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?”
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.