Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Food Addiction and Diet

I often say to myself I’m a food addict, or a chocoholic, or obsessed with food. The funny thing is I’m not really kidding. I am a food addict. Food addiction is real. It’s really no different than other types of addiction, since eating food increases the levels of dopamine in the body. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter used by the brain to regulate hormones, motor control, memory, sexual desire, and emotional responses. Increased dopamine in the body results in energy, excitement, happiness, and heightens sense of pleasure and awareness. Too much dopamine can over stimulate the body, much like sex, and cocaine. Too much of a good thing is not good – it’s abuse. Over stimulation makes your body and brain crave more of whatever made you “high”. The excessive behavior or need to stay “high” to feel good can be damaging, and result in addiction. Food is a powerful drug. It’s powerful because you need food to nourish and fuel your body. So what you eat, and how much of it you eat can be the determining factor of how you feel, live, and heal.


So knowing how powerful food is, you can see why so many suffer from diet related health issues, including eating disorders, obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and even cancer. Besides being a physiological issue, the food addiction can also be a result of a psychological challenge as well. However, regardless of whether or not the addiction is a result of physiological or psychological dependence what you eat can make a difference. You can actually assist with overcoming your personal food addiction by making changes in your diet and lifestyle – a life long commitment.


One of the biggest perpetrators of food addiction is the Standard American Diet which is basically what the majority of our society has been raised on. Ever since the Industrial Era took the world by storm, more and more “food like” products are made available to us as a convenience and ease of preparation, shelf stability, and obviously for big profit. Most of these food products are over processed, and have little nutritional value. The number of artificial ingredients used to make these products stable can create toxins in the body, causing disease. Most of these food like products are high in refined sugar, sodium, and even trans fats. “How is this even food?” Obviously not all processed food is bad, such as a bag of frozen organic fruit, or a pre-washed bag of organic baby spinach, ground nuts, and so forth. You need to read ingredient labels, and you need to research the source of the food you consume. Obviously a package of chocolate chip cookies with 30 ingredients, the first being bleached flour, and high fructose corn syrup, is not the best choice for cookies. However, since cookies for the most part are for a “sweet indulgence”, having 10 cookies opposed to 1 or 2 cookies is no better! For that matter, even if the cookies were made from all organic ingredients, eating 10 cookies is still over doing it! You get my point.


Since we know that food increases the levels of dopamine, and dopamine enhances a feeling of happiness, then it’s obvious that if an individual is under a lot of stress, or is depressed, eating is going to help make them feel better. However, if you are feeding your feelings with sugar-laden food-like products then you are going to increase the potential for obesity, diabetes, digestive problems, heart disease, mental dependence, fatigue, and cancer – which won’t make you feel better in the long run. If you feed your feelings with fresh fruit, dark leafy greens, raw nuts and seeds, you have a better chance of sustaining the good feelings and energy, and nourish your body all at the same time. That in itself will help the brain, and assist with breaking the abusive, addictive eating behavior.

If you are feeling the need to binge on any type of food, than you need to look deeper into what the cause of the behavior is. If physical, perhaps you are thirsty or tired, or need exercise; or maybe you have a chemical imbalance of some sort that requires medical attention, or diet supplementation. If it’s emotional or mental, perhaps you have anxiety over something in your life that you need to confront. Consider seeking professional help, counseling, or talking it out with a friend or family member. Although food is loved by many, including me, food’s main purpose is to nourish and fuel the body, not pacify it.

I know for me that whenever I feel stressed or bored, or anxious, I want to eat. Whenever I feel overly tired I want to eat. When I’m busy and moving about, or focused, I don’t binge. If I’m well rested, and properly hydrated, I don’t binge. No matter how well I eat on a daily basis, if my overall day is not in balance, then binging can become a problem. My addiction. My challenge. Some of it is due to being post menopausal. However, a lot of it is due to needing rest and relaxation, and managing my stress both good and bad. As well as keeping on track with the foods I make available to me throughout the day. The issue with binging is that convenience foods, processed foods – regardless of whether or not they are non-organic or organic, can be too easily abused. Sugar is addictive in any form, especially refined sugars, and natural sweeteners. The more you eat, the more you crave, the more you binge. It’s a vicious cycle.


In order to rid your body of these dangerous drug-like foods, you need to detox. Food rehab! Sometimes the best way to break a food addiction is to transition slowly by increasing the amount of fresh produce consumed, and minimizing the amount of pre-packaged processed foods consumed. As the detoxification process starts, continue to work towards completely eliminating these food like products from the diet altogether. Perhaps try a juice or smoothie-cleanse for a couple of days, this too will help the detoxification process. These are all healthy ways to break the physiological impact of food addiction and begin the healing of the body and mind. Make it a life long commitment to remain “sober” of these food like products. Plan meals and snacks, and mental and physical outlets for when those addictive triggers occur. Make your own “feel good” treats that are healthy and are not mad of all the additives.


I know for me personally food addiction will always be a part of me. I know there may be times that I will slip up, but I find a way to take charge again. Feeling good and being happy is a life-long goal. Part of making that possible is being healthy and living healthy. Food should not be the poison – food should be part of the cure.


As the great Hippocrates once said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”.


Information Disclaimer:
The information within this article and throughout the Raw-Riffic website/blog is intended for general information purposes only. Individuals should consult their health care provider before administering any suggestions made. Any application of the material set forth in this article or within the pages of this website/blog is at the viewer/reader’s discretion and is his or her sole responsibility.
 My Sources:Dopamine and Addiction, by Imran Siddiqui. http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/bb/neuro/neuro05/web1/isiddiqui.html
The Top Three Ways Raw Food can Help Release Food Addiction, by Angela Stokes Monarch. http://www.naturalnews.com/025416_food_foods_raw.html
Overcoming Food Addiction, posted by Divine Nutrition~End the Diet War. http://www.rawfooddiet-holistichealth.com/overcomingfoodaddiction.html
Is All Processed Food Unhealthy? By TAMARA DUKER FREUMAN. http://health.usnews.com/health-news/blogs/eat-run/2013/05/14/is-all-processed-food-unhealthy
Convenience food, From Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Convenience_food
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