For the majority of you reading this book, trigger foods are simply problematic indulgences you’ll have to learn to reduce, avoid completely or manage better. For the food addict, trigger foods can kill. Abstinence and elimination of trigger foods is the goal for the food addict. How do you know if you simply need to get better control over your Ben and Jerry’s®, your Snackwells® or if you’ll need to make your Lifestyle more closely fit the hunger-gatherer diets eaten all but the last few thousand years of man’s existence?
Kay Sheppard, a self-admitted food addict, author of Food Addiction – The Body Knows and From the First Bite, and expert on food addiction, provides a list of twenty-four questions you should ask yourself:
1. Has anyone ever told you that you have a problem with food?
2. Do you think food is a problem for you?
• Food addicts obsess about food.
• Anticipating food predominates the thinking of many food addicts.
3. Do you eat large amounts of high-calorie food in short amounts of time?
4. Do you regularly eat over feelings?
5. Can you stop eating whenever you wish?
• When you cannot stop eating and have lost control this is a sure sign you have an addiction.
6. Has your eating or weight ever interfered with your jobs, relationships, or finances?
7. Do you weigh several times a day?
8. Do you judge yourself by the number on your scale?
9. Do you often eat more than you planned to eat?
10. Do you worry that you can’t control how much you eat?
11. Have you hidden food or eaten in secret?
12. Have you become angry when someone eats food you have put aside for yourself?
13. Are you routinely frantic about your size, shape, or weight?
14. Have you tried any of these methods to lose weight?
• self-induced vomiting
• compulsive exercise
• other-the-counter diet pills, gum and caramels
• sorbitol (for a laxative effect)
• chewing and spitting food
• acupuncture, acupressure
• urine shots
• special food, drinks and supplements
15. Do you manipulate ways to be alone so that you can eat privately?
16. Do your friends and companions over-eat or binge eat?
17. Have you ever felt so ashamed of the amount of food you ate that you hide your eating?
18. Have you been so upset by the amount of food you eat that you wish you would die?
19. Do you overeat more than twice a week?
20. Do you invent plans in order to be alone to eat?
21. Do you seek out companions who eat the way you do?
22. Have you attempted to give up a “treat” only to find you felt worse when doing so and returned to eating it again and again?
23. Have you ever stolen food or money to buy food?
24. Do you work in a grocery store or resataurant?
Sheppard pulls no punches in saying there are only three ways a food addict becomes a nonaddict – they go insane, they die or they eliminate the trigger foods leading to obsession and bingeing. She writes…
“Food addiction is chronic, progressive and ultimately fatal. Food addiction involves the compulsive pursuit of a mood change engaging repeatedly in episodes of binge eating despite adverse consequences.”
Like any addiction, the condition never goes away. The only way to break the addictive behavior is to abstain from the substance the person is addicted to. Recovering alcoholics never introduce themselves as a “former alcoholic”. Anyone addicted to any ingestible substance has one out – abstention from that substance. Food is no different.
Unlike drug addictions (e.g., alcohol, heroin, cocaine, nicotine), with food it’s even more complex. Since no one can abstain from eating entirely, the food addict must first identify they are a food addict and submit themselves as powerless over the addiction. Second, they must identify which foods are triggering the addiction. With other forms of addiction the substance causing the addiction is rather easily identified.
Foods that are most problematic for food addicts are high calorie, high-carbohydrate, high-fat foods with a texture that facilitates rapid eating. Not surprisingly, asparagus is not a problematic food for addicts. Refined carbohydrates affect neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine. All of these chemical messengers affect the brain and therefore, mood. The food addict literally craves foods that will bathe the brain in neurotransmitters that make them feel temporarily better.
The destructive comfort cycle for the food addict usually begins when any feelings occur other than bliss. Bliss is rare. They obsess about a particular food, then compulsively seek it, binge eat it, and feel completely disgusted afterwards for doing so. They beat themselves up hard for “falling off the wagon”. Even though they know comfort eating is really no comfort, will lead to sorrow, even as they eat it many times, the need to medicate their emotions and feel better in the short-term is overpowering. Most people wouldn’t dream of staying in a relationship with an abusive partner. But far too many people abuse their bodies by succumbing to trigger foods and comfort eating. There is no question, the food addict eats to feel better those foods that make them feel worse – every time.
Instead of Countering and finding healthy behaviors for stressful situations and emotions the addict has one cure for everything – food! But the food addict isn’t weak-willed, dumb, lazy, stupid or of low moral character for continuing the destructive patter – they are powerless as long as the addictive substance is present and ingested. An important point here, however, is although the addict is powerless over the food they are addicted to, they are not powerless over their life and behavior. They still have a choice they can make. They can choose to recognize their addiction for what it is and seek help. Help is available.
The Lifestyle is pliable enough for the food addict to withstand the rigors of abstinence from many trigger foods. The food addict has no choice. She will diet if she doesn’t recover from her addiction. But, during recovery, she doesn’t have to throw the baby out with the bath water and find a “new diet”. Not this time. To get a better understanding of why refined, pasty, sticky, sweet carbohydrates and grains are problematic for the food addict I need to discuss our ancestors and a bit about nutritional evolution.
The above article is an excerpt from Chapter 11 of “The Leanness Lifestyle” by yours truly – David Greenwalt. Leanness Lifestyle V.4 – available by download here http://www.LeannessLifestyle.com