By Kevin Cann
Did you know that 90% or more of diet plans fail in the long term?
We watch what we eat, we go to the gym, but eventually we fall off the diet wagon and go back to our old ways. Something is standing in the way of us achieving optimal health, but what can it be?
The answer to that question is we are addicted food.
Hey, I like food, but I am no addict
You are probably thinking to yourself that “Hey, I like food, but I am no addict.” Just like with drug addiction the first step is to admit that you may have a problem. Do not worry because this is not all you fault and it is not actually a lack of willpower that drives you to eat you favorite treats.
We are actually wired to enjoy food. There is a part of our brain known as the hedonic center that controls our reward response. This part of the brain gives us a reward when we do some activities that are beneficial to our survival. One beneficial activity that we all do is eat. The problem lies with the foods that we choose to eat.
Processed foods high in sugar, salt, and/or fat increase our reward response similar to that of drug usage. In fact, some studies suggest that high sugar foods actually increase our reward response greater then cocaine.
Animal Studies in Food Addiction
The addictive properties of food have been studies extensively in animals. One study used rats and placed their regular rat chow on one side of the cage. On the other side of the cage was a food source that would mimic a meal from a fast food restaurant. These rats would go through extreme temperatures and electric shock just to eat the food that mimicked a McDonald’s Big Mac.
Have you ever gone out of your way to get one of your favorite snacks?
Most of us will answer yes to that question.
If we are addicted to certain foods what can we do to curb this addiction and get ourselves to choose the right foods? Do we need to check into a rehab center and receive methadone? No you do not need to start taking methadone, but here are a few things that you can do to help.
Go to Sleep
Studies have shown that even one night of sleep deprivation can lead to an increase in eating. Let’s be honest for a sec too, when we want something to eat are we reaching for some spinach or are we going for some kind of tasty treat?
The majority of us are going for a tasty treat.
The fatigue caused by limited sleep can lead to us making poor food choices. Seriously, who wants to chop up veggies and prepare a healthy meal when they are tired? Most people in this scenario will have something that is quick and easy. The fast food industry relies on this for their income and their bank accounts say that this happens a lot more than it should.
Make sure you are getting 7-9 hours of quality sleep per night. Black out your room by blocking all of the lights. This even includes the light on your TV. There is an area of our brain that controls all of our hormones and it responds to light and dark. Light at night time can confuse this part of the brain and also drive us to make poor decisions.
Try shutting down all the lights about an hour or two before bed.
A magnesium bath is a nice way to relax at night time. Some research suggests that the majority of us are deficient in magnesium so this may be able to benefit us in a few areas. Magnesium naturally elicits a response from our rest and digest nervous system known as our parasympathetic nervous system. This can help us calm down and get a better night’s sleep.
Fill Up On Healthy Foods and Protein
Nutritional deficiencies will drive our hunger response. One way we can avoid nutritional deficiencies is by making sure that we have a diet that is rich in nutrient dense food. This means lots of vegetables, fruits, and meats from grass-fed animals.
This is a great way to decrease caloric intake and get our body to use our stored fat as energy. Deliberate calorie counting has been shown to fail 90% of the time in long term weight loss however, eating nutrient dense foods that are low in calories has been shown to lead to greater sustainable weight loss over time.
Meats from grass-fed animals is also an important piece of this. For one, protein leads to an increase in satiety as well as more stable blood sugar throughout the day. Meat is also made up of amino acids, and grass-fed animals have more amino acids then their grain fed counterparts. These amino acids contain precursors for brain chemicals called neurotransmitters.
One theory on addiction is known as the Reward Deficiency Syndrome. It states that when we become deficient in one of these neurotransmitters we will seek out activities or substances that balance us out. Our busy lives, poor sleep, stress, and diets can have a negative impact on these neurotransmitters. Foods have an effect on these neurotransmitters and can be that substance that balances us out. Giving our body’s the nutrients it needs to make these neurotransmitters can be key to kicking our food addiction.
Manage Your Stress
This one is extremely important and often overlooked. We have all seen the TV show where the girl breaks up with her boyfriend and sits down on the couch with a bowl of ice cream. Most of us can relate to this scenario because we have been there.
Stress can literally drive our food cravings.
Meditation, deep breathing, and yoga are a few ways that we can decrease our stress. The magnesium bath that was mentioned earlier is also an option. Any activity that calms us down and helps elicit a response from our parasympathetic nervous system is appropriate here.
Starting today focus on those three key areas of your life and nutrition and you just may be able to kick that food addiction without the help of methadone.