Do you remember the days when eating was simple? You only thought about food when you felt hungry, you ate, and then moved on? You weren’t even aware that there was such a thing as food addiction!
When I was young, I ate intuitively. I subconsciously listened to my body’s needs and I ate. I chose the right food in the right amount, naturally.
This is what we did as humans for thousands of years… all the way back since the first human beings walked the earth. The big difference we have with our ancestors is that we don’t have to work all day long to hunt, gather, or grow food. Now, we simply go to the fridge and, VOILA, we eat!
Eating Healthy Naturally
Food nourishes our body physically with nutrients that build cells and provide us with energy. It is also a source of pleasure. Food is rewarding and it’s partly what allowed us as a species to survive. We sought food that made us feel good and avoided food that made us feel bad.
Eating healthy means being able to enjoy the rewarding aspects of food without falling prey to a loss of control over eating. Some of us do this naturally; others don’t.
I don’t. Do you?
Food as a Way to Regulate Emotions
For some of us, this rewarding aspect of food is what we use to regulate our emotions. Some of us are more prone to this behavior than others. There are many factors that influence our relationship to food: culture, family, psychological make-up, past experiences, and economic status.
We attempt to express and regulate our emotions by eating when we are stressed or sad or by obsessively counting calories or macros.
What is really important for every one of us to understand is our personal relationship with food, how it expresses itself, along with environmental influences that affect this relationship. We must understand that we aren’t victims, but actually we have the power to change our relationship with food if we first become aware of it.
Food Addiction: Is It Even Possible?
Can you be addicted to food? Yes and No.
Yes, you can be addicted to processed food and sugar due to its ability to stimulate the reward center in your brain. The reward center is the same part of your brain that is stimulated by drugs, for example. So yes, you can be addicted to certain foods, BUT not to vegetable, protein, and healthy fat!
How Food Addiction Works
Recently, I invited Dr. Susan Pierce Thompson of Brightline Eating as a guest on The Beyond The Food Show, a podcast that I host. Dr. Thompson has a PhD in Brain and Cognitive Science. In my interview with her, she sheds light on how some food can become addictive.
Here’s what I gleaned from my interview with her on the mechanics of food addiction:
- Everyone agrees that drugs like heroin and cocaine are addictive. Both drugs come from plants – cocaine is from coca leaves and heroin is from poppy seeds. Eating or consuming the plants themselves won’t cause addiction.
- However, if one extracts the “inner essence” or the most potent bit of both coca leaves and poppy seeds, you get cocaine and heroin. In the same fashion, when you take the “inner essence” wheat and beet root, you have flour and sugar, which can flood the reward center of the brain with dopamine.
- When sugar and flour flood the brain with more dopamine than it should have, the brain rewires itself in a process called down regulation. It will have a smaller response the next time that happens so that it can stay in equilibrium. So now, unless you’re eating sugar and flour, you won’t have enough dopamine because your dopamine receptors have become less numerous and less responsive. You won’t feel okay. That’s how you become addicted.
If you want to learn more about food addiction and the psychology of eating, you can listen to my interview with Dr. Susan Peirce-Thompson where she teaches us how to evaluate your relationship to food and determine our level of sensitivity to food addiction. You can either go to the podcast episode page by clicking this link or simply play the audio or video file below:
Need Help With Food Addiction?
For my part, I have the tendency to develop addictive behaviors. Over the years, I have expressed my emotions via excess work, excess exercising, control over my food, and overeating.
I now know myself well enough and I’m able to set-up a successful environment for me to thrive. Can you do the same?
If you’re struggling with food addiction or if you seem to be in a never-ending battle with food cravings, let me help! My team and I have worked hard to prepare a handy little guide that can help you find freedom from food cravings. Begin your journey to food freedom and better health today! Download the free Crave Cure Guide now!