Is your food a drug? In the psychological realm, it is established that food can be used to numb difficult emotions much like alcohol, but scant is said about food actually being biologically addictive. Dr. Susan Pierce Thompson explains how chewing on a coca leaf will do very little to get you "high”, but when the essence of the leaf is extracted, refined and concentrated to make cocaine, it becomes highly physically addictive. This is the same with heroin. So, why would it be any different with food? Refined foods go through this similar type processing. High fructose corn syrup is a highly processed and concentrated essence of corn. It’s the same with sugar via sugar beets or cane.
One of my first assignments, when I began my MS program, was to deconstruct a food product that was marketed as “healthy”, but was not actually healthy by evidence-based standards. I chose a frozen entree from the Healthy Choice line of products. It has Healthy in the name! It has to be, right? Not so fast. What I found was a plethora of processed food additives and ingredients with a research-backed detail of deleterious effect on human biology. If you would like to read the article, you may access it here. It is quite illuminating if you have never researched processed food ingredients. A food product can say it is Paleo, Gluten-free and yes, even Organic and still have a ton of suspect ingredients that are bad for you in it. This is why many a Nutritionist adopts the “just eat real food” mantra.
Another area I researched was the actual food companies. I wanted an answer to this question; “If people know that processed food is bad for them, why do they keep eating it?” I understand that advertising and personal denial can be powerful, but Americans are not swayed so completely and collectively with anything else like the way we are with packaged foods. I came upon an article in the New York Times that detailed a 1999 meeting at Pillsbury headquarters in Minneapolis. A chemist who had worked for the company since 1979 had become increasingly disturbed by the growing population of obese children and the overall state of health in the country. The meeting was an attempt to try to convince the company to modify its practice of purposefully creating addictive foods to which the company heads denied and refused. The chemist and other company whistle blowers detailed to the press that this had been the primary M.O. of all the major food companies for at least the last three decades; to create addicts out of all of us.
So, are we all just a bunch of food addicts? At varying levels, mostly yes. Unless you are eating a diet that is completely organic, plucked from the earth fresh, yes. Herein lies the answer to why most diets fail. Often a diet will either restrict a food while you are on the diet or allow small portions or rewards of the not so great foods. Does it make sense to quit smoking and then start smoking again after you have quit? Does it make sense to have one cigarette every once in a while after you have quit? No, you are still addicted to cigarettes. If there are certain foods that you know you can’t control your intake of, it is best to eliminate them completely. And just like with any addictive substance, you will eventually not physically crave it anymore.
Let’s take this a level deeper. Is it the food that you really want or are you hungry for something more? In the world of spirituality, there is something often spoken of called “alignment”. It is essentially a state of being where you feel completely connected with yourself; feeling joyful, unconditionally loving, abundant and purposeful as you move through the world. It has also been referred to as being “in the zone” or “flow”. There is a theory that the further you are away from your own alignment, the less happy and satisfied with your life you will be. Symptoms of this dissatisfaction can express as patterns of overeating, drinking too much, workaholism, toxic relationship patterns, and many other forms of addiction and self-abuse. Addicts lack clarity. How does this perpetual brain fog of the masses benefit multinational food companies? Well, how does it benefit a drug dealer? Addicts keep coming back for more. The drug satisfies and clouds their judgment. Rinse and repeat.
I know this might seem like a harsh comparison, but can you see how it could be true? Why do our kids turn into fiends at the thought of drinking a soda or playing a video game on an iPad? So, if the theory holds that the less aligned we are, the more prone to addiction we are, how do we start to become more aligned? The first biggest key is to work on not letting ourselves get physically or emotionally hungry. To do this, we need a plan. The basic concept is to: 1.Clear 2. Strategize 3. Habituate. Clearing toxic influences, planning for intentional choices and making it all stick.
Clear the toxic influences from your life. Begin to eliminate processed foods. Examine what relationships are serving your highest good. Throw out toxic cleaning products and replace with non-toxic alternatives. Utilize a decluttering guide such as Marie Kondo's The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.
Strategize ways to automate continued clarity in your life. Start a habit of writing down 3 things you are grateful for every morning or some other self-designed gratitude practice. Plan your meals the night before or on the weekends so that you are not caught in a situation where you are trying to decide what to eat at the end of the day when you are tired and depleted. Begin with a daily 10-minute meditation and build it up slowly.
Habituate these processes and modify when necessary. Make your new strategy a daily practice until you start to feel like you need to tweak based on a new sense of alignment or some other change that limits the effectiveness of the new habit. For example, if you were prepping your food for the week on Sundays and you start having to work on Sundays, pick another day or do it in the evening.
Once you get on the other side of ingrained poor food choices and negative thought patterns, I can guarantee that your life will look and feel very different. It is so easy to make excuses for our addictions, and breaking them is no doubt hard work, but it is so much more fulfilling to live in food freedom and personal joy than it ever will be to stay chained to bad habits. If you would like to explore a path to ending food and emotional addictions as well as creating more flow in your life, consider joining my Clear + Lean 8 Week Weight Loss Challenge. We will dive into the food-mood connection and learn about all of the amazing supportive ways we can align ourselves to a higher level of living. The Challenge starts January 24, and I am offering a special deal for the first 10 people who sign up for the Deluxe package: 50% OFF!! Learn more and register by clicking here.
If you prefer to have a more individual and customized plan to resolve your major health concerns, I am also offering 25% off Initial Consults for all new clients who book by the end of January. Call or email me to set up a FREE 10-minute discovery phone call to learn more! Click here for contact info!
Also, stay tuned for Part II of this article, coming next week!
In health and healing,