What to do when all you wanna do is eat - Part deux
Last week we talked about how much our emotions drive our daily choices and habits when it comes to food and the way we eat.
However, emotions are not the only reason we find it hard to put down the fork long after we are full. Certain foods themselves have a mighty control over our inability to say enough is enough, despite how hard we try to stop.
Yes, confronting your emotions and working on strengthening your mindset is absolutely vital in helping you to make peace with your plate. But we still can't overlook the fact that some foods have the ability to override all our hard work in a matter of minutes, no matter how strong we think we are.
Certain foods, primarily highly processed foods high in fat, sugar, and salt, are incredibly addictive.
These foods are designed in such a way to increase the maximum amount of pleasure and the maximum amount of profits at the same time.
These foods, (mainly sugar) are what sits at the center of food addiction.
This topic I find can be extremely confusing, with a lot of mixed messages in the media. It is so important to really understand what drives your behaviors so that you can begin to make changes.
I feel the best way to cover this would be in a Q and A style format.
So let's try to break it down into something that makes sense.
What foods are addictive?
Scientifically speaking highly refined processed foods have been shown to cause addictive behaviors in individuals, whereas whole minimally processed foods do not. So, things like sugar, (including any candy, cakes, cookies, or anything made with sugar) cheese ( cheese is right up there with sugar as being one of the most addictive foods) white flour and anything made with it mainly if it contains fat and sugar; such as cake, cookies, etc.
How addictive are these food?
In animal studies, sugar has been shown to affect the brain in the same way as certain drugs do; such as cocaine. Food addiction is very real and can take hold you much the same way nicotine and some other drugs can.
So do I have to avoid these foods forever?
My answer is, it depends, but first, let me explain.
This is tricky and brings into discussion the topic of intuitive eating (which a lot of people are promoting and which at times I do reference) and abstinence. Two very different paths both I feel have truth to them.
Ok, let's just break this down as easy as possible.
Some individuals are more programmed to have addictive personalities and can be more addicted to certain substances over others. You may be able to have a glass of wine and call it a night, but you might not be able to have a slice of cake without eating the whole thing. Also, some individuals are more programmed to seek out addictive substances.
First off knowing your trigger foods is a must, and how triggered you are by them. An example: I could care less if my whole house was filled with chips, but if there were even one Little Debbie Cake hidden somewhere in the house I would tear the place apart to find it. Certain foods/drugs react differently within individuals, it's essential to know what foods affect you in this way and to what degree.
Now, being that the reason we generally get addicted to things comes from how we think and feel on the inside; it's possible to say that if we fix what's going on the inside, we will be less driven to Want and Choose to eat these addictive foods at all.
And yes this is almost entirely true. If you strengthen your mind and heal your emotions, you will not be tempted to eat these foods; however, if you do eat them, you may still react as you once did.
If you look at rats, who will continue to use cocaine or sugar and give up all other things becoming addicted to these substances. These rats were not depressed, nor did they experience childhood trauma, and yet they are still addicted.
The point is that even if you have a rock-solid mindset and are in a healthy emotional state, it is still possible to get addicted to these foods on a chemical level. Although you may no longer seek these foods out or have the urge to consume them; it does not mean that if you do consume them, that you won't react negatively to them on some level.
So is there such thing as moderation?
This is a very personal journey and in my experience and in many other experts eyes, it’s a very blurry line; which is why many recommend abstinence.
And even within my own journey when I totally thought, I GOT THIS! I have found myself lose it over cake by thinking, oh I can just have a piece, no prob - actually, yes still prob.
But how about now, do I still think about cake and obsess about getting it. In general, NOPE, not at all. Seriously I don't have any of that crazy mentality that I once did around cake. But I also know inside that its something I caution myself against.
Example: I don't ever buy or bring cake into the house, still to this day. At times (very rarely) I have had a piece of birthday cake at an event, and even with that I can notice how easily my thoughts begin to shift thinking "maybe I should have two pieces or maybe I'll bring a piece home for later."
I now have the mindset awareness to realize what's happening quickly and shift my thoughts and make better choices. But I can see how fast I could be derailed from even a small amount of my trigger food. It's not just merely the sugar itself, it's more the specific foods we form addictive bonds over.
Example: I can have pop and candy around the house or even have some. I really have no interest in it, nor do I react to it in an addictive way.
I have new healthy foods that I enjoy and that don't trigger me the way cake once did, and I enjoy them just as much, actually more because they don't come with all the negative emotions. I now choose to not surround myself with foods that were not only not healthy but were emotionally damming as well.
So what about intuitive eating, eat all the things you want but practice listening to your body?
Well, in theory, it sounds wonderful, and I agree with the concept. The problem is that "listening to your body" - your body (mind) can not be trusted, especially if you are an addict - PERIOD!
Your mind will justify all your choices to get what it wants, especially when dealing with a mind that is damaged, in which the reward center of the brain is not working as it should.
Intuitive eating works similar to all things in moderation, but a cocaine addict can't just do a little cocaine, or an alcoholic can't just have a couple drinks.
With intuitive eating it is possible with much mindset strengthening and work on self-love and self-worth to come to a place where you view food as a substance that is for nourishing your body and can bring you joy; in which you are then able to make choices that best support you from a place of love.
However, as I said before, no matter how solid your mindset or how much you love yourself, these food substances can still have the ability to control your actions and behaviors.
After all, that said. Some individuals depending on their level of addiction may be able to, at some point, enjoy once trigger foods in moderation and others may not.
For some, a little sugar is fine, and it only becomes a problem once large amounts are reintroduced, for others, even small amounts of sugar affect their brain, causing them to react negatively.
This is something that comes with trial and error along your own personal journey; either way, in the beginning, phases of healing I highly recommend removing all these highly addictive foods from your diet.
My ultimate goal for you is that eventually, you will be able to enjoy all the foods you want because the foods you want will be different.
As I said, I don't feel deprived, in lack of, or obsessed as I once did about food.
By focusing on a mostly whole food diet and by continually working on my mindset and emotional health, I have now come to a comfortable, peaceful and enjoyable relationship with my mind, body, soul, and food.
I often talk about all this as a journey, but the destination should be viewed more of as a place of knowing. There is no actual destination, as you will be continually working and improving upon your learned practices and skills for life.
Your self-work will become your life's work as you grow and evolve into your true authentic self.
Healing is more about rediscovery than it is about trying to fix something thought to be broken.
You are in no way broken you have simply lost your way, the journey is about finding your way back.
Coaching does not fix your life path or the obstacles that come along the way, but it does give you a lantern and tools to help you out of the dark and keep you on track.
Having an awareness of what drives you to eat certain foods and how those foods affect your mind and your body, is at the root of being able to change your relationship with yourself and food.
I mentioned this a lot, but there are no quick fixes or one answer solutions when it comes to losing weight and overcoming emotional eating and food addictions. It requires work to be done in several areas, mentally, emotionally, and nutritionally. However, with the right tools and support, long term success is totally possible and achievable.
I can't stress enough how important it is to find support on this journey of yours. Surrounding yourself with others that understand and or have been where you are; can be comforting and inspiring in times of need.
This is why I created the Food Over Mood Facebook group, and I encourage you to join and be apart of a heart-centered support group for women just like yourself that struggle with weight loss, emotional eating, and food addiction.
If you are looking to take the next step in your journey and want to know more about how coaching can help fast track you towards ultimate food freedom; Click here to learn more.
I love hearing from you guys. Let me know below in the comments your thoughts on this.
Love and Wellness