Food Addiction: Don’t Assume the Worst First

By Robyn Priebe on 08/25/2010
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At Green Mountain at Fox Run, it’s very common to hear women state that they are food addicts or sugar addicts.  The most common description of this is that once a person eats foods high in sugar or refined flours (often accompanied by fat) they have difficulty stopping.  They may also notice that they want more of the same as the day progresses.

While I don’t doubt that some of us may have undesirable physical responses to such foods, I don’t immediately assume that a person is a sugar addict just because they have trouble eating sweets in moderation.

Taking a Closer Look… at Cookies

Initially, if we feel like a specific food is problematic, I’d suggest taking a closer look at the make-up of that food. For example, cookies. You may feel that once you start eating cookies, you just can’t stop. Does this mean you are a food addict and are responding to the starch and sugar in this food? Not necessarily. You may be responding to the fact that cookies lack some key things that help us feel satisfied. For satisfaction, carbohydrates and fats are important, and the cookie provides both of those. However, protein, fiber, and fluid-containing foods are also important for satisfaction, which the cookies lack.

So I say fix the nutrition piece first. Cookies eaten as a snack versus cookies as part of a well-balanced meal may feel quite different to you. Even cookies with a glass of milk, to add some protein, may be enough of a modification to help you feel more satisfied. I encourage people to play around with combinations first before throwing in the towel and assuming you can’t eat something because they are addicted to it. Why bother to figure out a way to eat cookies versus just giving them up? I think I’ll blog about that next week…

Moving on, if we are still focused on eating more of the same food after we’ve corrected the balance, the next thing I would look at is what we think about the food Often our opinion of specific foods plays a major role in influencing how much of them we eat or how often we reach for them.  Feeling deprived of a food may actually makes us think about it more and we often end up eating more of that food in the long run, especially when deprivation triggers binge eating.

If after experimenting with different combinations and truly giving ourselves persmission to eat the food, we are still experiencing increased hunger and intense food cravings, then I’d take a closer look at whether or not something physiological is going on. However, starting with food addiction may be putting the cart before the horse. Ruling out balance issues and evaluating our relationship with the food is a better (and easier) place to start.

Are there any foods that you’ve changed your relationship with through this process?

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