Addictions are quite the trend nowadays. We have one for almost everything: drugs, sex, gambling, porn, shopping, work. The list goes on and on.
But as the weight of the nation keeps skyrocketing, food addiction is hitting the spotlight pretty hard. Now, many would argue that there’s no such thing – that it all comes down to personal responsibility (and bit of willpower). But recent research is proving otherwise.
With that said, I think we should call a spade a spade. It’s a junk food addiction – not a food addiction. After all, nobody’s binging on Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and baked potatoes. No – it’s the Big Macs, Doritos, and Devil Dogs that are desired.
And these high-calorie processed “foods” (if you can even call them that) can indeed create a dependency. And it’s no surprise. In fact, they’ve been found to stimulate the reward zones of the brain much like cocaine and other hard drugs.
Given that, I believe the problem of food addiction is constantly perpetuated by the message of moderation. More specifically, that you can eat whatever you want and maintain a healthy weight as long as you exercise portion control. Obviously, that’s not the case – and understanding this is crucial to fighting (and winning) the battle against this disease.
Now, there are few things in this world that are black and white. But nutrition is one of them. In short, you have foods that are good for you and those that aren’t. And if certain foods can indeed cause addiction – then moderation is out of the question.
In fact, as far as addictions go, this advice is highly contradictory. Take smoking, for example. Nobody’s breaking the habit by exercising portion control. It’s the ones that go cold turkey who succeed in becoming non-smokers. Likewise, you’ll be hard-pressed to find many crack heads trying to become drug-free by hitting the pipe a little less.
So, if we’re going to categorize food addiction as a true addiction, don’t you think we should set the same standards for treatment?
And it all starts with the opposite of moderation: abstinence. You can’t have your cake and eat it too – at least not in the beginning (we’ll get to that shortly). If you want to overcome your food addiction you have to stop eating junk food for a while and stick to a natural, whole foods diet.
It will be miserable at first and you’ll go through a withdrawal phase. There’s no way around that. As such, it’s key to change your mindset and lifestyle in order to avoid a relapse. You have to become a non-food-addict much like someone has to become a non-smoker. But what you’ll find after a few weeks is that you crave the junk less and less.
Next, don’t try and fight a losing battle. What do I mean by that? Keep your home free of junk food. You never want to put yourself in that situation – where you’re struggling to say no to something sitting in your cupboard. Because at the end of the day, if it’s in the house, and you’re salivating when you think of it, you’re going to eat it. Not many “normal” people can resist such temptations – so as a food addict, don’t expect miracles from yourself.
Alright, now let’s circle back to that comment about having your cake and eating too. Honestly, I don’t believe anyone raised in the Western world can abstain from junk food entirely. It’s too engrained in our lives – constantly calling us to sample it. Therefore, you should indulge from time to time.
But wait a minute… isn’t that the moderation I spoke so negatively about before?
Not really – you see, what I’m suggesting is that you get your diet in check first. Become a true non-food addict (i.e. like someone who never had the problem to begin with). This can only happen through gradual change – one where you think, eat, and breathe health and nutrition – that, and practice strict abstinence until you “get there”.
Then, and only then, should you allow yourself to indulge from time to time (e.g. a couple times per month). Because by that point, the risk of relapse will be almost non-existent. But always remember to follow the cardinal rule of not putting yourself in difficult situations: keep the junk food out of the house. Make it so it’s not part of your daily life or surroundings – and when it’s time for a treat – go out of your way to get it.
Of course, you wouldn’t give a recovering alcoholic a drink or an ex-smoker a cigarette. And while these addictions share many similarities to the one with food, it’s still not the same. That’s why I believe you can be a bit more lenient with this in the long run. In fact, by doing so, you’ll not only overcome your food addiction – you’ll ensure it never returns.