Breaking the Food Seduction, Chapter 1
Sunday, November 18, 2018
The Seduction Begins: How Foods Addict You
Some foods are not my friends. The demand for some foods, such as potato chips, chocolate, or cookies is not simply a choice but the demand is physical.
How often do you crave something sweet, not fruit, but a combination of sweetness with a bit of fat and perhaps some chocolate mixed in. You may resist for a bit, then give in which will then lead to feelings of humiliation and compulsion as you fall off the wagon into the arms of addiction.
Our brain’s pleasure is center is not there for fun and enjoyment, but survival. It guides us to eat, exercise, have an interest in others (socialization) and even reproduce.
Dopamine is central to anything that feels good. Being addicted to something is when we develop an intense motivation to keep taking something, whether it is food, drugs, alcohol, or anything else. There is a strong compulsive quality that is different from physical dependency or from having withdrawal symptoms you quit taking it.
Sometimes addictions seem to run in families and there is a genetic disposition that causes some families to be addicted to some substance. However, every person is different and susceptible to different things; one member can be addicted to alcohol, another to gambling, and another to food, etc. It has been discovered that overweight people had fewer brain receptors for dopamine, called DRD2, compared to other people. This causes one to overeat to get those feelings of pleasure because there are fewer places for the dopamine to attach to the brain.
This low d2 gene has been found in alcoholics, especially those who drink heavily. And in those who use recreational drugs and are unable to quit as compared to those who have never drank or used drugs. Those who have this low D2 gene lack the brain receptor for “normal” feelings of pleasure and become vulnerable to anything that will provide that feeling of pleasure.
However, genes are not your destiny. We can overcome the addictive properties of food by strengthening our ability to recover quickly after we encounter setbacks, instead of just relying on willpower to be successful. – I honest believe that because I have not given up and continually get back on track (even if short-lived) is why I have not completely fallen back into my old ways of eating.
Sometimes we use food to stimulate those parts of the brain that are really craving acceptance and friendship of others. If we use food to satisfy that part of the brain, we start feeling more and more alone. Food becomes more than just nutrition, it becomes our “friend”, and sometimes not a very supportive friend.
If food can work on the very parts of the brain that are designated for warmth, friendship, and love, no wonder loneliness tends to lead to overeating, drinking or drug abuse.
Once addictions start and take hold, they begin to take on a life of their own, no matter how much support one may have.
So, if chocolate and friendship compete for the same part of the brain, we can push chocolate out of the competition by strengthening friendships.
Once hooked, some would rather take a pill rather than avoid the foods that are causing us health issues. But often medications are too weak to stop the full effects of an unhealthy diet; in addition to giving us other side effects that may be caused by the pill.
Instead of causing us to feel good, as our brain adjusts to the stimulation, it expects the stimulation to continue. Although the brain’s pleasure system is there to help us survive in our daily lives, if we push the brain chemistry too far in one direction that will eventually lead to a rebound in the opposition direction later. For example, 100 calories of sugar eaten every day could ramp up the brain’s opiate receptors just a bit and then distort our moods slightly. Up and we’ll feel good. Down and we may become lonely, anxious, and/or depressed.
In other words if the brain adjusts accordingly and comes to expect that daily dose of sugar, then feelings of emptiness, anxiety, and depression may follow, especially if the brain needs a bit more to make us feel satisfied.
“The goal of this book is to help you break free. Yes, foods can be addicting, but there are easy things you can so to regain physical resilience against cravings and unhealthy food habits and they are far more powerful than simple willpower. If you follow the steps laid out in this book your body will do the rest.” (p.27)
I like how the chapter ends: “When we have paid too dear a price for the seduction we have fallen into, gaining new control is like getting a complete refund.” (p. 27)
This chapter is one reason I have had a hard time getting through this book in the past, but after reading the Pleasure Trap by Doug Lisle and A. Goldhamer, I am coming to a better understanding of how our brains work, I think I may appreciate this book a bit more this time around. I always had a hard time with, "It's not your fault, it's the way your brain is wired" -- the good news is we can rewire our brain. (This is something my husband is learning in his pain management class, so I am seeing more validity in this now more than ever.)