Saturday, September 19, 2020

Food Addiction: How to Know & Overcome It

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I was sitting on the edge of my bed with a container of ben and jerry’s, having just made my way through most of a pizza. I felt horrible, felt guilty and felt like I kept failing at life. I would have these binges following some major life stress. Each time I would crave food, a lot of food. While it made me sick to my stomach, it also calmed me down, or made me tired enough to sleep, which was usually what I was going after. At the height of it, I had really bad insomnia problems, food seemed to be the only thing to make me tired enough to sleep. Little did I know, there were a lot of physical things going on that were not good, which was why I would feel so tired after a binge.

I have never been someone who was about self control or will power. I think that will power is a weird illusion that we fight with ourselves on. I can’t just eat one chip or one cookie or one serving of cheese or ice cream. Once I started I felt like I couldn’t stop, or I would crave it the rest of the day. Either way, it’s all I would think about. I would play terrible games with myself, saying I would have 3 M&M’s a day and that’s it. Needless to say that lasted all of a minute, and soon the entire bag was gone. I would tell myself each time “This is the last binge, tomorrow I’ll start over, tomorrow I will start eating better.” And tomorrow would come and I might go most of the day, but I’d fail each time. I did not know why I was failing until I discovered addictions.

I remember listening to a story of an alcoholic who described when they drank too much. The story was identical to mine, except replace “cookies” or “chips” or “junk food” with alcohol. The hiding, the anger, the mood swings, the obsessing over it were all so similar. The person talked about their break up with alcohol and how they can’t even have a sip of alcohol with out needing to have more, or thinking about it all the time. They talked about how they can’t go to functions with alcohol, how they have had to ask their family to not drink around them. It was then that I realized that I might have some addictions, but not until I went plant based did I really understand how food addictions were shaping my life.

I fought with my addictions for years. I would go on super strict diets, and stick to them, but what I didn’t know was that even in my “healthy” diets that were doctor prescribed, I was fueling my addictions, which would cause those moments of weakness. As long as I included some dairy I was fueling the addiction to casein, which is found in large quantities in things like cheese and ice cream. I realized that if I just had one slice of cheese, or a glass of milk, that I was setting off my brain to respond to the chemical addiction of casein. I would start craving dairy, with out even knowing why. You may have even thought that you are eating these things because of some emotional problem, or that you have some deep psychological issue that you can not get past. I’m happy to tell you, that the problems might be a lot simpler than you imagined, and might not take years of therapy to undo. I used to live my day in accordance to my food/drink addictions.  I’ve since learned some of the biggest offenders of addictions, how to know if you are addicted to something and how to stop them, and how to get through the detox.

How to know if you are addicted: (note when I mention drinks – I am including diet sodas, soda, caffeine)

1. Can you stop at 1? Meaning can you have a slice of cheese, a cookie, a chip and not want or crave another one for the rest of the day?

2. Do you say that you could never give up X food/drink?

3. Can you not imagine not eating a particular food/drink?

4. Do you ever get angry if you can not get a particular food/drink ?

5. When you smell a particular food/drink do you feel like you have to have it?

6. If someone told you that you had to give up a certain food/drink would it upset you?

7. When you have tried to eliminate a certain food/drink did it cause you to become cranky or moody?

8. Do you feel like you need a particular food/drink to start your day or to help you get to sleep?

9. Does the thought of never having a particular food/drink again depress you?

10. Do you find yourself planning your day around food or a drink?

How many did you answer “YES” to? Remember I can’t see your answers, so be totally honest with yourself. Depending on your answer, might determine the severity of your addictions. If you answered yes to even one, there is a chance that you are fighting a (or several) food addictions. Obviously, the more you answered yes to, the more you might be fighting addictions. So… what could you be addicted to?

