Part 2 of this article on food addiction continues our discussion on the many complex issues revolving around this topic.
Signs and Symptoms of A Food Addiction
As discussed, there are many causes, signs and symptoms of a food addiction. These differences can make it difficult to detect a pattern, so it is often misdiagnosed as some other problem.
That having been said, the following behaviors or symptoms are often a sign that you have developed an addiction to a particular food, or an entire class of foods.
• You experience irritability, restlessness and digestive disorders related to your eating sessions
• Low energy levels, chronic fatigue and a difficulty concentrating and focusing
• You will go unreasonably out of your way to get your hands on certain food
• Your personal and career relationships suffer because you would rather spend your time eating
• You spend a disproportionate amount of your budget on buying and eating certain foods
• You engage in secretive eating behavior
• You eat long after you are no longer hungry, often until you feel ill
• You feel depressed, frustrated, out-of-control as regards your addictive eating
No single symptom in isolation is confirmation of a food addiction, however if you can recognize a cluster of some of the following, it may well be time to seek professional advice.
If you are having dark or suicidal thoughts because of your eating habits, don’t wait; reach out for help now.
Impacts on Your Body
You probably know that the food you put into your body, to a great degree, influences your health and wellness. Food addictions will overload body functions and affect the health of major organs including heart, liver and kidneys.
The effects of this will cause a raft of problems including chronic pain, sleep disorders, lethargy and fatigue, digestive problems, headaches and reduced sex drive. Arthritis and stroke risks increase and obesity is common. Cruelly, malnutrition is possible due to a lack of proper nutrition at the expense of the addictive food intake. This can lead to increased incidence of conditions such as osteoporosis.
While any food addiction can have very negative impacts on health, some addictions have even more extreme effects than others.
Addictive consumption of alcohol is one – in addition to many of the above symptoms it can also lead to other serious health problems like cirrhosis of the liver.
Excessive sugar consumption has consistently been linked to obesity, diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure, heart disease and kidney disease.
Impacts on Your Mental Health
The effects of addictive eating are not limited to physical health. Food addiction, like any addiction, will have serious impacts on mental health also. Feelings of low self-esteem, shame, emotional detachment and depression can result.
Physical and emotional outbursts, especially if a desired food is restricted, or cannot be obtained may be experienced. If this happens to you, or you feel panicked that your desired food is not available, recognize that this is classic addictive behavior, and schedule an appointment with a counselor or your doctor as soon as possible.
Are Sugar Cravings A Food Addiction?
Remember that, unlike an eating disorder, a food addiction is often caused by a chemical response in the human body to a particular food. Sugar activates the reward center in your brain almost exactly the same way that illegal drugs like heroin and cocaine do. You will experience similar withdrawal symptoms and cravings.
Endless studies in laboratory rats, which are often tested upon because they have similar brain and nervous systems to humans, show that sugar activates your mental “pleasure center” better than cocaine or crack.
This is a classic food addiction response. The food you eat, whether it is good or bad for you, elicits a “Wow!” response in your brain. Since your brain is hardwired to help you achieve pleasure and avoid pain, it remembers that experience.
The next time you are bored, hungry, stressed out, or you simply spot some deliciously sweet, sugar-filled food or beverage, one or more of your 5 senses lets your brain know.
Your brain thinks this is awesome, and even if you are not hungry, you see your hand reaching forward, almost unconsciously, your mouth begins to water, your eyes bug out and sugar-related aromas fill your nose.
Even before you take a bite or a drink, your brain begins to release a massive amount of dopamine in a part of your brain called the nucleus accumbens. When this food is eaten regularly and in excessive amounts, you need more and more dopamine to get the same levels of happiness and fulfillment.
This is the exact same way those addicted to drugs have to continually take in more drugs to achieve the original “high” that fewer drugs used to give them. Your dopamine receptors become blunted. So it takes a lot more dopamine and other feel-good chemicals to make your brain feel as good as it did when you ate sugar in the past.
This is how junk foods and sugar literally hijack your brain chemistry to make you crave more and more.
