The Science and Nature of Food AddictionAre 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 centers 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 foods.

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, addiction-free.

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 instead.
  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 dopamine.

  •  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

Published September 25, 2012 | By admin


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 Shelton.
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 overeating.
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.