Do you have a food addiction? (Part3)

Do you have a food addiction? (Part3)

I once read in order to develop a habit, success is the secret sauce. I believe this to be true with many bad habits we want to drop and new habits we want to create. This can work with food as well, but it depends on the intensity of the signal sent to our brain telling us to eat. If very strong, it will take more than just a few days of abstinence from the food substance itself. The body requires detoxification from the substance. Remember, the fact we are addicted to it means emotional dysregulation and the accompanying signal to ingest the substance is very strong. Think of a food that ‘you can’t just have one’. That food is a great example of being addictive for you. Even if it was a superfood such as kale, if we cannot say ‘no’ to kale, then there is a problem.

Let’s go back to the idea that success is the secret sauce. I will agree that success (let’s say kilograms lost) is extremely motivating, but when it comes to addiction, it is likely not enough to actually rid the craving; that is, the paired response between the sight, smell, or taste of the food with the psychological need to have the food. In order to break the sensory and psychological link, one needs to reset the taste buds to recognize this substance as a foe, not a friend. If you read the first post I wrote as part of the series on food addiction, you will understand why I feel so strongly about the disservice our government has bestowed upon us by allowing processed food lobbying to even exist.


  1. Seek out trained professionals. Consulting with a health professional, such as a nutritionist, naturopath, or functional medicine practitioner might clarify some myths you have regarding the good food – bad food debate. I think this is an important step because there is too much information at our fingertips. It is only a Google search away and most ordinary folk cannot decipher between good sources of information and bad sources. For example, there are A LOT of unhealthy products out there that are marked ‘Keto, Paleo, Vegan, Heart Healthy, Vitamin enriched’, which is just a disguise to pull you into thinking it is a health food. Think about it… when was the last time you picked up a banana or a celery bunch at the store and it had a nutrient label on it? Exactly. Going label-less is preventative medicine. Remember, health and wellness is a multibillion-dollar industry, and everyone wants a piece of the pie.
  2. Consider reaching out to a therapist to assist in providing some empowering tools and recommendations to beat down the cravings. Addiction is not a small hill to climb and it is going to take a lot of tools and guidance. It has nothing to do with willpower, which many naive folks might think. You might also want to consider a therapist as a ‘sponsor’ or accountability partner in your journey. Think about it, we all know what to do, but to actually put words into action is a whole other ballgame. It involves a behavior or ‘habit’ change. A good psychotherapist trained in addiction will help you to validate that you have the power within to help yourself, but it is also perfectly okay having someone else help out as well. This makes a person naturally feel comforted and empowered at the same time. You will see you can set your own rules around food, what you will and will not eat, and feel very empowered by this perspective.

Here are some tools I like to use, and I have seen to be very effective:

Reframing Thoughts Surrounding Food

This is a powerful tool once you are able to do the reframe. How do you perceive food? Is food something you eat to break up your day? Or are you responding to your body signalling to you that you need nourishment? For example, your tummy is growling, or your head is pounding, or your blood pressure is dropping. Or is food something we should be scared of? Plants are good, but aren’t there antinutrients in plants too? Red meat drives up cholesterol, oh wait… no, fat is our friend? Right? Isn’t that the Keto thing I keep hearing about? Is dairy good or bad for us?

How about we develop a relationship with food that is believable to us and based on fact and not on what the latest health study suggests. We are so subjected to biased information, all of which are competing for our attention. People approach food as a religion in many ways, but we cannot be dogmatic or reductionist in our views. Can you see food as your friend? And there is no bad diet, but instead a lifestyle or diet that is right for you? How do you obtain such bliss? Taste the food and question how it makes you feel immediately, two hours after a meal, or the next day? Do you maintain a healthy weight when you eat this way? How do you feel emotionally when you eat this way? Bottom line, you need to develop healthy thoughts around food in a way that is believable to you. I think we all believe whole, unprocessed food is the best form of food we can ingest. I think we realize focusing your attention on the food in front of you, rather than your thoughts being elsewhere, is also extremely rewarding and powerful in ridding habits. If you love yourself and want to feel good, this is the place you need to start.

As a therapist practicing both out of Toronto and Winnipeg, I see many folks struggling with their relationship with food. I am more often able to reveal what is really driving the patterned behavior and how they can heal and have a better life. It’s not so much the food at fault, as it is the way you choose to react to food. Just like any stress in life, it is the way you choose to handle or perceive it that dictates the outcome.

By helping you to reframe your relationship with food, I hope to provide you with the ability to curb the addiction. As stated earlier, some of us need total abstinence in order to push ahead. I hope you can see that by viewing it under the lens of addiction, rather than an eating disorder, I am giving you the ability to become more aware and proactive in terms of your approach. Addiction has been around since the dawn of time, and it isn’t going away anytime soon. In fact, processed food is being manufactured to become more and more addictive to our palates – ‘bet you can’t just have one’. Are you feeling scared reading that?