Since sugar is a classic example of a nutrient-poor, simple carbohydrate that leads to obesity, your sugar addiction immediately improves your odds of developing the cancer, diabetes, heart disease and neurological problems directly related to overweight and obesity.
Sugar – Cheap and Nasty
Because sugar is one of the cheapest and most powerful chemicals to use in food, manufacturers use it all the time. Any food that you see listed on ingredients label that ends in the suffix “-ose” is sugar. This is one sneaky way food manufacturers attempt to hide the presence of sugar in foods that may otherwise look healthy.
Start reading food labels diligently. Eat more natural foods and vegetables, nuts and berries, raw and minimally processed whenever you can. This is a smart nutrition practice for everyone, but especially for those addicted to refined sugar.
Sugar Has Many Names
The following are just a few of the many names you will find on processed food labels which alert you to the presence of sugar.
• High Fructose Corn Syrup
• Sucrose, Glucose, Fructose and any “-ose” words
• Corn Syrup
• Inverted Sugar Syrup
• Brown Sugar
• Evaporated Cane Juice
• Fruit Juice Crystals
• Dehydrated Fruit Juice
• Corn Sweetener
• Fruit Juice Concentrate
• Turbinado Sugar
• Malt Syrup
• Glucose Syrup
• Carob Syrup
• Table Sugar
• Buttered Syrup
• Agave Nectar
• Corn Syrup Solids
• Organic Raw Sugar
• Raisin Syrup
How to Overcome A Junk Food or Sugar Addiction
In the final section of this report, we will show you several proven methods for overcoming a food addiction. They also apply to junk food and sugar addiction.
This is an effective and simple way to put you in control of your sugar or junk food addiction.
No-one is kidding anyone here – simple does not mean easy. This will require real effort on your part, but it is do-able, has been done by others, and is so worth it for the sake of your life’s health.
There are 2 specific pieces of nutrition advice that can help squash your sugar addiction in just a few weeks.
1 – Eat protein at every meal
2 – Eat plant-based food 5 or 6 times a day
Steps to Take
The first thing you need to do is clear your cupboards of sugar and sugar-filled foods and beverages. This is a simple first step, but for sugar lovers, it can be difficult to do. Don’t keep items “just in case” and don’t fool yourself that you won’t eat them if they are there.
Don’t test or tempt your willpower, simply remove the temptation. Once you do that, start planning to eat some protein at each meal, and if possible, at snack time.
Protein helps balance blood sugar levels because it is harder to process and takes longer to digest than carbohydrates. It also helps you feel fuller, for longer.
This means your blood sugar levels do not spike like they quickly do when you consume simple carbohydrates which are absorbed into your bloodstream rapidly.
Since your blood sugar levels don’t spike, and they stay steady throughout the day, you automatically and unconsciously have fewer sugar and junk food cravings.
Handy Protein Sources
Keeping a dozen or more hard-boiled eggs on hand in the refrigerator is a fast and simple way to get a complete protein into your body. It is amazing how full one or two boiled eggs can make you feel, especially when compared to the types of food that that keep you eating more and more.
Almonds, sunflower seeds, walnuts and other nuts also provide a healthy and quick protein dose. These also qualify as some of your plant-based foods.
This includes eating protein at breakfast, lunch and dinner, and then adding 2 to 3 healthy, protein-rich snacks during the day. This practice helps you constantly feel full, and when you drink water all day long as well, you greatly lessen the desire to grub out on sugar.
This can take time, so plan accordingly and realistically. You probably did not develop your sugar addiction overnight. Give yourself time to develop smart habits that lead to the freedom from addiction you are looking for.
Expect and prepare for some withdrawal symptoms. You may experience headaches, cravings and mood swings for a few days, or even longer depending on your degree of addiction.
Reassure yourself that this will not last. It is not caused by these healthier foods you are eating now, it is the price to be paid for your past poor diet, and releasing yourself from an addiction. The path you will be on now will help free you from the symptoms you have suffered in the past.