Here are the top offenders (for myself and for a majority of the people I’ve talked to)

1. Dairy.

I really think that if this was the first thing people gave up, things would go a lot easier the rest of the way. Dairy is full of chemicals that cause physical addictions. Cow milk (or any milk from a mommy animal for that matter) is filled with addictive chemicals and hormones. This is really good for a baby cow or a baby goat, just like it’s really good for a human baby to nurse. The mom milk provides every thing that it’s offspring needs, and includes a lot of something called casein. Casein is important to form the bond between mom and baby. So unless you are a baby cow, you don’t need cows milk. Cheese has 10 times the amount of everything that is found in a glass of milk. So if you have a slice of cheese, it’s like getting 10 times that of milk. And if you are anything like me, and the sensitivity and addiction to cheese and dairy is high, you can imagine this causes problems. Your cravings for everything from pizza to different chocolates more than likely has nothing to do with the taste of those foods, but the casein found in them. And by even eating small quantities of casein you are just fueling your body to crave and want more. You might not go and drink a gallon of milk, but you might want a cheeseburger, a pint of ben & jerry’s or a half a pizza.

2. Fake sugar.

There are not animal products in fake sugar products – however A LOT of animal testing is done by companies that use fake sugars. But fake sugar, like in diet coke is probably the worst possible thing that you can put in your body when it comes to chemicals. There are about 60 side effects to fake sugars. It has been brought up to be banned time and time again, but very wealthy manufactures pay large sums of money to make that not happen. My first realization that fake sugar was not good for me was after I was consuming A LOT of this no calorie iced tea powder that I would put in my water bottles. My blood sugar numbers were through the roof and I couldn’t figure it out. I went to my endocrinologist and she went over every thing that I was eating and drinking. When she found out about the diet drink she told me that it was the problem. She told me that diet soda was just as bad as drinking normal soda, actually she said, it was probably worse. I was shocked. Diet drinks with splenda in it were even endorsed by the American Diabetes Association, how could they be bad?

When I understood how fake sugar worked, I understood that it wasn’t just causing me to want more of it, it was causing me to want more food. Basically, when you have anything with fake sugar your body does not know it’s fake right away. Your tongue picks up that you are eating something sweet, it does not know that it is artificial, just that it is sweet. So your brain tells your body “SWEET STUFF COMING UP!” and your pancreas says “OMG I better get some insulin to cover that sweet stuff!”. And then the insulin flows out from the pancreas. BUT the insulin has nowhere to go… because it’s fake sugar, it can’t attach to something that’s not real. So the insulin is out there in your body just floating around with nothing to do… Well not exactly nothing to do. Do you know what insulin is? A growth hormone. Do you know what happens when a growth hormone has nowhere to go? It either stays there and makes you FAT or it waits till you eat large amounts of food so that it has something to attach to – causing you to be hungry and to crave food, still, making you fat. And all of that excess insulin floating around? Oh yeah, it also causes type 2 diabetes.

In short, diet drinks are evil, and are making you fat and a diabetic.

3. Chemicals and hormones.

It’s should come as no surprise that animal products like chicken & cow are pumped full of tons of hormones and chemicals. The food industry does this because of greed, they can make the animals bigger if they make them obese and they pump them full of tons of harmful chemicals and dangerous levels of things like estrogen. Our society is constantly eating diseased meat – even the “humane meat” is filled with hormones. Plain and simple, they don’t make money on skinny cows. All of these chemicals and hormones are then passed onto the consumer. The food industry knows that you will keep coming back for more because they are fully aware that all of those chemicals and hormones effect your body as well. They aren’t stupid, just like the cigarette manufactures know that more nicotein in cigarettes means more sales.

The same should be said of other product that include large amounts of chemicals in them. A good rule of thumb, if you can’t read it you probably shouldn’t be eating it. You may not know what an ingredient is and you may not know if that is the ingredient that is causing other addictions to be more intense for you.

4. Sugar and High Fructose Corn Syrup .

Most sugar is not vegan. This completely shocked me when I first went vegan. Most sugar (the cheap stuff mostly) is processed with bone char, as in you are eating animal bones when you eat cheap sugar. Sugar causes chemical responses in the brain, and also forces large amounts of insulin to be released, causing you to be fat and causing type 2 diabetes. (I know, I’m a buzz kill).

High Fructose corn syrup which is in every thing from soda to bread is a cheap way to produce sugar, and does every thing bad that sugar does, but it’s all cheaply made and has a bunch of chemicals to make it taste just like sugar. It’s just a way for the food industry to get more money from you, by using something that is a lot cheaper, and a lot more unhealthy than the real thing.

There are plenty of sugar alternatives that won’t kill you though… Things like agave and pure maple syrup are much better alternatives. Also, learn to love and eat fruit! Fruits have all sorts of goodness and sweetness.

