Food Addiction

The Science and Nature of Food Addiction

Are you addicted to processed foods?

Being hooked on chocolate, chips, ice cream, or burgers is a very
common problem. You might not even be aware of but processed foods are
as addictive as heroin or cocaine. The more processed the foods are the
more addictive they are. They don’t act like food; they’re more like
slow poison that undermines our health instead.

New discoveries in science prove that industrially processed foods
containing trans-fats, high fructose corn syrup, white sugar, white
flour, artificial colors and flavors, and additives–in other words,
foods that have been stripped of  fiber, most of their minerals and
nutrients. – These can cause addictive behaviors on par with alcohol,
tobacco and other serious drugs addictions like those to cocaine and
heroin. You can also easily fall into patterns of compulsive eating.

Processed foods overload and crash the pleasure centres in the brain,
prompting dopamine release, creating effects similar to cocaine or
heroin. Just as coca leaves are purified in order to make them more
addictive, foods like white bread and white sugar have been processed
for addictive impact.

Dopamine is the chemical in your brain that makes you feel good. While
the dopamine is released we experience temporary feelings of pleasure
followed by a decrease of dopamine and a decrease of pleasure even less
than before you ate. Over time dopamine becomes less effective and it’s
harder to enjoy pleasure. In fact you are more inclined to be depressed
and fatigued. Sound like something really familiar?

Studies show that overweight people and drug addicts have less dopamine
stored in their brain because of how much has been released due to
processed foods and drugs they have consumed.

We are addicted when:

  1. We continue to use a toxic substance or eat a certain food despite its
    negative effects on health and behavior (i.e., you can’t make dietary
    changes that would lead to your desired outcome).
  2. When repeated attempts to quit remains unsuccessful (just think of all the weight loss diets that fail).

The vicious cycle continue while people go from cravings to addiction
and toxic symptoms that they try to relieve by eating more processed

In an animal study at Princeton University in 2002, researchers found
that after rats binged on sugar, they showed classic signs of withdrawal
(such as “the shakes,” anxiety, and changes in brain chemistry) when
the sweets were removed from their diet, strongly suggesting that sugar
has addictive properties.

Processed foods are disease-building

Processed foods have been associated with all the diseases that are
rampant in our affluent society: diabetes, cancer, heart disease,
obesity, arthritis, and also a myriad of other chronic symptoms from
migraines to asthma. Processed foods are disease-building. Continuing to
eat processed foods is like putting your head in the sand and
pretending that nothing is happening. Sooner or later, you’ll see the
effects on your health. Your body sends signals of discomfort, pain, and
illness when not well nourished. We ignore those symptoms and instead
go to the doctor for a diagnosis and quick fix.

Processed foods cause obesity

The main cause of obesity is empty calorie foods, which can be mainly
due to beverages containing high fructose corn syrup. Because of their
lack of fiber it is easy to consume  more calories than we need as they
take less space in the stomach and satiety is reached only when you have
already overeaten. Foods cannot be properly metabolized without
minerals and vitamins. The energy in empty calories food becomes
unavailable and is stored as fat.

Is it possible to live without addiction?

Absolutely, yes! Living with addiction is like living a life in
slavery. The pleasure is short, and the negative consequences are
lasting.  It just doesn’t let us live our life to the fullest.

Start by consuming lots of high nutrient foods which come straight from
nature – whole plant foods like raw vegetables, fruit, seeds, nuts,
sprouts, and beans which can help you release food addictions. As you
learn to eat more genuinely nutritious, mineral-rich raw food, your body
finally gets more nourishment and will start asking for more of this
healthy fuel instead of processed junk. Your taste buds will change and
you will find pleasure again in eating healthy foods. When you are so
filled up with nutrient, fiber, and volume, you reach satiety and simply
lose your food cravings.

