possess any self-control when it comes to your appetite
- You lie about how much food you eat
- You feel a sense of self-disgust about your appearance and you eat to drown your sorrows
- You wake up in the middle of the night to eat food
- Eating is more about pleasure than satisfying your appetite
- You hide food around the house/office
- You hide food away from your loved-one
- You feel depressed/regret/guilt after binge eating
- You eat long after you are full
- Binge eating episodes last for around two hours, but sometimes lasts an entire day
- You get very angry when food is not available/denied to you
Although an addiction to food may begin at any age, most sufferers will develop the addiction in their adolescence or early adulthood.
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Mental Hack #: Become Your Own Coach
Anyone with a chronic health problem has quickly learned that they need to become their own expert.
Beyond just learning everything on the subject, you need to understand your own vulnerabilities, and start experimenting.
Its almost impossible to really come up with a perfect diet for every person, or a perfect system for every person which is why experimentation is so important.
For example, if you know that certain foods make you over eat every time you know you have a personal kryptonite and you should stay away from them.
So how specifically do you experiment and become your own expert?
Use something that I call definitive documents.
Ive unfortunately had a number of various health problems in my life that were chronic and very difficult to solve by western doctors. Usually there were many pieces to the puzzle, and I was left experimenting on my own.
For many of you this will be the same case. Over the years, I found myself creating these word documents called definitive documents where I could document every piece of the puzzle I was trying to solve:
Sample definitive document when I had sleep issues
What do you write in them? Everything you know.
For emotional eaters and people that are addicted to food, keep track of the following things:
We all need to become our own expert, particularly if we have a long-standing chronic problem often there are many, many interconnected pieces that one person cannot give you.
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In This Post We Address The Issue Of Food Addiction
Many of us overeat from time to time, but some will go on to develop an addiction to food.The very idea of a food addiction was laughable all but a few short years ago. And many people still erroneously believe that addiction is solely about drugs and alcohol.
But things have changed.
The official term for food addiction is compulsive overeating.Many people refer to the disorder as binge eating.The condition is principally characterised by the sufferer consuming vast quantities of food while feeling powerless to stop.
Like other addictions, the person is not in control of their behaviour. This means the food addict is feels very guilty and depressed following an episode of binge eating.
Sufferers even report feeling a sense of self-disgust .But just what is food addiction? And how can you identify if you suffer from it?Well, the answer is simple. But before I give you the answer, I want to tell you about .
Quickly skip to parts of this page you are most interested in by clicking on any of the below links.
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Acclimatising To A Changing Bliss Point
Another characteristic of addiction is acclimatisation to increasing levels of stimulation.
Before a product is introduced to the market, food scientists spend a lot of time and money testing its formula to optimise its bliss point, or the recipe that the majority find most pleasurable. Psychophysicist Howie Moskowitz perfected this approach in the 80s to optimise parameters like flavour intensity by mixing fat and sugar.
Its interesting to note that this bliss point has shifted as weve become more and more acclimated to processed foods. Like a dependency, food manufacturers have had to use more intense flavours to keep people hooked on their products.
What Can I Do
How to break food addiction especially if its a true addiction is complicated and may require professional help. But if youre simply trying to break bad habits, there are a lot of things you can do. For example:
- Use The Emotion Code to determine if Trapped Emotions are playing a role in causing you to eat.
- Use The Body Code to identify potential imbalances or nutrient deficiencies that may be driving your cravings.
- Identify and avoid trigger foods that you tend to binge on or seem to cause further cravings. Have a close friend or family member help you be accountable.
- Once you know your trigger foods, choose non-eating activities to replace them. Brush your teeth, go for a walk, or call a friend when that craving hits. Breaking bad habits may be easier if you fill that void with something else.
- Dont go on a diet! While this may seem counterproductive, going on a diet to try and break food addictions may be too much for you at once. Tackle the addiction-like behavior first, without adding any other restrictions. You can always make other changes later if you need to.
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How I Broke My Addiction To Sweets
For most of my adult life, I thought I was one of those people who was legitimately addicted to sweets. I dreamt of towers of cupcakes with frosting that floweth over. A stack of chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast sounded like my version of heaven. Just one cookie was a foreign concept. Simply the thought of foods like that had this magical, almost euphoric feeling attached to them.
But the truth is, thats not because I was addicted to those foods. Its because I was forbidding myself from eating them.
But for me, I found literally the exact opposite to be true. The more I allowed myself to eat sugar and sweets, the LESS I found myself feeling addicted to them.
Before I go on, please note that I am NOT a health/medical/mental expert, and this is just my own experience/opinions. Please seek a professional before making any changes to your health routine.
