Discover the truth about food addiction

Nina Ross
Certified Naturopathic Doctor
November 10, 2023

Are you constantly craving chips, cookies, and other junk food? Do you find yourself reaching for a snack even when you're not hungry? If so, you're not alone. The truth is, most of us are probably addicted to food, even if we don't realize it.

Why is that? Well, it turns out that the standard American diet is designed to make us crave the foods we eat. And no, it's not just because we have weak willpower. There are a number of factors at play that make it nearly impossible to resist the temptation of delicious, unhealthy foods.

First of all, let's talk about sugar. The average American consumes a staggering 22 teaspoons of added sugars per day, which is more than twice the recommended amount (1). And it's not just in the obvious places, like soda and dessert. Sugar is sneakily added to all kinds of foods, from bread and pasta sauce to peanut butter and yogurt.

But why do we crave sugar so much? It turns out that sugar activates the reward centers in our brains in much the same way that drugs do, leading to a feeling of pleasure and a desire for more (2). And the more sugar we eat, the more we crave it. It's a vicious cycle that's difficult to break.

Sugar isn't the only culprit when it comes to food addiction. Processed foods are often loaded with artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives that make them taste irresistible. These additives can trigger the same pleasure centers in the brain as drugs, leading to cravings and a desire for more (3).

But it's not just the ingredients in the foods we eat that make us crave them. The way they're marketed and presented can also play a role. Fast food restaurants and snack food companies spend billions of dollars each year on advertising and marketing campaigns that are specifically designed to make their products as appealing as possible (4). And let's not forget about the power of scent. The smell of freshly baked cookies or the sizzle of a hamburger on the grill can be almost impossible to resist.

So, what can we do to break the cycle of food addiction? The first step is to become more aware of the foods we're eating and the ingredients they contain. This means reading labels and choosing whole, unprocessed foods as much as possible. It also means being mindful of the marketing tactics used by food companies and not falling for the lure of catchy slogans and tempting images.

Another helpful strategy is to find healthier ways to satisfy cravings. For example, if you're craving something sweet, try eating a piece of fruit or a handful of nuts instead of reaching for a cookie. And if you're craving something salty, try snacking on a piece of cheese or a hard-boiled egg instead of chips.

It's also important to pay attention to our hunger and fullness cues. Eating when we're truly hungry and stopping when we're satisfied can help us break the habit of mindless snacking. And last but not least, it can be helpful to find support from friends, family, or a healthcare professional to help us stay on track.

In conclusion, the standard American diet is designed to make us crave the foods we eat, leading to food addiction. But by becoming more aware of the ingredients in the foods we eat, finding healthier ways to satisfy cravings, and paying attention to our hunger and fullness cues, we can break the cycle and make healthier choices.

Nina Ross
Certified Naturopathic Doctor

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