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If you have an unhealthy food addiction, you’re not alone. Food addiction is a gripping disorder affecting many Americans. Considering the culture of cheap, easy, fast food in the US, it’s nothing to be ashamed of nowadays. The good news is that the addiction can be overcome by first admitting it’s powerful control and then making changes.
Effects of Unhealthy Foods
Unhealthy food addiction can lead to overeating, binge eating, bulimia (induced vomiting), mental disturbances, anorexia and obesity. In the US, one-third of all adults can be classified as “obese,” or excessively overweight. They are unable to free themselves from the pull of unhealthy foods, being hooked on processed foods, fast foods, sugar and fat.
The addiction to these unhealthy foods is as real as drug addiction. After all, sugary and fatty foods send signals to the brain to release dopamine and serotonin. These are chemicals in the body that help humans experience feelings like pleasure, calmness and well-being. But, over time, excessive amounts of sugar and fat dull the brain’s sensors. Eventually, the person becomes overly tolerant of extreme amounts of unhealthy food. The consequence? The person requires higher levels of sugar and fat to feel the same way, to experience the food-induced sensation of happiness and calmness. This allows the unhealthy eater to essentially overdose on unhealthy food, again and again, searching for that “high.”
How to Kick the Unhealthy Food Addiction
Well, first the addict needs to become aware of the effect that the US culture is having on them and on a daily basis. Americans are bombarded with images of tempting and unhealthy foods on television, in magazines, on the Internet, and on billboards, just to name a few. The food industry continually tempts consumers with advertisements for fast food and cheap pre-packaged products sticky with high fructose corn syrup, oily with “bad” unhealthy fats, and slippery with processed cheese. All these products appear to be delectable food choices, until one considers their lack of nutritional value, and what affect over-consumption of unhealthy food has on a person.
Highly processed foods tend to cause a sudden spike in blood sugar that results in energy. However, blood sugar then falls just as rapidly, leaving the eater craving more sugar. Energy is delivered quickly, but is followed by extreme tiredness. This tiredness causes the person to reach for more food, hoping for a jolt of energy. And a vicious cycle ensues.
Find Healthy Substitutes
To combat the negative effects of unhealthy food in the diet, it’s important to gradually replace them with healthy foods. Some healthy choices are whole grains, vegetables, rice, legumes, fruits and nuts. These foods are high in fibre, which keeps you full longer. They are also rich in nutrients, which keeps your body healthy. Gradually, the body and brain will adapt and will become sensitive to this new diet, deriving more rewards, such as happiness, calmness and well-being.
The body will become dependent on the healthy foods consumed the same way it did the unhealthy ones. In time, it will take smaller quantities to get the satisfaction needed. Another plus is that blood sugar will stabilize and energy will be consistent throughout the day.
Do Something Different for Different Results
Just like with any other addiction, you have to change your environment and complete way of life. Recognize the activities (or non-activities) that cause you to crave the unhealthy snacks the most. For example, if you know that every time you watch a DVD you must have snacks, find something else to do to stay busy. Keeping yourself busy will help your curb your appetite for unhealthy foods.
Instead of sitting around watching TV while snacking on cookies and chips, do something different. Read a book. Take a walk around your neighbourhood. Go visit friends. Get busy with an intense hobby or project that will keep your mind occupied so you won’t even think about food. In time, you’ll become more and more disciplined to eat full meals, only at mealtime. Then, it’s up to you to make sure it’s a healthy meal.
Make the Choice to Change
It’s important to remember that unhealthy food addiction leads to obesity, decreases health, impairs mobility, shortens life expectancy and negatively impacts self-esteem. The addiction has a powerful control, which becomes more powerful as the disorder is allowed to progress. But, by acknowledging the problem, coming up with a plan and forming new healthy eating habits, the brain will heal. This will, in turn, allow the body to form new additions, to more healthy foods, such as fruits and vegetables.