No. You don’t need to be scared. Why? Because you have a choice. You have the choice every single morning how to create your day. And if you are consistent about your food choices, you will gain a new and better habit. A habit of thought (this is my choice) then becomes a habit of action (chose unprocessed food).

“It’s not so much the food at fault, as it is the way you choose to react to food.”

via @luellajonk

Break Free of the Victim’s Mindset

A victimization mindset such as, ‘ my mom always fed me this, I was teased about my body’ or… you get where I am going with this. Everyone can come up with some reason why the habit was formed. The victimization mindset will get you nowhere – fast. It is the antithesis of a growth mindset. You either need to choose to eat healthier or not. It is not complicated, nor does it need to be cultivated in some sort of childhood response to what your parents fed to you. You were a child then with very little control over what you were given. You are (likely?) not a child now.

In closing, I will leave you with one question to ponder. What do you think it would take in order for you to begin adopting a growth mindset and initiate healthier habits around food choices? Would it take a diagnosis such as, breast cancer, colon cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, CVD, or type 2 diabetes? I am asking you because all of these aforementioned conditions are highly correlated with diet. This is not a ‘fear mongering’ statement. That is not my purpose. After studying functional medicine for the last two years, I can adamantly state I have seen research paper after research paper stating the same. How about genetic correlation? Yes, this does play a role in disease manifestation, but lifestyle choices determine whether or not these genes are expressed or suppressed.

So, I leave you with the question, ‘why wait for the diagnosis in order to change your food habits?’ And furthermore, what do you have to lose (besides weight circumference) by adopting these new food habits? Glowing skin? Better sleep? Less medications? Less time in doctor offices? Less time yelling at your kids and more time connecting with them? Improved memory and sleep? Emotional agility? Reduced social anxiety? Doesn’t sound overly risky to me when you think of it. So, if I can, I would like to suggest to begin eating like you have been diagnosed with a health condition, be it chronic or something more ‘common or accepting’ (why we see this as normal is in itself a societal problem) such as, rheumatoid arthritis, constipation, or memory loss. You don’t need to accept this. You have a choice to make change happen.

Do you have a food addiction? (Part2)

Do you have a food addiction? (Part2)

The way I see it, and from what I gathered from my clients, our relationship with food can be broken down in two ways: healthy and unhealthy. Unhealthy often begins with a physiologically-based craving, which turns into an emotional craving.


What defines a healthy relationship with food? A healthy relationship is to acknowledge food as information for our bodies; as a means of nurturing and taking care of our bodies, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Food can be used to celebrate (showing love), share (gifting), and spending time with people we care about (pleasuring ourselves and those around us). It can also be used in very creative, imaginative and loving ways as well. Food is a way of identifying ourselves as a culture with roots in traditions and stories. When it becomes a religion or dogmatic, that is when it is slotted as unhealthy.


Physiologically based cravings are urges we cannot distract from and are often associated with a distressed feeling of ‘being without and in urgent need of replenishment’. These cravings are often described as cephalic or measured in the brain as a strong signal to the central nervous system. For example, one would feel extremely irritable along with the physiological signals of a rapid heart rate, body temperature fluctuations, twitching, pacing, etc. Even without physiological responses, you might get to a point in which your emotions become unregulated and the behavior that ensues is not one you are overly proud of. You might find yourself going out of your way to get it, to the detriment of yourself (lost time, productivity) or someone else.

Now, I can imagine many of you are saying, ” But that is me every morning before having my coffee 😩” If that is the case, I will let you sit with that one for a while 🤔. However, for others – this is a lot more serious. The substance they are ingesting is not favorable for the body. Remember what I said to you in last week’s post about what a healthy relationship with food is; it is seeing food as a medium to obtain nutrients for our body.

“When we find ourselves wanting something strong enough, we’ll do just about anything to get it.”

via @luellajonk

Let’s face it, when we find ourselves wanting something strong enough, we’ll do just about anything to get it–sometimes at the expense of our bodies, brains, bank accounts, and relationships. So why do we have the irrepressible feeling that we need something-such as food, cigarettes, alcohol, or sex when in actualization, when we really just want it? We become a child in that moment. We stomp our feet and cannot self-regulate. It becomes a need vs want. Momentarily you have stepped out of the present.

  • Emotionally based cravings are often described as ‘mindless eating’ or ‘not being in the present’. For, if we were in the present, we would realize that we are not actually hungry. We are out of tune with ourselves and our surroundings. We are eating as a response to an emotion, rather than a response to hunger. We are just ‘going with the motion’ rather than taking part in the act of nourishing our bodies. I think many are guilty of this. When was the last time you had breakfast in which you sat down and thoroughly enjoyed what was in front of you? In which you looked at the plate or bowl and savored each bite in a way that you were at a Five Star Resort. Lunch is very similar. How often do you eat in your car or at your desk? Or during COVID-19, walking into the kitchen to wolf something down, or standing up at the kitchen island while you eat.