Be kind and patient with yourself. You can expect to fall off the wagon
occasionally as   progress happens in stages, not in a straight lane.
Eventually sooner rather than later you’ll get there, free of addictions
to sugar, coffee, cigarettes, marijuana, alcohol… Remember that success
is how quickly you can get back on track when you fall off.

I worked with a woman whom I will call her Mary. She couldn’t drive
past the Dairy Queen branch in her town without stopping for her daily
ice cream cone. After many months of doing so she gained weight and also
was starting to have migraines and skin issues.  She wanted to stop and
needed help. She reached me and together worked on a healthy nutrition
protocol. She started a sound nutrition program incorporating the food
her body was in great need: greens and vegetables.  As she was better
nourished after several weeks of eating green smoothies with lots of
veggies and  homemade ice cream, and taking another route to go to work
to curb temptations,  her cravings went away eventually. She also did a
cleanse on green juices which helped immensely.  She has been dairy-free
for more than a year now and is very happy with her health. She
realized the power of addiction to sugar and fatty foods and the
negative effects they had on her and resolved to live free of
addictions. She now walks every day and is most happy with her new life,

Having a plan of action can help. With that in mind, here are 14 steps you can take to get back on track.

Steps for getting rid of your processed foods addiction:

  1. Gradually get rid of any sugar, white flour, and fried foods in your fridge, freezer, and pantry.
  2. Stop buying them. When you go to the grocery store, stay in the bulk and produce section.  Don’t even look elsewhere.
  3. Always go shopping with a full stomach. You’ll have less temptation.
  4. Buy plenty of fruits and vegetables along with beans and grains. Stick to the whole foods that you like best.
  5. Buy a good vegan and raw recipe book to help you  cook (or uncooked)  whole foods.
  6. Try to avoid fast food restaurants by driving on back roads.
  7. Listen to motivational audio CDs or Mp3s while driving  to inspire you to continue with healthy living.
  8. Enlist the help of a coach if you keep falling off the wagon. A health
    coach helps you be accountable and empowers you to reach your goals.
  9. If you’re addicted to processed foods, first admit that you are. There’s no point in pretending.
  10. Write down all of the reasons why you want to get rid of processed
    foods and what you want to achieve. Envision your life full of energy
    and what you’ll do with it.
  11. Plan your meals and allot enough time to prepare them.
  12. Write a list of things you like to do that feel rewarding, satisfying
    and comforting to you that isn’t food. When you have the temptation to
    eat forbidden foods do some pleasurable activities from your list
  13. Learn to deal with your emotions. It’s likely that there would be an
    emotional element when making changes. It’s important to stop using food
    to cope with your feelings. This can mean getting better at tolerating
    sensations of sadness, anger, or boredom knowing that they don’t last
    for too long and they too will go by and be later on replaced with
    positive feelings.
  14. Last but not least, do a detox for one week, such as a juice fast or
    green smoothie fast, which helps reboot the “hard drive” in the brain.

How to increase your dopamine

There are many things that you can do to increase dopamine in the brain
to regain a feeling of contentment. Here are a few steps to increase

  • Fresh fruits and vegetables help  produce dopamine.
    Many fruits and vegetables that contain antioxidants are helpful in
    producing and increasing dopamine in the brain.
  • Nuts and seeds such as pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, almonds, and walnuts help to increase dopamine.
  • Grains and legumes are all protein-rich foods that will benefit dopamine levels.
  • Exercise vigorously every day for at least 10-30
    minutes every day. Exercise boosts dopamine level in the brain and
    raises the number of dopamine receptors. You will be able to feel the
    effects almost immediately.
  • Sleep for at least 8 hours a night. Sleep allows the
    mind and body to rest and repair. If you do not receive enough sleep you
    will feel tired, rundown and your dopamine levels may drop. Both
    sleeping and dreaming aid in maintaining healthy levels of dopamine.
  • Keep away from foods that can lower dopamine levels, which include
    foods that have a high sugar content, saturated fats, processed food,
    and alcohol.

