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How to get rid of food addiction

Updated on April 3, 2015
TessSchlesinger profile image

In 1983, with doctors unable to cure me, I studied the human body and diet. Since then, food as medicine has been a strong interest.

Perception of normal weight, overweight, and obesity.

We live in a world where overweight and obese people have become so normal that what used to be considered a healthy shape is now considered ‘too thin.’ In my youth (50s and 60s), growing up in South Africa, I didn’t think that models were unrealistic shapes because we were all that shape. Living in both the UK and the USA, I have been baffled by the outcry against models have are simply the same size we always used to be as a species. Sure, some people have nicer shapes than other people, but to have more than an inch of flat on our bones is to be overweight. And the difference between being big boned or small boned is not 12 inches. It is about half an inch.

How sugars and starches set us up for being overweight and obese

During the last few years, scientists have discovered that insulin, the substance in our body that converts sugar and starches to energy, does so in a way that gives us a really good feeling. This feeling is akin to that felt by those who use heroin and opium. And just as drug addiction is the result of wanting more and more of a good feeling, so food addiction behaves in the same way. Food addiction means that we crave food even when we aren’t hungry, and we eventually cannot tell the difference between real hunger and an addictive craving.

Insulin also stimulates the appetite, so the more we eat foods that need insulin to break our food down, the more food we want.

For the record, cheese is also addictive.

How industry makes food addictive

What are starches and sugars?

Most of us understand that sugars can come in food like fruit or can grow in certain plants which are processed to provide us with sugars. Sugar cane is the food that most of us are using every day.

Starch is a white, stodgy substance that is contained in root vegetables, legumes, and grains. Grains like rice and wheat are virtually entirely starch while legumes have some protein as well. Each time we eat dishes like pasta, bread, cakes, potatoes, or rice, we are eating virtually poor starch.

It is a myth by the commercial sector that grains are good for you. They aren’t. They contain about 98% starch, 1% fiber, and 1% vitamins and/or minerals.


How much sugar do people consume in a year?

Two thousand years ago, the average amount of sugar (through honey) in a human diet was two teaspoons a year. These days we consume, on average, 150 lbs of sugar per year. No wonder we gain weight and trigger addiction.

How much starch do people consume per year?

Nobody has asked that question yet. Dr. Ron Rosedale, a medical doctor and author, argues that starches in the diet are there to increase fertility, not longevity, and that they actually limit longevity.

On the other hand, there are many cultures that have a predominantly starch diet and some of these peoples are known for their longevity. This is particularly so in the East.

The traditional diet of the people on Okinawa Island near Japan comprises 85% of starch from sweet potato, 9% protein (fish), and 6% fat. They have/had the highest number of centenarians in the in the world and their people are the most long lived in the world.

So the question for starch might well be ‘What quantity should we eat to have it work for us rather than against us?”


Signs of Food Addiction

Sugar, fat, and salt are the substances that are involved in food addiction. When we need more and more sugar, fat, or salt in our food because it doesn’t give us the same pleasure that it did previously, then that is a sign of food addiction.

For example, in my youth, I used to be able to eat one square of chocolate and that was more than enough to make me feel good. These days, if I eat three slabs of chocolate, I finally feel good. Another example might be that in my early years, one banana or one orange was enough to take me through two or three hours without needing anything more to eat. The other night, I found myself eating five oranges and six peaches and I was still hungry afterwards. That is food addiction.

Food addiction is the need to keep eating when one is not only vastly overweight but feels compelled to eat more and more. It’s when we think of food all day long. It’s when we finish a jar of peanuts, consume an entire packet of spaghetti, eat five pork chops, and we still have room for more. It’s also when the only time we can stop eating is when we feel ill from the sheer quantity we have eaten.

How to stop food addiction.

There are two sides to food addiction. The first one is physiological in that our bodies are craving food because we have triggered an exaggerated insulin response. The second is emotional. We eat because there is either too much stress in our lives or too little joy. In order to eradicate our way eating, we need to deal with the latter before we are able to deal with the former.

This is the kind of food that should be in our fridges.

Dealing with a lack of joy

Ironically, when we have joy in our lives, we feel less stressed than if we have no joy. Equally ironic, the same solutions for eradicating stress will often bring us joy.

Many people look to relationships for their joy, but finding a wonderful relationship is often more chance than effort, and so we cannot depend on it for our joy. Instead we have to look at other factors which bring us joy. These can include interests and activities. The activity most guaranteed to bring us joy is exercise, whether it be dancing, cycling, swimming, or ‘just the gym.’ That’s because when we do it frequently enough and long enough, physical activity begins to generate physical joy. That joy comes from endorphins. Endorphins are neurotransmitters (brain messengers that are produced by the pituitary gland) which, amongst other things, softens pain in the body.

It is no accident that programs like ‘Obese – a year to save my life’ are primarily focused on exercise.

Now, if you are like me, just the word ‘exercise’ needs to be removed from the English language. So I found a way around it. I love to dance, swim, and cycle, so I stick to these activities. I also love to walk – mostly around shops. J

Depending on how severe the food addiction is, outside support may be necessary to get us moving. I eventually realized I couldn’t do this on my own, so I joined a support group. Others may need to join a gym, a dance school, a weight program, or some other option to keep them on track.

The Mind-set

The biggest factor in eradicating any addiction is the desire to do so. It’s impossible to stop cravings if there isn’t a greater desire not to give into the cravings. For myself, I reached a point of such self-disgust at the way I looked, and I was so unhappy that I could no longer wear pretty clothes that I was willing to give up the joy I got from food. I prefer to find my joy in exercise, in compliments from others about how nice my clothes were, about the way I looked, and best of all, I love the high energy I have when my weight is the right size for my height.