Emotional-based cravings are similar to physiological cravings in the sense that they too have a cephalic response to ‘replace something that feels uncomfortable’. However, there is less of a physiological response with emotionally based eating. Clients will tell me, ‘I was binging to ease the pain’. The bad feeling is replaced by a flood of endorphins, the strongest being the neurotransmitter dopamine. Dopamine, our happy hormone, can also be called the ‘learning’ hormone. When dopamine drops and you respond with a behaviour that replenishes it, you naturally want to do more of it. What you need to realize is the reward lasts only a few seconds, but the aftermath can last month, years, or decades (ill health and weight gain).

Here are some of the more common sources of emotional eating:

  1. Victimization. You guessed it, that is the same old, ‘well if my girlfriend wouldn’t have broken up with me…, or if my job didn’t suck… or the classic COVID-19 excuse, in which the mindset is framed as, ‘this is happening to me’, rather than ‘I am choosing to do this’. Need I say more on this topic? I think we all tend to self-justify our behavior, which does nothing towards finding a solution.
  2. Lack of Motivation. When someone tells me they are not motivated to change, I often need to question whether or not there is a source of fear behind the stagnancy. Are you feeling you might fail if you try a new eating regime or habit? Or do you have a closed mindset? For example, ‘My dad lived until he was 90 and he smoked, ate bacon every day, and didn’t exercise a day in his life’, or the classic, ‘I’m going to die of something someday, so it might as well be something I like to eat’.
  3. Diets Don’t Work. That statement is true in many ways. So, can I challenge you to find something that does?
  4. Lack of Self-Compassion (body image). Do you have little respect for yourself and your body? Do you not love yourself enough to nurture your body? If you are making poor food choices, or eating when you are not hungry, then you might want to reconsider your relationship with food.
  5. Being told what to do. No one likes being told what to do, what to eat, or when to eat it. Especially when that strict author voice is accompanied with passive-aggressive shaming. With the plethora of information out there telling us what we should be doing – clearly this is not working for emotional eaters.

Next week I will wrap up this three-part post on food addiction with suggestions of how to overcome your addiction and improve your relationship with food. Till then, try to become more aware of when you eat, and why you are eating. Are you really hungry? Or is there something else going on behind the scenes?

Do you have a food addiction?

Do you have a food addiction?

No one wants to talk about it; however, it exists.  People talk about it in my room because it is a place of no judgement. They can talk about their cravings openly. 

It is a craving like every other craving out there; cravings for heroin, cocaine, tobacco, sex, porn, and gambling. When it comes to food addiction, the main drug of choice is sugar. I see sugar as being the true villain or the main character in this scene, triumphing caffeine or salt, for example. Because, unlike sugar, caffeine and salt have always existed in nature in a pure state. White refined sugar is different. It is a derivative of the processing industry. It is created in a plant. It is everything but natural. It is ubiquitous; showing up in everything from tomato sauce, to bread, salad dressings, and crackers. And why? 

Because now that our taste bud receptors have been regularly exposed to this substance and adapted to the stimulus, we naturally want to maintain that level of stimulus-response in the pleasure centres of our brain. We can thank the food scientists for this. They are the masterminds. You can get your shot of adrenaline by simply putting a stick of cherry gum in your mouth. It is hyper-sweet and hyper-palatable. Try tasting a cherry in its whole form after that piece of gum. It may taste quite bland. We are trained in this response pattern and become masters of it by adulthood. As an infant, being fed sweet potato or applesauce was pure bliss. In adulthood, ‘it doesn’t do nothing’ for me. 


Sugar is so widely accepted, it is a tough one to view as a villain. For example, it was the Christmas season as I wrote this article and my beloved Chatelaine magazine arrived at my doorstep. What was plastered all over the cover? Sweets… cookies, bars, pudding, cakes, etc. It made me sit back and say to myself, “Luella, are you being a scourge?”. These sweets are so connected to family tradition. Believe me, our family had dessert every single day growing up. 

Many of us may be prone to think, ” It was my mom’s way of showing love for us”, but… is that reality?  Or could it be more accurate to state children became addicted to the sweet tastes of baking and store confectionery, and therefore, begged our mothers to bake more cookies?

So how did things go so wrong? Of my eight siblings, none of us were overweight, let alone obese. Not even close. I remember Tabâ coming into our house in the 70s, as I did have an older sister. That was the start of the 0 calorie, artificial, and low-fat movement. Jane Fonda workouts and leg warmers. I don’t need to write anymore about the disastrous effect that had on our metabolisms.

