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Food Addiction

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When we think of the word addiction, food addition is probably not one of them.  Alcohol and drugs are usually the first ones that come to mind.  Is it because we don’t see food as addicting or we just tend to overlook it?  Our government and the food industry is constantly telling us that we are battling an obesity epidemic that is costing this country billions of dollars a year in medical bills.  At the same time they they market food and food choices that are less than healthy.  They say people should exercise more self-control, make better choices, avoid overeating, and reduce their intake of sugar-sweetened drinks and processed food.  We are led to believe that there is no good food or bad food, that it’s all a matter of balance.  This sounds good in theory, except for one thing…AMERICANS ARE ADDICTED TO FOOD.  Not healthy food, but high calorie, fat laden, sodium filled science experiments.

New discoveries in science prove that industrially processed, sugar-, fat- and salt-laden food — food that is made in a plant rather than grown on a plant, is biologically addictive.

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, eating frenzy. Broccoli is not addictive, but cookies, chips, or soda absolutely can become addictive drugs.

Remember the “just say no” campaign from the 1980’s.  That approach to drug addiction hasn’t fared to well, and it won’t work for our industrial food addiction, either.  Tell a cocaine or heroin addict or an alcoholic to “just say no” after that first snort, shot, or drink.  It’s not that simple.  There are specific biological mechanisms that drive addictive behavior. Nobody chooses to be a heroin addict, cokehead, or drunk.  Nobody chooses to be fat, either.  Consider:

  • Why do cigarette smokers continue to smoke even though they know smoking will give them cancer and heart disease?
  • Why do less than 20 percent of alcoholics successfully quit drinking?
  • Why do most addicts continue to use cocaine and heroin despite their lives being destroyed?
  • Why does quitting caffeine lead to irritability and headaches?

Remember the movie Super Size Me, where Morgan Spurlock ate three super-sized meals from McDonald’s every day?  What stands out about that film was not that he gained 30 pounds or that his cholesterol went up, or even that he got a fatty liver.  What was surprising was the portrait it painted of the addictive quality of the food he ate.  At the beginning of the movie, when he ate his first supersized meal, he threw it up, just like a person who drinks too much alcohol at his first party.  By the end of the movie, he only felt “well” when he ate that junk food.  The rest of the time he felt depressed, exhausted, anxious, and irritable and lost his sex drive, just like an addict or smoker withdrawing from his drug.  The food was clearly addictive.

I would have to say that I am a recovering food addict.  I loved food — buffets, ice cream, and any kind of chocolate — I thought I had to have it. Friends and family didn’t help either, “Come on Todd, a cookie won’t hurt you!”.   It seemed so awful to think of saying that to an alcoholic, but it is so normal to say that to a food addict.  How ironic!  Not only do we have to battle our own temptations, but the peer pressure of others who accuse us of going overboard, being too rigid, and being too extreme. So if you are addicted to food, then what should you do about it?

Some tips for avoiding bouts of compulsive eating include:

  • Knowing which situations trigger your cravings, and avoiding them if possible.  Eat a healthy snack before you go out to eat, this will help you eat less of the high calorie restaurant food.
  • Drinking at least 64 ounces of water per day
  • Exercising.  Programs like P90X, Insanity or any other Beachbody workout comes with a nutrition guide, that if followed will keep you feeling full and energized.
  • Make better choices at the super market.  Don’t buy junk you know is not good for you, pack you frig and cabnets with healthy choices.
  • Trying to distract yourself until the compulsion to eat passes.  I drink water or grab a piece of fruit.

If you continue to suffer from a food addiction I suggest you look to scripture, God alone is able to provide help and healing in this and all areas of human helplessness.  “For I am the LORD who heals you” (Exodus 15:26b).  God is as much concerned with our physical well being as He is with our  spiritual relationship to Him.  As an individual seeks Him, he will find health and healing and recovery.  “Dear friend, I am praying that all is well with you and that your body is as healthy as I know your soul is” (3 John 2).




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