During my switch from dieting and comfort eating to eating normally, I did a fair amount of reading up on why we reach for certain foods. ie, why can’t carrots sooth me the way cookies and ice-cream do? I was absolutely amazed by what I found. It may not come as a surprise for you like it did to me but I never thought it was possible to be addicted to food. Well, you know you see TV documentaries about those extreme cases where people became so overweight they couldn’t leave the house for example. I thought that there was something wrong with these people, as in, they had some special disease that made them eat too much (I am sure there are for a few but that’s not my point). The fact is these people were addicted to food, in the same way we are. Just more extreme. Like an alcoholic, some can’t get through the morning without a drink while others only drink in the evening, in fact some alcoholics lead a relatively normal life in terms of going to work, looking after the children etc, but when they have done their day and they are no longer going about the things that keep their focus away from their emotions, they turn to their addiction and swallow the feelings down with drink. Well, this a similar thing. Now obviously we need to food to survive, so it is quite difficult to pin down just what’s right and wrong when it comes to emotional eating.
There is now some evidence that the same biological processes that cause us to become addicted to drugs and alcohol can cause us to show addictive behavior towards food. But not all kinds (I mean, do you know anyone who is addicted to carrots?). These foods generally tend to be sugar (I mean the kind you put in a cup of tea or on your cereal) fat (yeah the bad kind) and white flour (the stuff we mostly use in baking cookies). Salt is another one. Foods containing a combination of these are responsible for giving our brains a hit, literally, your body’s primary pleasure center becomes stimulated and bam, we’re hooked and coming back for more. When we go back for more our brains reward center also gets a hit…leading to ‘give me more’.
So, the food industry have us hooked on processed foods and keep on offering us more tasty combinations, which we buy willingly to feed our addiction. They make the food so available that we just cannot resist. Ten freshly baked doughnuts for $1 or twelve delicious cookies for $1.50. Who could resist? The more we buy, the more we eat and then the more we want so back to the Supermarket for more. Then we continue in that vicious cycle until we become overweight, unhappy, unhealthy and have no motivation to do something about it. I’m weak, I’ll be this size forever, may as well just eat what I enjoy and have some happiness in life…
When I stopped emotional eating something interesting happened. Well, first of all I was so seriously angry with the food industry (yeah even more than I was with the diet people). I refused to give them any more of my pennies unless I was to get something decent in return. I broke the cycle and stopped craving these highly processed foods. I ate when I was hungry, enjoyed every bite, stopped when I was full then didn’t require food until my next meal, and I didn’t reach for that until I felt true hunger. I discovered that it wasn’t the meals that were causing my weight gain or lack of weight loss, it was the sugar and processed food.
I also discovered than when I really did want to have cake or something sweet, I enjoyed it, guilt free, having made the choice to eat it. My sugar levels were constant now and my body and mind could deal with a one off sugar peak and would come back down to normal soon after. I am more tuned in now so that if I have a week or so where I have been celebrating a lot or have had more sugary things than is normal for me now, I feel the very slight urge to fall back into my old ways. Luckily, when I get as far as heading for the famous cupboard (do you have a cupboard that you head for when the going gets tough? You know, the one where all the white sugar is kept?!), I deal with the urge in the same manner as I learned during my breakthrough, grab a glass of water with ice and think about what it is I am feeling, recognize it’s either addiction trying to creep back in or I have a strong emotion going on that needs to be confronted or recognized. Before I know it, within a few hours or at worst a day or two I am back to feeling balanced again.
White refined sugar is as bad as fat. It makes us gain weight. In fact in some cases it is worse. Some healthy fats are needed to help our bodies function well and our digestive system and metabolism work. Refined sugar is not. Don’t be misled by “fat free”. It doesn’t mean it’s sugar free and the truth is if sugar is not burned away it turns to fat, so essentially it’s the same as processed (or bad) fats.
As a general rule of thumb when I go food shopping nowadays I stick to the outside of the supermarket. It generally tends to be the middle isles where all the processed food is. I have found this really helpful. It keeps me away from most foods that are labelled low fat or diet foods. I don’t need them. The food industry can keep them.
So, to put it bluntly, get off the cookies and other processed foods, stay off them and your mind and body won’t need them, you’ll be sure to lose weight naturally and be a healthier you.