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It's All About Chemistry!

Friday, September 06, 2013

There have been many articles on the internet and in magazines about addictions and body changes, including articles about food addictions. From everything I've read, and my life before Spark, I can tell you the things I've learned:
I ate anything I wanted, whenever I wanted to eat them. A dozen Oreos with milk at 1AM, popcorn with extra butter and salt along with Pepsi, a pile of chicken wings with blue cheese and very little celery - well, the list would go on and on! After years of eating like this, of course I gained and gained weight - all the way to 240 lbs. on a 5 ft. frame. I had arthritis, knees with bones that rubbed against each other and pain all the time, plantar faciitis in the right foot, triple chins, and no discernible waist.
My brain had altered its chemical balance to accomodate all this garbage food I was giving it. Just like a drug addict's or alcoholic's brain chemistry changes, these bad foods had changed my brain! My brain had made the adjustment and had accepted what I had given it and worked with that. But my body had complaints and was not able to make that same adjustment. So the aches and pains and problems started. My brain didn't know how to fix this, so it let everything go, much like I was doing.
Then, I got the Spark plan started and began to slowly change things. Because of my size, exercise was not an option, but eating could be fixed first. So I began paying attention to what I fed myself - vegetables and fruits, lean meats, healthy grains, and less junk food. Little by little, weight started to come off and I started feeling a little better. But what about my brain? How was it handling this change?
Not so well at times. (Note I said, "at times.") There were times when I was enthusiastic about this program, the tracking, and planning. Then, there were the times when I wanted to do nothing but eat garbage foods, and sometimes I did! Just like a drug addict or alcoholic, my brain wanted to have it's old style back, craving the things it was used to. My body would react by giving me pain and injury, wanting to know what happened. At Christmas time last year, I stopped Sparking for a few weeks and the weight crept back up. When I came back in January, it was twice as hard to start again, twice as hard to get back into the "new" habits. My brain chemistry had not changed enough yet, and the fattening, sugary foods it craved were what I ate. Since my brain chemistry had altered only a little, there wasn't enough time to adjust and it craved the fats and sugars. Even though I was Sparking, I really wasn't tracking EVERYTHING, but only putting in what I wanted to be proud of, not the indulging happening late at night. Then I read an article in the Huffington Post from Forbes magazine about brain chemistry, addiction to food, and the chemicals that junk foods give to our brains. (There is an SP blog from 2/13/13 that talks about this - "Food Addiction is Real') The thing that woke me up was that the Forbes article said that studies have shown that when overweight people eat even just 1 bad food, our brains treat it like a drug and over-react, causing us to want to eat more so our brains can get back to the foods it is used to. Even 1 cookie, or 1 potato chip can start this downhill slide! Would you give an alcoholic 1 shot of whiskey or a drug addict 1 pill? This is what we are doing to ourselves - exactly what we would find horrible in those other addictions. There are many foods that I can't "just eat 1" of, that will start my brain on that downhill slide and all of a sudden it's a dozen! I read that it can take up to 2 years to change those brain chemicals, too. Even then, when we try to eat things we ate before SP, that same result may happen, which is why so many people finish their diet program, only to gain the weight back. Depending on how long you ate badly will determine how long your brain chemistry takes to adjust and recover.
I like to think of this life change as rehab for my brain. It needs the time to make this big adjustment, as I was giving it garbage for so long. My body is loving this time, but it's going to take awhile for my brain to catch up. I have to be vigilante and careful, and, if I do eat something bad, I have to make sure to track it and be honest with myself. My brain fights back occasionally, with headaches and cravings. I try to find a healthier version of what I'm craving, such as dark chocolate instead of milk, granola or protein bar instead of cookie, yogurt and fruit instead of ice cream. It's hard some days, but don't we all say that? Our brains are fighting for what they are used to eating and are giving us a hard time, but, with SP and each other to lift our spirits (and brains), we can overcome!
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    Thanks for your comment on my blog. Food, particularly sugar addiction, is not recognized enough and like any addiction has to be treated in such a fashion as something which most likely will be a life long battle - where that one potato chip leads to several bags before you even know it. I guess that's where I think we work at getting to the point where each day, each moment we have to make a choice, hopefully one which steers us clear of the addictive behavior. Problem with addictions is that not everyone has them for the same things, not everyone gets them for the same things and the paths to addictions are varied as individuals as is the path out. You are doing great. You are making choices which benefit you - I particularly like picking a healthier version of that which you crave - excellent strategy.
    1663 days ago
    Excellent blog! It takes a long time to change our tastes and some like the desire for chocolate never change. I have however with cutting way back on sugar and salt found some foods I used to enjoy are now too sweet or too salty. Soda pop is one, but I gave it up years ago when it took the paint off my garage floor. Hard to imagine what it was doing to my stomach. Best wishes for beating your addictions!
    1687 days ago
    Great blog. I am a firm believer in food addiction and what sugar does to our brains. Maybe some people can handle sugar, but I'm someone that if I start, I really have a hard time stopping myself. It's like you shot to an alcoholic. I'm glad you know yourself as well as you do and it's great that you've made so many positive changes.
    1688 days ago
    Great blog! You know I agree that we can be addicted to food. But I think we can trade that addiction for something healthier. For me, I think I have become addicted to exercising. Even when I'm not doing it, I'm THINKING about doing it, lol. And it helps me to avoid junk food...I now think of food as fuel for my workouts, and I don't want to eat unhealthy stuff anymore. I do have cravings from time to time but I know if I give in (even a little) I am risking a binge.
    1688 days ago
  • LINDA!
    Very interesting.
    1690 days ago
    Thanks for referencing Dr. Peeke's blog about food addiction. I recently ordered the book that was mentioned in her blog but it has not yet arrived. I think it will be very helpful!
    1690 days ago
    emoticon emoticon
    1690 days ago
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    Disclaimer: Weight loss results will vary from person to person. No individual result should be seen as a typical result of following the SparkPeople program.

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