Food Can Be An Addiction

The idea that a person can be addicted to food has recently gotten more support from science.


Experiments in animals and humans show that, for some people, the same reward and pleasure centers of the brain that are triggered by addictive drugs like cocaine and heroin are also activated by food, especially highly palatable foods. Highly palatable foods are foods rich in:


The right combination of these three items causes addiction and many food companies have scientists who have figured this out and designed foods to “hook” people.

Like addictive drugs, highly palatable foods trigger feel-good brain chemicals such as dopamine. Once people experience pleasure associated with increased dopamine transmission in the brain’s reward pathway from eating certain foods, they quickly feel the need to eat again.

The reward signals from highly palatable foods may override other signals of fullness and satisfaction. As a result, people keep eating, even when they’re not hungry.

People who show signs of food addiction may also develop a tolerance to food. They eat more and more, only to find that food satisfies them less and less.

Scientists believe that food addiction may play an important role in obesity. But normal-weight people may also struggle with food addiction. Their bodies may simply be genetically programmed to better handle the extra calories they take in. Or they may increase their physical activity to compensate for overeating.

People who are addicted to food will continue to eat despite negative consequences, such as weight gain or damaged relationships. And like people who are addicted to drugs or gambling, people who are addicted to food will have trouble stopping their behavior, even if they want to or have tried many times to cut back.

Once you have managed to get through a diet, or weight loss, you will find that there are triggers that cause you to relapse and eat the wrong foods.

You will encounter triggers in the form of events, people, and subsequent emotions that will make you want to drink or get high again. What can you do in these situations?

5 ways of managing triggers during recovery from addiction:

1. Identify your personal triggers.

Everyone is different, so every recovering addict’s set of triggers will be different as well. Some common triggers are walking by a bar, seeing someone who is drunk or high, getting paid, the end of a grueling workday, getting into an argument with someone, and being bored.

2. Know what you are working with.

Triggers and cravings are a very real part of recovery. Do not try to fool yourself into thinking that they will not happen to you. Instead, know your triggers, stay open to anything that may surprise you, and have a plan for when you feel yourself being triggered.

3. Come up with and Prepare your trigger plan.

Role play, even just with yourself in the mirror, what you will do when you feel like using again. You may save yourself from a rough day, a temporary lapse, or a full relapse back to substance abuse.

4. Take care of yourself.

You can handle triggers more easily when you are eating and sleeping well, exercising, and remaining aware of your emotions.

Don’t allow yourself to be vulnerable to overbearing.

Watch out for H.A.L.T.:
Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired.
These four things are said to cause more lapses and relapses.

When you are taking care of yourself you can identify when you feel any of the four, and that is when you can take action.

Act, don’t React!

The trigger may be emotionally affecting you, but you will not act on it.

If you are hungry, you will eat. Tired? Take a nap or at least rest your eyes or meditate. Lonely and angry can be a little harder to manage, but phone a friend (or your sponsor) and talk it out.

5. Do not test yourself.

If you know that walking by a donut shop is a definite trigger for you, for example, then do not knowingly walk by one to see if your recovery is as strong as you believe it to be. Maybe that time you are able to avoid going into the shop. But the seed of a trigger is planted. Something else you have not identified yet as a trigger can occur, and the combination can lead you right to a donut.

There is no need to test yourself. When you identify your current triggers, are aware of what you are working with, practice a plan, and employ good self-care, you are managing your triggers during recovery from addiction.

What Is Causing Your Cravings?

Today, I was in my Pilates class and I was listening to a woman explain that she follows Weight Watchers, but there are sweets in her house (two teenage boys) and she winds up following her plan for a few days and then succumbs to the sweets because of the cravings.

One issue that is a whole other Oprah, I will discuss in another blog soon — that I think it is a mistake to have sweets around for teens with the excuse that they are teens.  There are so many delicious HEALTHY options for teens and kids that it is just a poor excuse because they are growing fast and need calories to burn, that you can give them EMPTY calories in the shape of cookies and cake.  But, that will be for another day.

Today’s issue is what is causing MOMMY (or Daddy’s) cravings? Two things!

1.  You are addicted to sugar and you have to get off and allow yourself to get through withdrawal (like crack addiction).

2.  You might have Leaky Gut Syndrome.  You might ask, “What the heck is that?”  It is a real medical condition that not all doctors know about or talk about, but good ones do.  Your doctor might scoff, but then you will need another doctor.  Dr. Andrew Weil knows about it and writes about it.

I had this condition and it caused me to be very ill and gain a lot of weight.  It also caused my sugar cravings.  In a nutshell…

Leaky Gut Low

” leaky gut syndrome (also called increased intestinal permeability), is the result of damage to the intestinal lining, making it less able to protect the internal environment as well as to filter needed nutrients and other biological substances. As a consequence, some bacteria and their toxins, incompletely digested proteins and fats, and waste not normally absorbed may “leak” out of the intestines into the blood stream. This triggers an autoimmune reaction, which can lead to gastrointestinal problems such as abdominal bloating, excessive gas and cramps, fatigue, food sensitivities, joint pain, skin rashes, and autoimmunity. The cause of this syndrome may be chronic inflammation, food sensitivity, damage from taking large amounts of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), cytotoxic drugs and radiation or certain antibiotics, excessive alcohol consumption, or compromised immunity.”

(If you have migraines, gut issues, yeast infections, nail issues, bowel issues, skin issues–it could be caused by Leaky Gut Syndrome!)


How do you heal this condition?

1.  avoid alcoholm NSAIDS, any foods that you’re allergic to.

2.  Make sure you’re eating plenty of fiber.

3.  Take Culturelle or another probiotic supplement containing Lactobacillus GG.

4.   Eat an anti-inflammatory diet, including essential fatty acids like fish oil and GLA. In addition, you might try supplementing with glutamine, an amino acid that helps maintain intestinal metabolism and function and seems to benefit patients who have had intestinal injury from chemotherapy and radiation.

5.  Cut sugar out of your diet as much as possible and follow a MEVY diet (Meat, eggs, vegetables and yogurt) if you can’t follow the anti-inflammatory diet.  If you eat fruit, stick with fruit that has low sugar like berries or citrus.  A side benefit is that you will lose weight.  You will have sugar cravings for about a week, find something to keep your mouth happy like gum, lots of flavored water or coffee.  Try to avoid milk for awhile–lots of sugar.  Use non dairy creamer if you need light coffee.  Sweeteners can be an issue, and if you like the taste of Stevia at all, use that.  I couldn’t give up my Splenda–so getting the Leaky Gut Syndrome cleared up for me took many months.