Scientific research has now proven that certain foods can be biologically addictive – especially those foods high in sugar.
Food is essential part of survival and so it is no surprise that food reward may just be a missing component to the obesity debate.
But, how do you break a sugar addiction?
Could You Break a Sugar or Coffee Addiction?
Food reward engages all five senses as well as social and economic influences.
To overcome a sugar or caffeine addiction, you must identify your situational and emotional triggers.
For instance, just because the ice cream aisle is larger than the frozen vegetable aisle, does not mean that you have to walk down it. Out of sight, out of mind
Instead ask yourself, “Why am I craving this snack? Am I stressed or feeling down? Did I not eat breakfast? How will I feel after eating it? Is it worth the bloating and feeling of anxiousness & guilt?
Can We Really Be Addicted to Food?
Mark Hyman, MD, a prominent functional medicine physician invites us to think about the foods that you “binge” on. He comments in a recent Huffington Post article:
Imagine a foot-high pile of broccoli, or a giant bowl of apple slices. Do you know anyone who would binge broccoli or apples? On other hand, imagine a mountain of potato chips or a whole bag of cookies, or a pint of ice cream. Those are easy to imagining vanishing in an unconscious, reptilian brain eating frenzy. Broccoli is not addictive, but cookies, chips, or soda absolutely can become addictive drugs.
Dr. Hyman goes on to explain how if you look at the DSM IV criteria for diagnosing addiction, it has many similarities to our relationship with certain foods.
Neurobiology researcher Stephan Guyenet, PhD recently had an ongoing series on his blog on Food Reward and Obesity.
Dr. Guyenet lists the following qualities of food that are inherently addicting:
- The absence of bitterness
- Certain textures (e.g., soft or liquid calories, crunchy foods)
- Certain aromas (e.g., esters found in many fruits)
- Calorie density (“heavy” food)
Dr. Guyenet looks much closer at the individual triggers of food reward. For instance, eating vegetables is not rewarding, yet eating vegetables smothered in salt and butter is rewarding.
If you take away the reward aspect of a diet, whether you are eating a vegan, paleolithic, low-fat, or low-carb diet, the research appears to support success in weight loss.
Follow this with the smell of food, the observation of others eating it, & the social expectations that certain events (ex. birthday party, going to see a movie) are associated with eating junk food – and you can easily see how food reward can play an important role in obesity.
Psychology of Wellness
Each of us has our “weak links”. When you identify an area of concern, the first thought should be to break it down to its fundamental parts, set a ridiculously small goal, and implement. Raise the stakes, then do it again.
This is the fundamental secret to changing behavior: set small, incremental goals, identify key challenges, break it down and set small, incremental goals again. Systemize it with reminders. Learn to enjoy the process, and have fun with it
As long as you keep raising the bar for yourself, and take time to review the fundamental behaviors of eating well at least once or twice a year, you will be well on your way to living a lifestyle of your dreams.