A Final Word

Above all, remember that the spirit with which you enjoy your food
affects everything. If you do give in to cravings, well, do it with
extreme gratitude and appreciation for every bite. Make it a celebration
and leave guilt at the door. Continue to choose the foods that nourish
you the most and you’ll be well on your way to greater health and energy
and lots of dopamine to feel good most of the time. Remember, the menu
of life is abundant with positive possibilities, and my wish for you is
that you enjoy your journey to the fullest.

And you are you addicted by processed foods? Please leave your comment below.

© 2012 Guylaine Lacerte 

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How I Got Rid of Processed Foods and Addictive Substances

It all started when I was twenty years old (37 years ago). My partner
and I moved in the country in the spring and we spent the summer
building our house, which was dome shaped.

During that period  a stranger saw what we were doing and  was
interested in the design and architecture of our would-be house. He also
happened to have an interest in health, which he eagerly shared with
us. When he left he gave me the book Food Combining Made Easy by Herbert
This book really fascinated me and I read it twice cover to cover. In
reading it I discovered many health secrets that were completely new to
me. Shelton stated many of the natural hygiene principles, such as human
are frugivores and have naturally adapted to a diet of fresh fruit,
vegetables, nuts, and seeds. He elaborated on the importance of good
digestion with proper combination of foods. If the food doesn’t digest
well then it ferments,  putrefies, and creates toxins in your body,
which are the causes of a myriad of diseases. To experience superior
health you need to follow the principles of natural hygiene. The foods
allowed in the menu were fruits, vegetables, nuts seeds, clabbered milk,
and steamed vegetables such as potatoes. The sample menus  were very
simple. For example breakfast was fruit, lunch with some vegetables and
nuts, and dinner could be more vegetables with steamed potatoes. I
started applying the principles I learned right away. I picked two meals
a day from the menu section, and for the first time in my life I was
eating raw fruits and vegetables in big quantities. A year later eating a
whole foods, plant-based and high raw diet I found myself in great
shape. My energy soared and I lost 5 pounds (that was all I needed to
lose as I wasn’t fat).
Now I want to tell you how I got rid of smoking cigarettes and
marijuana, drinking alcohol and coffee, and eating processed foods.
Smoking:  I started smoking cigarettes when I was 14
years old. It was the cool thing to do and my friends and I were buying
cigarettes by the units at a little store. We felt great imitating the
adults and sure we didn’t know at the time, 40 years ago, of all the
negative effects of smoking such as lung cancer. I got hooked and kept
smoking perhaps 7-8 cigarettes a day until I was 22 years old. Although
my diet was pretty good  I haven’t given any thought about kicking
nicotine out of my life. One day I was out of cigarettes and decided to
spend the day without smoking as an experiment. Hurrah, it went
surprisingly well! The next morning I made the decision to quit for
good. It has been super easy as my body was clean and didn’t go through
many withdrawals.  Sometimes it is better to start a healthy diet plan
with lots of raw and living foods as it will be easier to quit smoking
rather than trying while eating processed foods. The withdrawal symptoms
will be lighter as your body will have more energy to clean all you
cells polluted by nicotine and other chemicals.
I never smoked a cigarette since and could feel the difference in my breathing and strength capacity.
Smoking and fitness don’t go together. Smoking robs your cells of
oxygen and all the cells of your body are affected. Since oxygen plays a
major role in energy production, even a minor depletion has an impact
on physical performance. The heart would have to work harder to
compensate for the lack of oxygen reaching the muscles. The result is
you become out of breath sooner than a non- smoker and can’t be
classified as a healthy and fit individual.
Alcohol: I discovered drinking when I was 17. I liked
to hang out with friends and get drunk occasionally. Typical teenage
behavior I must say. Then I went to live with a man who liked to drink. I
just didn’t mind as I liked that too. So when we were drinking together
I also  kept the same pace with him. No wonder I would get drunk and he
wasn’t as drunk as he was used to it. Women need less alcohol to get
inebriated, another thing I didn’t know at the time.
