Food Addiction

- POSTED ON: Apr 03, 2011

Some people believe that food addiction is more a matter of psychology than of physiology. I find the question interesting.  Are those cravings for sweets and starches REALLY a problem of the mind, or are they problems of the body?

I, myself, have spent a lifetime considering this issue a psychological one.

My personal experience with this involves about 20 years of Therapy while working to overcome that problem, no avail.

With professional help, I've dug into my psyche on the "whys"; I've taught myself most of the "hows" fact... I've learned and incorporated most all of the various recommended Behavior Modifications.  Numerous "mindful" eating behaviors have become Habits for me.

For many, many years, my pattern has been not to label foods "good" or "bad", but to allow myself to have a little of anything I want, including the occasional sugar-laden dessert.

Those techniques have helped me RESIST the cravings, but they have NOT REDUCED or ELIMINATED the cravings. There are quite a few “Experts” who feel that the term "addiction" is not helpful, when talking about food, and they tend to avoid using it for various reasons.

At this particular moment, I have finally reached the point where I am willing to seriously consider the possibility that these cravings may have a strong physical element,rather than being merely psychological.

I've begun to think that new way, due to my exposure to Good Calories Bad Calories (2007) by Gary Taubes, and his recently released book, Why We Get Fat and What to Do About It (2011) which is now featured for discussion here on BOOKTALK.

Perhaps many of us DO have a physical intolerance for certain food substances....  Perhaps the physical tolerance for them varies between individual, just like some people have bodies that are allergic to peanuts... and to varying degrees...., maybe there is something to the Theory about Insulin and Carbohydrates too. 
  I don't know.  

I DO know that psychological treatment won't resolve a physical problem. All the therapy in the world won't let those who have a severe peanut allergy, eat peanuts without side-effects.

This year I began a personal experiment to see what a lengthy Low-Carb commitment will do in my body. I am especially interested to see whether or not a total elimination of sugar and refined grains, and a serious restriction of whole grains, starchy vegetables, and fruit will eliminate or greatly reduce these cravings in my own body. This is a day-by-day experiment...which is being carried out with planned pauses ....and at this point....I don't even know how long I'll be able to stick with that Experiment-of-One

Each of us does the best we can with our own experiences. The same things don't work for everyone.

In my own body, it makes no difference whether it is white sugar, or "natural" sweeteners. MY body treats them all the same way. I am learning that...right now... this seems to be true for me
even with regards to many starches.

In fact, recently I learned that a few weeks of extremely-low-carb eating does reduce my cravings for sugars and starches, however, within 24 hours after having half a cup of Lentils ...(complex natural carbs)... for lunch, all of my sugar cravings returned. And....I've carefully examined my surrounding circumstances...mental state....etc,  and feel fairly certain that this instance was not due to a psychological issues. So…that leads me to believe that there must be some type of physical element involved.

Life goes on.
We all do what we can.
I'm now living as a normal weight person, and I'm willing to keep doing whatever it takes to make that a long-term status.

Leave me a comment.

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Existing Comments:

On Apr 03, 2011 Karen925 wrote:
When I think about a food I want, I never think of a ribeye steak with blue cheese dressing. I do not crave brocolli covered in cheese. I want something high carb- a full bodied dark beer (my German/Irish heritage), a full bodied dessert, 700 cal Sonic Blizzard. I eat all of these things (not at the same time) and afterwards I go vlcc 24-72 hours, depending on my hormonal cycle. DH noticed I craved a Tiny Turtle Sundae certains times of the month long before I did. Right now, I am hoping to keep the sweets while rarely eating grains (an occasional fresh tortilla with butter) or starches (subbing out potatoes & rice with veggies. A light coating of batter on onion rings, would be other time. It does seem to keep my cravings down long with the calories. Rare is the piece of bread and such. So far this seems to work for me. However, this time around with maintenance, there will be no intuitive eating, thinking I am cured or any other form of denial. If I get fat again, it will be a conscious choice to do so. At least this way, I would be honest with myself.

On Apr 03, 2011 Dr. Collins wrote:
             Karen, I believe that each of us must find our own way both to weight-loss and maintenance. Some foods that are easy for me to avoid, are foods that are difficult for others to resist. My own personal way of success has been to reduce the overall amounts of everything I eat, and while I greatly limit certain foods, and choose to seldom eat some foods, nothing is forbidden to me or off limits forever. I do crave certain foods at times, but there are also times that I crave things that are NOT food. I see my task personal task is to provide a reasonable discipline for myself in all things as much as possible.

On Apr 04, 2011 TexArk wrote:
I am also in the process of analyzing how individual foods affect my cravings. I know for sure that I must abstain from sugar and bread. My comments on the appetite/hunger post elaborate more on this.

On Apr 04, 2011 Dr. Collins wrote:
             Hi TexArk, Sugar seems to be the most difficult food to handle for everyone, with bread coming in a close second. My personal belief is that each of us needs to figure out for ourselves, which foods to incorporate into our lives, and which foods we might need to limit or restrict. Congratulations on your current success.

On Jan 28, 2017 Carolyn wrote:
I agree. I was in psychotherapy weekly for 2 years, primarily to deal with the guilt and shame of being overweight. I was also looking for some support around food choices and diets. At the end of the two years, I was still overweight. My therapist's focus during the latter part of our work was to help me "accept" my high body weight. I rejected that path. I can accept myself as an accomplished woman with a successful career and loving friends, but for the sake of my health, I could not stay on the path of remaining overweight and accepting it as "normal" for me.

On Jan 28, 2017 Dr. Collins wrote:
             Hi Carolyn. I wrote the above article almost 5 years ago, and my experiences since that time haven't changed my opinions about what I wrote here. During that past 5 years I've done quite a lot of experiments with various low-carb diets and various intermittent fasting diets, and at this point, I firmly believe that my overeating problem is a MIXTURE of psychological and physical. Dealing with this problem... for ME.. involves understanding and accepting both of these issues, and handling them in a way that meets my own personal mental and physical needs. I am still convinced that it is NOT a one-size-fits-all world, and that what works for ME may not work for OTHERS. Each of us is an individual, and I believe that each of us has to work out his/her own way of eating and thinking about these body issues.

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