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  • 6/20/2013

6 Steps to Take Control of Food Addiction

food addiction


Eating healthy and losing weight seems downright impossible for many people.

Despite their best intentions, they repeatedly find themselves eating large amounts of unhealthy foods, despite knowing that it is causing them harm.

The truth is… the effects of certain foods on the brain can lead to downright addiction.

Food addiction is a very serious problem and one of the main reasons some people just can’t control themselves around certain foods, no matter how hard they try.

What is Food Addiction?

Food addiction is, quite simply, being addicted to junk food in the same way as drug addicts are addicted to drugs.

It involves the same areas in the brain, the same neurotransmitters and many of the symptoms are identical.

Food addiction is a relatively new (and controversial) term and there are no good statistics available on how common it is.

This is very similar to several other eating disorders, including binge eating disorder, bulimia, compulsive overeating and having an “unhealthy” relationship with food.

How This Works

Processed junk foods have a powerful effect on the “reward” centers in the brain, involving brain neurotransmitters like dopamine.

The foods that seem to be the most problematic include typical “junk foods,” as well as foods that contain either sugar or wheat, or both.

Food addiction is not about a lack of willpower or anything like that, it is caused by the intense dopamine signal “hijacking” the biochemistry of the brain.

There are many studies that support the fact that food addiction is a real problem.

8 Symptoms of Food Addiction

There is no blood test available to diagnose food addiction. Just like with other addictions, it is based on behavioral symptoms.

Here are 8 common symptoms that are typical of food addicts:

• You frequently get cravings for certain foods, despite feeling full and having just finished a nutritious meal.

• When you give in and start eating a food you were craving, you often find yourself eating much more than you intended to.

• When you eat a food you were craving, you sometimes eat to the point of feeling excessively “stuffed.”

• You often feel guilty after eating particular foods, yet find yourself eating them again soon after.

• You sometimes make excuses in your head about why you should eat something that you are craving.

• You have repeatedly tried to quit eating or setting rules (includes cheat meals/days) about certain foods, but been unsuccessful.

• You often hide your consumption of unhealthy foods from others.

• You feel unable to control your consumption of unhealthy foods, despite knowing that they are causing you physical harm (includes weight gain).

• If you can relate to 4-5 of these, then you probably do have a serious problem with food. If you can relate to 6 or more, then you are most likely a food addict.

Here are six ways you can loosen the stranglehold a food addiction may have on you.

Smaller plates = smaller portions.

People with food addiction often overeat because the signals that traditionally tell the body to stop eating don't sound off. But according to Mark Gold, MD, chief of addiction medicine at the University of Florida College of Medicine, you can actually retrain your brain to feel full on less food.

Begin by using smaller plates and bowls, which will force you to dish out smaller portions.

Over time (it may take a few weeks), your brain will begin to get used to the reduced portion sizes and you'll feel less compelled to keep eating. Once you've mastered that, try reducing your portions even further by leaving a little space on your plate; again, your brain will slowly but surely adapt.

Lower the "sweet" volume.

If sugar is your weakness, start by removing it from areas of your diet where you're less likely to notice. Target sauces, dressings, breads, crackers, and other "nonsweet" foods that contain hidden sweeteners. After a while, your taste buds will become more sensitive to sugar, making the foods you really want to avoid—cookies, cakes, candy—a little less appealing.

Keep your hunger in check.

People with food addiction often get tripped up by resisting food to the point of being ravenous, then overeating as a result. Rate your hunger on a scale of zero to ten, zero being starving and ten being overstuffed, then try to stay somewhere in the middle.

Work it out by working out.

Exercise can actually change the body's biochemistry, helping to make up for some of the physiological imbalances that can lead to food addiction. Also, time spent working out is time that you won't be eating.

Find other ways of coping.

Just as some addicts turn to drugs to help them deal with pain and anxiety, food addicts turn to food. Instead of running away from those feelings, consider talking to a therapist or finding support from a food addiction group like Overeaters Anonymous.

Don't return to the scene of the crime.

Drug addicts get into trouble when they go back into the neighborhood where they used to buy drugs. Similarly, returning to the same patterns can trip you up. So shake up your routine. If tortilla chips are your weakness, don't go to Mexican restaurants. If the sight of a certain donut shop weakens your resolve, walk another route. If you always have ice cream while watching TV at night, read a book instead (or knit as you watch the tube so your hands will be occupied).




Other links:

Habits that zap your energy (part2)

4 Habits to Break Before It's Too Late

Night Eating Syndrome



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