How to break free from addictive foods

Addicting foods have nearly ruined our health.

Thankfully, they haven’t done us in yet. But unless we do something, we’re on our way to ruin.

It amazes me how food manufacturers and advertisers have managed to blind most Americans are when it comes to their food choices.

Our trillion dollar processed food industry has done this by successfully placing more than 60,000 products on our grocery store shelves, many of which contain addictive flavors that mimic flavors we naturally crave.

In my previous article I explained how your brain’s dopamine (pleasure, euphoria) and serotonin (relieves depression) surge when you consume foods high in sugar or fat. Today I want to show you the other factors behind addicting foods, why it is so easy to get hooked, and give you strategies to gain your power back and break the addiction.

They want to hook you

In his 2013 book [1] Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us, Michael Moss interviews leaders of the largest processed food companies such as Pillsbury, General Mills, Kraft and PepsiCo.

In repeated jaw-dropping confessions they admit that their top goal is to maximize sales and profits, while deliberately stuffing their products with dangerous levels of high salt, sugar, or fat designed for maximize addictiveness. The bitter truth is, they are slowly poisoning the trusting general public.

These products entice us with their deceptive health claims and their low prices. When you see their TV commercials, hopefully this letter will help you to be smart enough to realize the truth behind their attractive, yet insidious commercials.

If it says low fat, expect it to be high in sugar or artificial sweeteners.

If it’s low calorie, expect there to be plenty of salt, trans-fats, and chemical additives

These junk foods are super-charged with flavor but not with nutrition. They were designed to hook you, not feed you any micronutrients.

Don’t be weak-minded when you grocery shop. You MUST recognize and resist processed food marketing every time you walk through the center aisles of your grocery store, or stay away from those center aisles altogether!

The proof is in the chocolate pudding

Increased research since 1994 has provided the Food Addiction Institute [2] with more than 2,733 peer-reviewed articles plus many books on the subject. Let me share some highlights you deserve to know about:

  • The most addictive foods are sugar, fat, flour, wheat, salt, artificial sweeteners, caffeine and volume (eating lots of food of any kind)
  • More than a hundred peer reviewed articles showed that humans produce opioids (natural narcotics like heroin and morphine) from the digestion of excess sugars and fats
  • Bingeing on sugar produces the same dopamine gene marker that distinguishes alcoholism and other drug addictions (in people who do not drink alcohol or use drugs)
  • Intense sweetness (including artificial sweeteners, not just refined sugar) actually surpasses cocaine as a reward in laboratory animals
  • Eating fat correlates with brain nerve pathways that further stimulate the desire to consume more fat
  • Those with allergy to gluten (in wheat) do not feel full compared to normal subjects. (Do you have wheat sensitivity but don’t realize it?)

Are addictive foods as dangerous as addictive street/prescription drugs? You would think not. But remember that not only are junk foods socially completely acceptable, they are openly advertised and ever present in stores and in homes across America. Plus, their ill effects are subtle and occur not within days, weeks, or months, but over years.

Since these foods are ultimately the largest contributor to the $2 trillion health care (medical) industry, from a financial perspective junk foods are more dangerous to our society than addictive street/prescription drugs.

One radio host recently commented that while you can go “cold turkey” off addictive drugs like cocaine and heroin, you cannot do the same with foods.

This is wrong!

You can and I encourage you to do so via a liquid cleanse, juice feast, and then mostly raw whole food consumption!

How to master food addiction

How do you know if you have an addiction to junk foods? Take a look at your health and consider how much and how often you eat processed foods high in sugar, fat or salt.

For years I have been unable to eliminate that one food I’ve suspected contributes greatly to my face rash (rosacea), seborrheic dermatitis (dandruff), and low back pain: bread and wheat-based foods. Seems whenever I would open the fridge or cupboard, there it would be calling me: breads, crackers, cookies, cold cereals, and pastas. Seems I simply could not live without these.

However, I recently just decided that even the occasional bit of “bread” was no good, and I would follow my own advice to a tee. For the past 4 weeks I let my existing bread get moldy and simply stopped buying more. I do eat oatmeal or buckwheat cereal or make smoothies for breakfast. But instead of sandwiches with bread for lunch, I eat meat with cheese, nuts, and fruit. My dinners include croutons in my salad, but no large breads as before.

How do you think I feel? Incredibly, I get just as satisfied from meals, but now have notably less bloating, gas and post-meal fatigue. My face rash has dramatically improved. My low back feels great.

I have to now admit that I’ve been addicted to bread for years…and suffered health effects from it. I now look at bread with no hard feelings, but without craving for it at all. This power over bread occurred one slowly but surely, one week at a time.

Volumes have been written on the psychology and strategies to break free from unhealthy food addiction. Let me boil it down to the main concepts as I see it:

  • In order to shift your established brain chemistry of junk food addiction (that’s not just candy, but all processed wheat, and foods with added salt, sugar, and fat), you must to do the following for 4 weeks: eliminate those addictive foods and replace them with a diet of fresh fruits (smoothies if you like) and vegetables (salads, cooked veggies), protein foods (meats and/or nuts and avocados, with olive oil), and specifically consume no food additives.
  • Decide if you truly love yourself enough to begin a journey of healing from unhealthy food addiction. In coaching individuals over the years, shame, guilt, despair and feeling unloved are co-contributors to feeling weak when choosing oral pleasure foods over fulfilling healthy foods. Seek medical help if needed.
  • Make exercise part of your healing process. Have healthy foods prepared for afterwards so that when you feel weak and hungry your choices become easy.
  • Build in social support from family and close friends who can prevent you from purchasing, preparing, and consuming your junk foods of choice. Simply find creative replacements for these and stick to it for 4 weeks. Then you will see from a completely new perspective when you are free from the addiction.

To craving healthy whole foods,
Michael Cutler, M.D.
Easy Health Options  

[1] Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us, by Michael Moss, Random House 2014.
[2] http://foodaddictioninstitute.org/scientific-research/

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Dr. Michael Cutler

By Dr. Michael Cutler

Dr. Michael Cutler is a graduate of Tulane University School of Medicine and is a board-certified family physician with more than 20 years of experience. He serves as a medical liaison to alternative and traditional practicing physicians. His practice focuses on an integrative solution to health problems. Dr. Cutler is a sought-after speaker and lecturer on experiencing optimum health through natural medicines and founder of the original Easy Health Options™ newsletter — an advisory on natural healing therapies and nutrients. His current practice is San Diego Integrative Medicine, near San Diego, California.