“Have you ever been perplexed as to how a McDonalds baked apple pie could be less money than an apple at the grocery store?”

via @luellajonk

It was the beginning of altering foods from their natural state. Again, driven by bad science ‘calories in, calories out’, as well as the food industry and government lobbying. Have you ever been perplexed as to how a McDonalds baked apple pie could be less money than an apple at the grocery store? When you think of the cost that went into manufacturing that apple pie… starting at the processing plant, to the packaging, to the transport to restaurants, down to the friendly staff member that hands it over to you with a smile. How can it possibly cost less than an apple?

Let’s take a moment to think about this a bit more. From the early 70’s onward, not only did the big food companies and agribusiness lobby the government to bring down the price of processed foods, the food scientists also became much smarter. They were very busy in their laboratories coming up with irresistible food combinations that make it nearly impossible for us to have ‘just one bite’. 

Now that we are more aware and up to speed about how so much processed food has infiltrated our society, what do we do to break our guilty indulging habits? We could always move out of the big city with all the flashy billboards, fast food drive-throughs and food courts, but that is not likely a practical idea for most. There is still social media, TV, and magazines we are all exposed to, as well as the grocery store. Bottom line – it is not going away anytime soon. So, what to do?


This post opened the discussion around food. Future posts will identify further unhealthy food relationships, as well as solutions to the problem. I hope to help you to identify whether you are addicted to a food substance or not and assist to disentangle food addiction from an eating disorder (physiological vs. emotional). I will also touch on habit formation, motivation for habit change, and regaining feelings of control. Even if you do not feel you have a food addiction, I hope this 3-part series brings you more awareness of your thoughts surrounding food. Food is going to be part of our lives (hopefully) till we die, so we might as well get comfortable eating it.

Let me get that for you dear, you’ve had a hard day. Unfairness and Broken Promises.

Let me get that for you dear, you’ve had a hard day. Unfairness and Broken Promises.

I think it happens in the best of marriages. At some point along the timeline, you take a look at the present state of affairs and think, ‘Really? How did this even happen?’ It seems like at one time, tasks were divided and consideration for one another’s time was honoured. For a woman who wanted to embrace motherhood and maternity leave, she now somehow also signed up for ‘house maid’ at Hotel Chez Maison; not only is she taking care of junior 8-10 hours of the day, but she is also picking up wet towels off the bathroom floor and gathering crusty plates and half-drunk cans off the coffee table. How is this fair? Heaven forbid you express concerns about this to your spouse. It seems as though women are brainwashed from an early age with images of June Cleaver stamped on their hippocampus; the perfectly clean house, a joyful child playing happily while you place a hot meal on the table as your loving spouse walks in the door after his 7.5-hour day at the office. Then you sit down together and talk about each other’s day. Wake up! Yes – it was a dream.

Of course, this can go both ways. I like to think I am not gender-biased, but even in 2021, the majority of parental leaves land on women. Even in homosexual marriages, one tends to get the short-end of the stick. Why is it so hard to be fair? It’s usually because one of the partners becomes tired of complaining and it is just easier to do it yourself (the Obliger), or one partner becomes dismissive and dominating in the marriage and brainwashes the other to presume this is ‘normal’ behaviour. Communication is the problem. Neither partner is communicating well.

One partner tends to not express their true needs, or another may be the conflict avoider

It seems as though women are brainwashed from an early age with images of June Cleaver stamped on their hippocampus.

via @luellajonk

When it comes to broken promises, it seems like life is full of them, doesn’t it? But when it comes to a marriage, where vows were exchanged to one another, the hurt runs deep. Many couples feel their partner has not honoured their promises at the time of marriage. It takes a lot of work on both partners to ensure the promises made are kept and honoured. I don’t think any human intentionally dishonours their partner.

Sometimes it is very abrupt, such as one partner feels religion is no longer important to them and decides the children do not need to attend their weekly church service. Or it may be that the joint bank account for all the household finances has selfishly become your spouse’s problem and my money is for my own needs and expenditures.

Unfortunately, addictions have become prevalent in the web of broken promises throughout many relationships that come to my office. The partner who is not suffering with the addiction has tried to regain the trust but cannot withstand the repeated disappointment and lies. At times the partner is the enabler by perpetuating the addiction; they trust, ‘this time, she or he means it’ and stays with their partner because of the promise they made to one another at the time of marriage. The sufferer of the addiction may have even guilted their partner into feeling guilt and shame for talking about ‘leaving the relationship’. This is a serious situation and needs immediate attention. Months of this behaviour quickly turn into years. It is unfair for both, not to mention for the children, if present.

This concludes the series on betrayals and to be honest, I am glad! I rather not talk about ‘downer’ topics like this. Unfortunately, it is common and deserves the attention.

In the following weeks, you are going to see varying topics. Everything from food addictions, to dealing with the inner critic, trauma, SIBO, loss of libido, how to lower inflammation, and yes, more on relationships.