So, how exactly did I do it? Well for starters, I was heavily inspired by what I learned from the book Intuitive Eating ).
There were some weeks I had a cupcake after lunch every single day. Dessert after dinner when dining out was an obvious yes. I made sure to always have some sort of sugary, gluten-filled treat in my apartment that I allowed myself to have whenever I wanted to.
Id love to learn more of your thoughts on this. If you havent yet, be sure to join my where were building an amazing community of likeminded gals discussing all sorts of topics!
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Avoid Alcoholic Drinks And Caffeine
As much as you can, avoid alcoholic drinks and caffeinated beverages . Evidence shows that drinking alcoholic or caffeinated beverages triggers poor eating choices.
Coffee can cause the body to crave sugary drinks or sweet foods. In addition, too much caffeine can cause anxiety, and an anxious person may end up resorting to binge-eating comfort foods to feel better.
Drinking alcohol may also cause you to become hungry. After a night of drinking or bar-hopping with friends, eating whatever you see on the fridge, even junk food, seems like a good idea. Alcohol causes poor judgment in many people, so this can destroy your recovery.
Also, avoid soda because it has addictive substances and high sugar content. Dont make it a part of your everyday life to consume sugar because this can trigger addiction in your brain.
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Mental Hack #: Cognitive Control
Cognitive control revolves all around how you view food, and I divide it into two broad categories:
Theres often a lot of self-talk going on when we try to fight foods . And what usually ends up happening is that the more time we try to talk ourselves out of something, the stronger it becomes and the more it steals our attention.
Ever tried jumping off a high rock? The longer you wait and talk yourself up, the less chance you will actually jump.
One of the easiest things you can do in regard to your mind is change the mental chatter.
Rather than looking at cookies and ice cream and saying to yourself, Oh man those look good, tell yourself the truth, I know I cant just have one bite Im going to eat 20, and even remind yourself of your goals, tomorrow Im going to feel like crap and totally regret this.
Jon Grant, at the university of Minnesota, asks patients with a history of shoplifting to write out a shopping list before they go to the grocery store and just put two items on the list: handcuffs, to remind them of their previous history, and a bologna sandwich, to remind them of what they were eating in jail.
Basically this just jogs their memory and reminds them of the consequences of their behavior, and similar to saying Ill feel terrible after eating cookies, it instills a sense of guilt beforehand. .
Setting rules for your food is another way to beat using willpower.
The Science Behind Food Addiction
Food addiction, as mentioned earlier, is thought to be similar to drug addiction. What is the science behind this? It was found that the neurotransmitters in the brain of persons with a substance abuse disorder are the same neurotransmitters that affect people with food addiction.
Processed foods have negative effects on the reward centers of the brain. These effects are the responsibility of the neurotransmitter called dopamine. Food addiction is a combination of lacking the willpower to control oneself to eat junk foods and the dopamine process in the brain.
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Beat Food Addiction With Isagenix
For those who need structure and convenience to help develop healthy habits, the first program is Isagenix and Ive used it for years.
Isagenix is a nutritional cleansing system where you replace 2 daily meals with nutrient-dense whey or plant-based shakes and eat nutritious whole foods for your 3rd meal. Additionally, you eat high-protein snacks and take supplements to help with stress, digestion and energy.
There is also a cleanse component where you incorporate intermittent fasting but in a safe, easy way that helps eliminate toxins, curb cravings and burn unhealthy visceral fat.
This program is best for people looking to get healthy, eat more nutritiously and dont have a lot of time to cook or meal prep.
You will break food addiction patterns by building new healthy habits which will control cravings, give you energy and maintain better portion control.
If this sounds good to you, visit my site or email me at email@example.com. Also, check out my Isa-approved recipes, here. Its important to note that I do receive a commission if anyone orders through me.
Red Flags To Watch Out For
If theyre not addressed, food-addictive behaviors can contribute to health problems associated with an unhealthy diet, such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease.
But not everyone who struggles with it is overweight. People who are a healthy weight can also fall into addictive eating behaviors. Sometimes, these behaviors can trigger other unhealthy patterns, such as crash dieting or over-exercising to burn off the extra calories consumed.
It also really affects peoples quality of life because they feel so guilty or ashamed, Dr. Albers says.
Watch for these troubling patterns of behavior:
- Eating consistently past the point of being full.
- Sneaking or hiding eating behaviors.
- Feeling out of control around certain foods.
- Thinking or stressing about food every day.
- Finding other once-pleasurable activities less enjoyable.
- Going out of your way to get certain foods when they arent readily available.
- Avoiding social or professional situations because of food.
- Continuing these behaviors despite their negative consequences.
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