Food Addiction For The Non-Addictive?

May 8, 2010

Food Addiction For The Non-Addictive?

Although Overeaters Anonymous got the no white flour and sugar thing right some forty-four years ago, major health experts are now acknowledging and writing about the addictiveness of certain foods. Real biochemistry. Not just you-like-it-so-much-you-can’t-stop, but real organic brain changes. Sort of makes me feel vindicated.

Good topic to explore and consider with Christmas, Hanukkah and the ubiquitous bowls of chocolate everything right around the corner!  How much more Halloween candy do you suppose is purchased, eaten and repurchased every year because the advertising and store displays begin wearing us down before it’s even October?

When I first read Kelly Brownell’s (of Yale) interview in Nutrition Action back in 2010, my first response was disappointment about his opinion that it isn’t really American’s faults (bear with me now) that they are overweight, that the environment is to blame.  At first glance, that seemed to fit with the whole recent American cultural attitude of blame and lack of self-responsibility.  Perhaps valid, but such a dis-empowering cultural mindset.

But it got me to thinking.  You really do have to wonder why so many Americans, and any westernized nation really at this point, could have two thirds of the population being willing to be seriously, health-threateningly overweight.  And not just overweight, but obese.  Probably most of these people are not food addicts in the traditional sense.  What I mean is, if they lived somewhere non-westernized, most wouldn’t have this level of a weight problem.

So why then don’t we just stop eating so much?  Seems simple enough, right?  Really, makes you wonder if something else is going on with people’s physiology.  How could this many otherwise competent, intelligent, diligent, and reasonably self-caring individuals let themselves get this out of hand?  What…did the entire nation just stop caring about about dying young, about the health of their kids?  Even many formerly buff, heart throb movie stars are now sporting an extra forty or so.  Is their appetite overriding their former vanity?  You’ve got to figure that something bigger than simply enjoying eating must be at work here.

And, if it’s true that certain foods (sugar, fat, salt and additives possibly) actually affect the reward pathways in our brains and for all intents and purposes “break” our appetite mechanisms so we can’t count on them to tell us when we have had enough, doesn’t it just make that much more of a case for really hunkering down and learning to take more responsibility for the behavior patterns we create right from the get go for ourselves and our families and for just how much stimulus we allow ourselves to be exposed to?  What better solution is there at the moment?  The food companies have far too much leverage because of advertising dollars spent to expect this toxic food environment to change anytime soon.

It’s up to us.  Time to take charge of taking charge.  We do not have to fall victim to the unhealthy cultural norms or the mission of the food industry to find our ” bliss points” – the point at which we will abandon any natural signals to stop eating.   And as we decrease how much of these salt, sugar, fat and additive laden foods we and our kids consume – our appetite mechanisms will begin to “almost magically” work again and do what they should do – actually tell us we don’t want more!  The way it is supposed to be.

Even I have reluctantly, albeit belatedly, seen the difference a good diet makes.  I joke about my history as the black sheep of the nutrition community.  I am virtually the only person I know with as severe an eating issue as I have had that was actually able to manage my weight by sheer vanity, calorie counting and environmental control.  Good to know that can be done, but not the easiest or healthiest way to do it certainly.  Embarrassingly enough, it has taken me years to yield to the pressure of my fairly vast (if I do say so myself) nutrition knowledge and really change my own diet.

Now I realize that I would have made my life a lot easier if I had heeded the nutrition community’s advice years ago about upping the lean proteins and healthy fats (especially early in the day) and decreasing all that stuff that turns to sugar fast.  Unfortunately, I was a child of the 20 years of misguided don’t-eat-fat advice that has turned us into a nation of hungry diabetics.

I realize that I am just an experiment of one, and a stone food addict at that, but I have really seen over the years how much my food addiction had been exacerbated by the foods I chose.  I believed that I was so eating disordered that content couldn’t possibly matter that much.  Who knew that with time and even just a little better nutrition, my appetite mechanisms could reassert themselves?  Cravings and constant preoccupation with food would truly diminish.  I actually often don’t want more of whatever.  I actually let others pick the restaurant…well sometimes!  Food just has lost some of it’s priority to me.  Disappointing sometimes, but such a relief and an enormous unexpected gift from the universe.

No longer always owned by what I am or am not going to eat?…priceless.

Begin your final weight loss journey now…

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