*It should be noted that even if it’s vegan and made with good raw organic sugar does not mean you should go eating tons of chocolate chip vegan cookies. It’s still sugar, and if you are looking to lose weight, devouring a pan of brownies is still not a good idea. If you feel that you have an addiction to sweet stuff, and you still can not just have 1, it’s best to avoid it still.

5. Caffeine.

While I’m completely ruining your day…. let’s talk about caffein. Again, coffee does not have animal products (nor do cafeineated teas/sodas (that I know of at least). Although, there are a lot of people who use animal testing to test out caffeine and caffeinted beverages.

If you can not start your day with out a cup of coffee, you are addicted. If you plan your morning or afternoon around getting caffeine you are addicted. Replace the word “coffee” with the word beer and then see how you feel… “I can’t function with out beer”. Wouldn’t we all worry about someone who constantly was getting their fix? But yet coffee seems to be the accepted drug of choice by many. It’s okay, somehow to be completely dependent on that drug, but we look down on people who have addictions to others? Caffeine for people who are diabetic is a bad idea – anything that stresses out your body is a bad idea. It gets into your blood stream, it cause elevated heart rates, and that causes issues for people.

If you can not start your day with out a drug, it’s probably a good idea to get to a doctor. Find out if there is something else going on. Maybe you have sleep apnea and you aren’t really sleeping at night. Maybe there is something physically going on that is crashing your energy levels. I think we tend to just assume we need something to function, when that should be our clue to seek help, to make sure there is nothing else going on to make us feel that way in the first place.

So now that you know if you are addicted, and what you could possibly be addicted to you probably want to know how to get past the addictions. You will have to wait till tomorrow for that, being that I’ve already written a novel.

6 COMMENTS

  1. Vegan feet

    I loved reading this. It’s so important to be reminded about the very real dangers that these common foods can cause. I’ma bookmark this and come back frequently.

    Also, I absolutely laughed-out-loud when I read this:

    “While I’m completely ruining your day…”

    Because, you know, it’s funny. You *shouldn’t* be ruining anyone’s day considering all the above listed are nasty with nasty on top. And yet society has drilled it into the masses that they’re all fab with fantastic on the side. Oh dear.

    Keep up the great work!

    :]

  2. Kathy

    Well this scared me more than anything else I’ve read on the subject….dinner anyone? anyone?

  3. Nat

    Kathy… not meant to be scary – as much as a way for people to understand that their food issues might be due to some really powerful addictions. For so long I blamed myself, and my lack of will power on eating badly – when i figured out the addiction thing it changed every thing. I promise I’ll get to the more hopeful part of all of this in the next few days 🙂

    there is a bunch to eat for dinner 😉

  4. April

    Nuc and I have been eating vegan for about 2 weeks now and I have to agree, it is completely amazing how much it has decreased my desire to eat sugar. Almost instantly, like after one day, there was a noticeable difference.

    For me I’m not so sure it was a chemical thing as much a mental block thing, but, regardless, it has been really nice.

    PS You can blame Pam Hamlin for the vegan thing.

  5. Kathryn

    This was a great post! I think one of the best side effects of going vegan is that you let go of so many preconceived notions about what you “have to” eat and what is “good” for you. It’s empowering to be able to listen to your body and what it’s craving without having that information clogged by conventional wisdom and marketing strategies.

    Once you let go, there’s much more room for openness and trying new things. It starts with food, but it quickly extends to the rest of your life.

    One tip I do have for people that crave sugar a lot is that sometimes it is an indication of dehydration. I think this is because evolutionarily fruits have very high water content and also sugar, but if you’re craving tons of sugar, make sure you’re drinking enough water and try drinking water before you reach for sweets. Give it 20 minutes and see. Of course, sometimes Swedish Fish will NOT wait for a glass of water 🙂 but see if that helps too.

    Love this blog!

  6. denny

    Fantastic post! Wonderful, honest conversation and really helpful tips. You rock!

    I hope you are completely over your addictions by now and wish you a wonderful and healthy vegan life

Nat
I went on a plant based diet after diabetes almost took my life. Now, almost 2 years later not only have I reduced my type 2 diabetes symptoms, I have lost close to 200 pounds (and still losing). This is a place where I write about my journey as I continue the quest for health, and living a good life for today, and long into the future. Get hold of me on nat@cleanseplan.com

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