With my wedding day quickly approaching, I was determined to lose 40 pounds; I had given myself 9 months to accomplish this goal. Time passed without any changes showing on the bathroom scale. I did not know why, but my cravings for fast food had overpowered my desire to be fit and trim on my wedding day! That was the moment I realized the seriousness of my food cravings and their ever-growing intensity.
Food addiction can be a tricky topic to discuss. People often interchange food addiction and emotional eating in most discussions; they are not the same, although they aren’t that far off. Those strong food cravings, the ones that always seem to kill a diet before it can show results, is where the difference between emotional eating and food addiction lies.
When talking about a food craving, we are talking about a purely physical phenomenon. Think about this for a moment: Do you ever crave crisp, raw vegetables during a moment of emotional or mental distress? I didn’t think so; neither do I. There is a reason why food cravings generally are for foods that are concentrated in fat and sugar, and that reason is opioids.
Opioids are chemicals that cause a mild euphoria when they bind to certain receptors in the brain that activate feelings of pleasure. It is sugary and fatty foods that cause these chemicals to be released into the blood stream.
As many of us have experienced, our brains and bodies are being introduced to these foods which cause the release of opioids at a very young age. The longer we eat these foods, the more the brain and body begins to depend on them for normal function. It is during this time that our brains start to signal for these foods during times of “need”.
Kay Sheppard, author of “Food Addiction: The Body Knows”, describes what she calls an “addictive response”. Identified need — decision — eat addict food.
Think of the identified need as the trigger of a food craving. When a food craving rears its ugly head, take a few steps back and identify the true root of that craving. Are you angry, sad, lacking physical intimacy, are you simply thirsty? Mentally note that eating the food you are craving isn’t going to satisfy the problem, in fact, it will only compound the problem in the long run.