When I moved to the country and started to dramatically improve me diet
my desire for alcohol became nil. Strange enough I wasn’t interested
anymore in drinking and stopped altogether. A few years later I was
invited to a party and I decided to drink. In no time I got drunk and
was acting silly. The next day when I got up I felt horrible with a
tremendous hangover. My head was aching like it wanted to explode, my
stomach was in pain and I felt nauseous. My muscles were aching too and I
couldn’t do anything that day, feeling really miserable. I made the
decision then to not get drunk again as it wasn’t worth it.  There is no
way I’ll give any more of my precious life to feel less than great.
Health is my most precious commodity and no substance like alcohol can
rival its value.
Over the years I drank very little and only on a few social occasions. I
found that I didn’t like the effects of alcohol at all. It sure doesn’t
have the same effects when you have a clean body. With a healthier body
I just don’t like any substances interfering with the well-being I
experience on a daily basis. Superior health has so much more to offer
than any addictive substance in the world.  You see when you are healthy
you just feel great, are in control of your life and you are more aware
of your body and mind. When you operate on an unconscious mode you can
ingest substances without being aware of the damages they have on your
health and well-being. When you eat and live consciously these behaviors
make no sense anymore and you become disinterested in purchasing brief
pleasures. There is always a big price to pay after indulging in these
brief buzz. Health offers so much more pleasure all day. It gives you
the energy to do the myriad of things you like to do. The day with the
hangover was so intense, it was  a long day of learning for me.
Alcohol misuse has been shown to damage the brain and nervous system;
affect the immune system; harm bones, skin, and muscles; cause fertility
problems and impair fetal development. It is associated with harmful
effects on the cardiovascular. It’s well known that alcohol and cancer
are related. Alcohol consumption leads to mild withdrawal sensations the
next day that are commonly mistaken for hunger and quelled by
Marijuana: I started smoking marijuana when I was 17.
At this time was the big movement of love and peace, Woodstock festival,
flower  power and many young people were attracted to psychedelic drugs
and pot. I never really liked the effects of pot mainly when the stuff
was very high in THC ((the active chemical
delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol). I was smoking because my friends were and
again it was the cool thing to do. I continued to smoke after my big
health makeover but found I couldn’t ingest more than a puff and that
was it. I was really flabbergasted when people would continue inhaling
up to 10 times the amount I myself found really strong.  I was already
in the land of nowhere and just one inhalation was all I could take. One
time I went on a road trip with friends and they smoked pot all the
time. I did smoke with them though perhaps ten times less. When I got
home a week later I found myself depressed and anxious. My outlook in
life became scary as well. The effects of pot didn’t suit me at all and I
decided to quit for good. Evidently I had to reconsider whom I hung out
with and made new friends that were more in alignment with my new
lifestyle. When you make radical lifestyle changes you might be
criticized by people. You need to be sure of your core values and know
why you’re doing what you’re doing. Sometimes success in your life means
marching to the beat of your own drum.
Being different or behaving differently than the masses might bring
some challenges along the road. You have the choice to follow the crowd
and then later on sink with them, or you can lead your own unique path
and reap rewards along the way. It all starts with having your core
values and goals in place and knowing your big whys.
New friends will appear who will be more aligned with your beliefs. For
me this took me travelling the United States and I met wonderful people
and made lifetime friends that I got to visit a number of times.
“THC in marijuana is an element that puts you to sleep rather than
elevating consciousness. In my 40 years of clinical experience, I am
clear that the use of marijuana disrupts adrenal function and is
associated with increased amounts of hypoglycemia.  The munchies effect
of smoking cannabis is a sign of this adrenal disruption. THC
(delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) is the active chemical in cannabis.
