Do you believe that once you take a bite of a sweet food like a cookie, you'll just keep eating sweets until you're stuffed? Or maybe it's potato chips that call your name? Many of us would call the tendency to overdo on sweet and salty foods an addiction. But can you be addicted to food can you be addicted to food ? It's a question that has the attention of researchers, health care professionals and the public alike.
Unlike other addictions, controversy exists whether we can be truly addicted to food. Certainly, we may have developed habits of turning to certain foods in certain situations, and we may also have developed habits in how we eat certain foods. But the question is whether those habits are driven by physiologic factors.
Then there's the worry whether labeling a behavior around food as an addiction sets the stage for "learned helplessness." That means we feel powerless about our ability to change the behavior.
After only a few days of eating healthy, well-balanced meals and learning to give themselves permission to eat what they want while at Green Mountain at Fox Run Green Mountain at Fox Run, we frequently see women change their reaction to foods they believe they are addicted to. They find they can eat sweets and the like without going overboard. We serve brownies, cheesecake, pizza and more to help women realize it's possible to eat these foods without overeating them.
These questions can help you delve further into why you feel out of control around certain foods.
1. Do you believe you will gain weight if you eat certain foods or ingredients like sugar?
If you do, you likely label these foods forbidden, or at least that you can't eat as much of them as you'd like. The end result is feeling deprived, which drives cravings and overeating. The solution is to learn how to eat foods you love as part of a well-balanced plan for healthy eating. That means including them, not avoiding them.
2. Do you regularly eat well-balanced meals and snacks?
If you don't, you risk getting too hungry, and that's a sure set-up for eating sweet or salty high-fat foods. That is a physiological drive -- our bodies want foods that are going to deliver fuel fast and a lot of it.
Put Yourself in Charge
If you answered yes to #1 and no to #2, try giving yourself permission to eat what you want while regularly feeding yourself well-balanced meals and snacks. If you find you still experience strong cravings for certain foods, try minimizing how often you eat these foods. Research does suggest that people may react differently to high-sugar, high-fat foods when they eat more of those foods than anything else. This may be particularly true among people who frequently go on and off weight-loss diets. They may have experienced actual changes in brain response that drives eating more of such foods.
The good news is the brain can be changed back by controlling how often you eat such foods, to allow your brain to respond positively to healthier eating. Healthy eating, in a sense, helps “heal” the brain, to normalize our responses to food.
Try this strategy to help learn to eat "addictive" foods in moderation: Enjoy them outside them home, keeping the home as a “safe” place. And to do it with a good friend who can help you think positively about the experience and your ability to stop at “just one.”
~Written by Marsha Hudnall, MS, RD, owner and director of Green Mountain at Fox Run, a Vermont retreat that helps women repair their relationship with food and their bodies.
Read more about Green Mountain’s approach to managing food addiction managing food addiction.