The only dietician I recommend.

Eat. Nourish. Glow.: 10 easy steps for losing weight, looking younger & feeling healthier
Eat. Nourish. Glow.: 10 easy steps for losing weight, looking younger & feeling healthier

Amelia Freer is the only dietician I know of that teaches the exact diet that I spent many years researching and read many, many books about how food interacts with the body. I truly believe she has it right. In addition to anything else, it cuts down substantially on food bills, pots and pans, and time spent in the kitchen. There are those who indicate that they have lost a stone a week on her way of eating (that's 14 lbs). And, believe me, you are satisfied when you finish a meal. :) Sam Smith lost an incredible 14 lbs in 14 days on this diet!


Do you believe that you have an addiction to food?

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Coffee and Tea

There are all sorts of stories about coffee and tea. Here’s one I’m willing to bet you haven’t heard. Both coffee and tea contain ingredients that slow down weight loss. If you ever get to see a Naturopath (a doctor who heals only with food) the first thing he will remove from your diet is coffee and tea. If you want to lose weight, he will explain to you that these items will be destructive to any efforts you make.

My own experience?

I once went to a Naturopath. He wrote out a menu for me and told me not to touch coffee or tea. For the first three weeks, I didn’t. I also lost seven kilos of weight per week for three weeks. The forth week I had two cups of tea. I lost three kilos. The first thing he said to me was, “Have you had any tea? I was hoping you would lose more.”

Life without a diet

The word diet has come to mean a way of eating that reduces weight. I don’t think that works. I think we have to think of diet as a way of eating that will enable us to live healthy, correct-weight lives until the day we drop.

Recently Sam Smith, the singer, dropped an amazing 14 lbs in 14 days eating the right way!

From endless research, the correct way of eating is not difficult. It means that we remove a lot of accepted food choices from our lives. These include all candies, coffees and teas, milk and cheese, mayo, cakes, pasta, pizzas, alcohol, etc. To summarize, you will need to get rid of all substances which contain caffeine, alcohol, and those which are high in starches and sugars.

Each plate of food should contain a portion of meat, fish, or beans about the size of a pack of cards, and four vegetables of different colours. Meat shouldn’t be eaten more than once a day, fish should be eaten, at least, twice a week, and meals should be predominantly vegetarian. In other words, have a baked sweet potato (or a butternut) with a pat of raw, unsalted butter served with a large green salad (lettuce, green onion, cucumber, celery) with a fresh dressing of extra virgin olive oil, freshly squeezed lemon, and raw honey to taste. Only one or two portions of fruit should be eaten per day. Smoothies should comprise nuts (almonds and walnuts are perfect), seeds (pumpkin and sesame are full of nutrients), lots of greens, and an item of fruit.

While we need to cut down on the number of sugars and starches so that we don’t use too much insulin, we still need to eat loads of carbohydrates. The best carbohydrates are green leaves. So if our way of life contains one or two green leaf salads per day, we are doing well.

Fats are necessary to our health. They contain elements and nutrients without which our bodies do not work well. Best options are coconut oil and olive oil. Try to get the first pressing (cold pressing) of any oil because that means that not only do they contain more nutrients, but that chemicals have not been used in their production. A teaspoon or two of oil per day is sufficient.

Then there’s the method of liquid. For myself, I use goat’s milk, soy milk, or coconut water from a young coconut that I open myself for smoothies.

Mostly, drink water, the juice of a young coconut (you have to buy the young coconut, not get the pasteurized ready-made version from the stores), or take a teaspoon of raw honey, mix with a teaspoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice, and water.

No processed foods (pre-prepared foods from shops) must be eaten. Everything must be prepared from fresh.

Timing is important, vital, in fact.

Believe it or not, three meals a day are not necessary. It’s not important if you skip breakfast, and fasting won’t do you any harm.

Scientists are now focusing on how the time we eat affects our ability to lose weight and be healthy. You can read more about this elsewhere but essentially you need a period of upwards twelve hours between the last meal of your day and the first meal of the next day. Between meals, you need four hours so that your liver and stomach have time to generate the substances to break down your food. Also, the stomach needs a few minutes warning that food is coming. That is what chewing is for. I love iceberg lettuce because it requires lots of chewing… :)

© 2015 Tessa Schlesinger


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    • TessSchlesinger profile image

      Tessa Schlesinger 2 years ago from South Africa

      Nice to know PaigSr. I still battle. I go for weeks or months without eating certain things, break the addiction, then I get stressed or upset about something, eat something I shouldn't and in no time at all, I'm addicted. I used to have the same pattern with cigarettes but haven't smoked for some 18 years now. I hope that I can have the same type of solution with food. :)

    • PaigSr profile image

      PaigSr 2 years ago from State of Confussion

      I admit that I have certain foods that I will only eat when I have a job. Sort of a reward for working. So its sort of a part time addiction. ;-) In the good news I have actually brought that list down to just two items. It was six.

    • TessSchlesinger profile image

      Tessa Schlesinger 2 years ago from South Africa

      Thank you Chitrangada. :)

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 2 years ago from New Delhi, India

      Very useful and informative hub about how to get rid of food addiction. Less of physical work, more of junk food and a bad lifestyle leads to obesity. Its important to understand what not to eat and what to eat, at what duration and in what quantity to get rid of those extra pounds.

      You have suggested some great tips here. Thanks for sharing, voted up as useful!