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JOURNEY TO WHOLENESS - August 2017 - Kansas City
Save Yourself From Cravings and Still be Satisfied
By Jude LaClaire, Ph.D.
Many times a day you have the split-second food choice to make. Customs and the availability of diverse kinds of food have historically limited choices and still do in some parts of the world. Today, however, there is a dizzying array of food choice. The most widely accessible choice for nearly every neighborhood is fast food, full of sugar, salt, and carbs. Some urban and rural areas suffer from a lack of grocery stores with fresh food options available.
The question for all of us is, “What is healthy and what is not healthy eating?” The answer to that is complex and contradictory. So, what is a person to do?
Information on healthy eating is more important than ever. There is a growing body of research that reinforces what we have known for some time. An excess of sugar, salt, dense carbohydrates, and fats in the diet triggers the brain in much the same way as heroin, cocaine, or alcohol.
Colantuoni (2002) in Physical Craving and Food Addiction published by The Food Addiction Institute (2009), analyzed over one-hundred peer-review articles, each of which showed that humans produce opioids—the chemically active ingredient in heroin, cocaine, and other narcotics—as a derivative of the digestion of excess sugars and fats. This triggers cravings for those foods in the same way the brain craves the drugs. These substances all produce pleasure enhancing aspects of physical craving and converge at the D2 dopamine receptors, that is, the pleasure center of the brain. (The Food Addiction Institute; 2009)
Rats preferred sugars (saccharine, sucrose, etc.) to a dose of intravenous cocaine in many different studies. Their findings clearly indicate that intense sweetness can surpass cocaine reward. The more we eat or drink things that spike the ‘feel good’ brain chemicals, over time, reduce our natural receptors for pleasure. This depletion of our pleasure biochemicals, like serotonin and dopamine, increase craving and compulsive consumption.
Many people, consciously or unconsciously, use foods, caffeine, alcohol, prescription or illegal drugs, and nicotine to relax themselves or reduce anxiety. No one is typically desiring or choosing to alter their brain chemistry and create an addiction.
This research tells us that food issues for many have become a brain chemistry issue causing an addiction. The resolution is the same as for those with alcohol and drug addictions-abstinence.
It has long been a part of Overeaters Anonymous to encourage people to stop eating the ‘white’ foods—sugar, carbohydrates, and fats. Abstinence is a big part of their suggested program. Current research would not agree with the ‘disease’ model but rather that food habits, even of the biological parent, can affect our brain chemistry and pleasure receptor sites. Abstinence from the offending substances is necessary to give the brain an opportunity to heal.
Nutritional experts agree that we need good fat, whole grains, and healthy protein to function at optimal levels and maintain a healthy weight. There is wide acceptance that sugar is the #1 offender. So, check for the ‘hidden sugar’ in food listed as corn sweetener, corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, glucose, high fructose corn syrup, invert sugar, lactose, maltose, malt syrup, and the list goes on! Robin Hilmantel, (Women’s Health, November 3, 2014) lists 56 different names for sugar.
First new guideline: READ LABELS! The fewer the ingredients, usually the better it is.
Admit you have a problem.
Make a plan.
Ask for help.
Find people who support your healthy eating! This may mean as they say in AA, ‘finding new playmates and new play grounds.”
Work on self-acceptance rather than blaming or criticizing yourself.
Learn healthy ways to self-calm, relax, and reduce anxiety.
You are building new habits, healing your brain, and creating new neural pathways. Be patient and loving to yourself. Deprivation is not healthy so look for different ways to experience pleasure, have fun, and enjoy yourself. Find people who can help you explore new food choices and places to eat.
Changing destructive habits takes time but is always well worth the effort. You will be going against the mainstream of advertised and readily available food choices but your independence will be rewarded. Get started and enjoy!
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Jude LaClaire, Ph.D., LCPC, is a counselor, educator and author. For counseling appointments, seminars, training, speaking engagements or information on Neurobehavioral Programs or Imago Couple therapy call 913-322-5622. For more information about Jude LaClaire or the Kansas City Holistic Centre go to