I recently had a huge shift in awareness. The kind that makes you wonder how you could possibly have missed it for so many years. It has to do with food addictions. My own, in fact, that I didn’t even realize I had.
I have been aware of the topic of food addictions and have even blogged about it before (Food Attachments and Addictions, August 4, 2011). Yet, I suppose I minimized it in my own head. Yes, I love cookies, and simply cannot stop at one or two, but I only ate them about once or twice a week, so I didn’t think I was truly addicted to them. That word seemed a bit over the top – something that described other people.
However, my great friend Emily Boller, who lost 100+ pounds on Dr. Fuhrman’s Eat to Live diet, recently challenged me about my sugar eating. I got to thinking about what she said, and was inspired to do some research, where I came across this little quiz. (Note: I’ve truncated this quiz, and you can substitute “cookies/sweets” with “chips/salt” or whatever food you can’t seem to say no to):
You Might be Addicted to Cookies/Sweets If:
1. You believe you can “control” how many cookies you ingest, yet most times are unsuccessful.
2. You regularly have the thought that it is OK to eat sweets when ______ (blank) occurs. (For me this was Date Night, birthdays, a weekend, I’m at my favorite vegan restaurant, my husband brings them home as a treat, etc.)
3. You make excuses for eating sweets, blaming it on people, places and things. (“Oh, it’s only licorice – it’s fat free!”)
4. You start to become jealous of people around you who can eat sweets in a controlled manner.
5. You expect a reward for staying away from sweets.
6. You blame other people for all the sweets you eat. (“My mother shouldn’t have let me eat all those sugary cereals growing up.”)
7. You hang out with other people who constantly eat sweets (thus making it seem okay for you to eat them as well.)
8. You begin to have an “I don’t care attitude” about all the sweets you eat, even though you know they aren’t good for you.
9. You deny it’s really a problem. (“Compared to most people, I’m a health nut! I don’t really eat that many cookies and sweets…”)
When I answered these questions, I had this utter and profound realization: This is me!!!!! If this quiz helps define a sugar addict, then I am certainly an addict! What was most shocking though, is that this little quiz didn’t come from someone’s personal blog or unverifiable source … it came from a very credible drug and alcohol website; yes indeed, everywhere you see the word “cookies/sweets” in the quiz above, it originally said “drugs/alcohol.”
Eckhart Tolle says that often times simply gaining knowledge about something will create the change you’ve been seeking. That’s exactly what happened to me; just the knowledge that I was truly addicted to sweets caused this profound shift in my habits. The day I read that quiz, I quit eating all refined sugars. I suppose I was so disgusted that cookies and sweets literally had that kind of a hold on me that I wanted nothing to do with them any more. For some reason, it seems more legitimate that cocaine could hold someone in the grips of addiction, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to let it be sugar. Interestingly, about 1 in 100,000 people will die from cocaine addiction, but 70,000 in 100,000 will die from some diet-related disease, like heart disease, cancer, stroke or diabetes. So food addictions are clearly not an uncommon problem.
Interestingly, in David Kessler’s book, The End of Overeating, he says very clearly that salt, sugar, and fat – most especially when combined together – are very addictive. I read that years ago and I always quote it in my lectures, but I guess I never realized that he was talking to me. Now I know.
When I look back at my childhood, I can’t remember ever not scarfing down sugar at every chance I got. It started with gummy bears, then moved to Ding Dongs and Ho Hos, Pixie Sticks and ice cream. Every morning I had Fruit Loops or Cocoa Pebbles or Lucky Charms. As I grew up and became health conscious, I dropped those things for frozen yogurt (yay – a healthy treat - ha!!) and licorice (fat free!!) and eventually dropped that for my vegan treats – mainly vegan cookies and vegan ice cream. They may not have any animal products in them, but they are packed full of refined sugars.
With this new discovery about the addictive qualities of food, I am reminded about all the lectures I have heard great speakers like Joel Fuhrman, MD, Michael Klapper, MD and Neal Barnard, MD give: No one ever became addicted to broccoli, cantaloupe, black beans or brown rice. These are nature’s foods, designed to nourish us and keep us healthy – not toss us in the physical and emotional throes of an addiction.
If you think you may be addicted to salt, sugar and/or fat, perhaps today is the day you will commit to setting yourself free.