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HOW TO CONQUER ADDICTIVE FOODS

30 Jul 2020 8:24 PM | Maria Allshouse

Two of the most common questions I receive are “How did you address the challenge of emotional eating?” or “How did you overcome addictive foods?”

These questions are often intertwined. On the one hand, the factors in our lives that make emotional eating an obstacle in our journeys are worth exploring. On the other, emotional eating is often difficult to overcome because the foods we eat in these situations have addictive qualities. That creates a cyclical trap that can feel overwhelming and hopeless.

For the emotional eating side of this equation, this topic can be expanded upon and perhaps could be deeper than I am able to address. However, for this blog post, let’s look at the mechanics of addictive foods. If you better understand what makes certain foods addicting, you can make more informed choices about your health.

I could go into great depth on addictive foods, but here are the high points:

  • Our Stone Age programming prioritized sugary, salty foods because those kinds of foods are energy-rich and were difficult to find at the time. Today, they are plentiful, so our default systems end up working against us.
  • Research has found that as insulin rises in response to eating sugar and flour in refined food, and it blocks Leptin, a key hunger repressing hormone, which is why you can eat a lot of sugary foods and not feel full.
  • Refined sugars and flours also trigger a response similar to that of an addictive drug, and we know that some people are at a higher risk of becoming addicted to these foods because of their genetics (if this is you, it’s not your fault!).
  • The culture around sugary foods in our social lives and in mass media advertising can make it even more difficult to cope with these challenges.
  • Take sugary foods off of your shopping list and avoid bringing them into your home in the first place. If they are not within easy reach, you are more likely to pause and make the choice that better aligns with your goals.
  • Plan ahead. With sugary foods woven into our modern culture, you are likely to encounter offers of donuts at work and cake at parties. Think about the situations you are likely to face, and plan your response ahead of time. A simple NO THANK YOU is all you need.
  • Explore the world of healthy cooking. Eating healthy does not mean giving up on tasty foods. There are hundreds of healthy alternatives to your favorite recipes, and if you look for these healthy options, you may discover a new, healthy love for food and ingredients. (i.e. who would have thought we could make Pizza out of Cauliflower and it's delicious!).
  • You are not alone in this, I experienced this for many years. I have been able to recognize my triggers and I don't bring them into the house or I use a simple exercise I teach my clients: STOP. CHALLENGE. CHOOSE. Pause, take a deep breath, challenge yourself (do I really need this?) and then make your decision.

Now that you have a better understanding of how the problem works, what can you do about it?

In general, eating healthier will steer you away from eating these kinds of foods, viewing them as what I call "simple pleasures" in life rather than a regular part of your lifestyle. 

However, if you are someone who has the addictive predisposition to binge these foods once you’ve had a taste, you should eliminate these foods completely. That might mean simply choosing not to eat them when they are offered to you (cookies and ice  cream are my Kryptonite), but more likely it will mean being more proactive with how you build your health bubble.

Here are some tips:

  • Take sugary foods off of your shopping list and avoid bringing them into your home in the first place. If they are not within easy reach, you are more likely to pause and make the choice that better aligns with your goals.
  • Plan ahead. With sugary foods woven into our modern culture, you are likely to encounter offers of donuts at work and cake at parties. Think about the situations you are likely to face, and plan your response ahead of time.
  • Explore the world of healthy cooking. Eating healthy does not mean giving up on tasty foods. There are hundreds of healthy alternatives to your favorite recipes, and if you look for these healthy options, you may discover a new, healthy love for food and ingredients.

Do you have a sugar addiction? How are you coping? What has worked for you? 


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