While THC and other chemicals in marijuana can reduce pain and nausea,
they do this by destroying very sensitive brain cells related to
perception and coordination.  The drug is highly toxic and literally
destroys the brain.  Given the importance of brain health for
concentration, meditation, and spiritual growth, marijuana use threatens
the integrity of all aspects of our health and spiritual well-being.
The symptoms of THC brain damage include distorted perception, impaired
coordination, difficulty in thinking and problem solving, and memory
difficulty.  These are short-term side effects, but long-term marijuana
use has been shown to increase activity of stress response and to alter
the activity of dopamine containing nerve cells.  In short this
diminishes motivation and perseverance in work, relationships, and on
the spiritual path.  While some people mistakenly believe this to be a
more evolved state on non-attachment or emptiness, it is, in reality, a
numbness to life that inhibits our full expression.” Gabriel Cousens MD,
Founder of Tree of Life Rejuvenation Centre, AZ.
Coffee: I used to drink one cup of coffee a day in my
teenage years until I moved to the country and started to reform my
eating habits. I stopped completely until a few years later when I was
around coffee drinkers. I joined them for this one time only and soon
enough I was addicted and kept drinking one cup of coffee in the morning
for about one and a half month. I liked the intellectual stimulation
and instant surge of energy it gave me. But aside those good feelings I
had other unpleasant symptoms such as nausea. I lost my ravenous
appetite for healthy foods and was not feeling my old self. I didn’t
feel like exercising in the same way and I was totally out of synch with
my body. This experiment ended with a terrible tooth ache and I had to
fast for several days to re-establish homeostasis. I had to give up
coffee totally and realized that it was not worth it. Thereafter once I
drank one cup of coffee and I was shaking and not having control of my
body. I felt really bad and never touched regular coffee again. Coffee
is acidic, it sets you up a roller coaster day of highs and lows, and
eventually depletes your adrenals and end up exhausted. You need more
and more coffee to get going or reach for something sweet to get another
lift, leading to daily fluctuations in energy and alertness. Caffeine
will give you fatigue, anxiety, mood swings, sleep disturbance,
irritability and depression. You are no more in control of your body and
it becomes difficult to experience good stable energy. Vibrant health
and coffee just don’t go together.
Processed foods: I couldn’t say I was very much
attracted to processed foods except chocolate. When I was 17 I wanted to
become a vegetarian and was baking my own whole wheat bread and cooking
with whole grains such as barley and wheat. I wasn’t high on processed
foods, instinctively was gravitating more towards whole foods. After my
diet makeover I would go on a trip and my healthy diet was derailed. I
would consume cookies, white rice or white bread and come back home sick
and in pain. My body was telling me that it wasn’t too happy with my
behavior and that’s how I learned about its limits. My body showed me
what it liked and didn’t like and I had to listen or it meant suffering.
I haven’t used any medications for 38 years so when in pain I just fast
until  the symptoms of illness subside.  I couldn’t cheat without
paying the consequences. It is a fact that  the healthier and more
vitalized we become, the more intense  the symptoms of detoxification
will be and the quicker we get well.  The more raw and living foods I
ate,  the better I felt.  I could finally say goodbye to frequent colds,
belly aches, sinusitis, otitis, and other sicknesses I experienced
while transitioning to a whole foods, plant-based  and high raw diet.
Indiscriminate use of pharmaceuticals and destructive habits like
consumption of alcohol, nicotine, drugs, caffeine, and processed foods
push the body into toxic overload. Sooner or later you’ll pay the
consequences and will not like it. A good detox, followed by a
nutritious diet,  will help get rid of toxins and bring a higher state
of health.
TODAY I am so grateful for living an addiction-free life and that I
could live vibrantly healthy with boundless energy. Health is a blessing
and worthy of any effort or expense. I am far from being perfect as it a
work constantly in progress.
In my work I like to inspire and empower people make lifestyle changes and regain their health.
What a difference one book can make! It shaped my destiny from that day
on. Most possibly did you stumble into reading such a book?  If so,
share it in your comments below.