Reading the "Daily Spark" article on food addiction (see here: www.dailyspark.com/blog.
), and found a couple of interesting points:
- The addictive impulse is usually triggered by "hyperpalatables": sugary/fatty/salty/refined/pro
cessed food combinations. Thanks, food industry!
- "Overexposure" to these foods causes too much dopamine - the chemical that helps you feel reward and pleasure - to flow into the brain. After a while, this causes a decrease in dopamine receptors, making it necessary for you to ingest more and more of the substances in order to get the same reward/pleasure response. Makes sense from my experience - that "have to fill the hole" feeling, where no amount of food is enough...
- In all addictions, including food, the prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain that controls executive functions such as impulse control, willpower and discipline, is impaired. This makes "just use moderation" impossible during a binge. So it's not just a question of "I don't have willpower" - it really is a brain malfunction.
- Healing of the executive and reward centers of the brain can only occur in the absence of addictive food products - so you have to tell the truth about what foods cause you to go out of control and stay clear of them. This point is tricky, as it goes against some of the other "Best practice" advice about not making anything totally off-limits, since then it will have an extra massive pull. However, the next point helps to mitigate this:
- Switch out "false fixes" with "healthy fixes" - so for me, instead of the regular Tiramisu cake that I love and can eat in bucketfulls, maybe I can make a healthy version using blended cottage cheese and yogurt. Less fat, more protein, many fewer calories - should help.
- Being active throughout the day actually grows more brain cells (!), which helps stimulate the brain's executive functions. Wow - so that's another MASSIVE bonus for exercise - it helps mitigate food addiction. Bonus!
- Meditation, especially mindfulness and transcendental, has been shown to promote healing of the executive brain functions. Awesome - I KNEW meditation was a great thing to do in general, but had not previously connected it to this specific issue.
- A great tool - "the 24-hour rule": look at your eating patterns over a 24-hour period and see where your "red zones" are - when you're more likely to go off-plan. Be prepared for these zones - make sure you have proper food on-hand, and exercise and practice stress management.
- Speaking of stress - it is the "Achilles heel" of people with addictions. Use the "A squared" method: "adapting and adjusting to life's stresses without resorting to self-destruction". Here again - pre-planning, meditation, proper sleep and exercise and keys.
- Adopt the mantra "I'm doing well and I CAN do this".