You may want to take a magnesium and chromium supplement as well. These two minerals, like protein, help balance out blood sugar and curb sugar cravings. Additionally, consider taking a spirulina supplement.
Considered a superfood for its many health boosting properties, spirulina delivers high protein levels and important minerals and enzymes that lower your chance of developing cancer and empower your immune system. Spirulina is also good at leveling out blood sugar.
Once you have embraced these basic, proven techniques for beating a sugar or junk food addiction, add the following techniques for the best possible chance at becoming addiction-free.
Forming Better Dietary Habits
In many cases, overcoming food addiction is just a numbers game. It takes approximately 21 to 30 days to adopt eating or exercise habits, good or bad. As mentioned earlier, food addiction much of the time happens because certain foods make you feel good. Replace that unhealthy food with a healthy food.
In time, these healthy foods will provide you pleasure also, although not the hedonistic rush that your addictive foods did. Healthier eating behaviors will impact your mental, emotional and physical health in a positive manner. You will feel more empowered and in control of your life as a result.
This means eating sweet fruits, raw, organic honey and safe sugar alternatives like crushed Stevia leaves and Stevia extract instead of sugar, if sugar has created an unhealthy food addiction. Instead of refined white or highly processed wheat flour, opt for almond flour, quinoa, buckwheat and healthier grains.
Switch to healthy coconut or almond milk instead of dairy milk, and in just about every food addiction case, start eating more raw and lightly cooked fruits and vegetables, nuts and berries.
One way to overcome a sugar addiction or love affair with unhealthy junk food is to start making your meals at home. When you make your meals, shop for the ingredients and prepare them yourself, you then have 100% control of what you put into your body.
Water Is So Important
You should also drink plenty of water all day long. You don’t want to drink a gallon instantly upon waking. Rather, make sure you keep a water bottle with you and sip on water, green tea, coconut water or herbal tea throughout the day.
Not only does this keep you feeling full and lessen the chance that you will give into unhealthy food cravings, but water detoxes your body of unhealthy chemicals and toxins which can lead to stress, and cause you to return to your favorite addictive food.
The importance of regular sleep, at least 6 to 8 hours each night, cannot be overstated. Every body process is connected. When your body repairs and heals as you rest, you wake up feeling fresh. This can reduce the chance that you turn to your sugar-filled coffee addiction in the morning to get going. If you feel tired, your brain will lead you to unhealthy, high-GI pick-me-ups that will sabotage your eating plan.
Include Exercise In Your Recovery Plan
Exercise triggers the release of the same “feel good” hormones and chemicals like dopamine and serotonin which fuel a food addiction.
The more you exercise, the healthier you make your heart. The human brain benefits from frequent physical activity as well. When you enjoy regular physical activity, moderate to intense, you help flush unwelcome toxins and poisons from your body, you experience less stress and more feelings of happiness and fulfillment, leading to a physical and mental state where it is easier to choose healthy eating options over food addiction.
Meditation and Yoga
Finally, turning to practices such as meditation and yoga has helped people lower stress levels for thousands of years. Since stress is both a cause and a symptom of food addiction, daily meditation can help you get back in control. The same is true of yoga.
There are plenty of free and paid resources online that teach how to practice these two centuries-old mental health and wellness boosters. In most major cities there are multiple yoga and meditation opportunities, and when combined with the other powerful, food addiction-beating techniques just listed, they can help you master your addiction, rather than having it master you.
Food addiction is not just a turn of phrase, it is very real and creates misery for many people. Anyone who has symptoms of food addiction will almost certainly need some level of professional help.
What may appear to be food addiction may have triggers related to deep-seated psychological triggers relating to past events. If the relationship to eating is overwhelmingly affected by these triggers, the underlying problem should be addressed, or your subconscious mind may sabotage your best efforts.
However, if the triggers are more aligned to the foods themselves, there is great scope for helping oneself manage and overcome the problem. There is great power in recognizing that you can control your urges, rather than allowing them to control you.
You can read part 1 of this article non food addiction HERE