Addiction to Processed Foods

Last night I binged on collard greens.  The night before was raw almonds…

How often do you hear people craving whole foods? (and yes, I know there are whole food junkies out there- I appreciate you).  Sadly, I can say this is not the case for me.  I just can’t resist donuts, chocolate, Ruffles Barbecue Chips, Pringle’s Barbecue Chips, let’s just say any kind of barbecue.  But why do I have these cravings?Why is it so easy to devour a whole bag of chips?

Its not just you.  Or a lack of self control.  Scientists are beginning to examine this mystery of overeating.  David Kessler, former head of the US Food and Drug Administration, literally dove into dumpsters to understand food and the power it has over our lives.  In his own personal life, he wanted to understand why certain foods were so hard for him to resist.

After seven years of research, meetings with physicians and scientists, and food industry insiders, David wrote the book “The End of Overeating.”  Kessler claims food manufacturing enables overeating.  Foods are created to be high in fat, salt and sugar: which alters the brain’s chemistry to encourage over indulgence.

Cover of

Cover via Amazon

“Much of the scientific research around overeating has been physiology — what’s going on in our body,” he said. “The real question is what’s going on in our brain.  “Highly palatable” foods — those containing fat, sugar and salt — stimulate the brain to release dopamine, the neurotransmitter associated with the pleasure center, he found. In time, the brain gets wired so that dopamine pathways light up at the mere suggestion of the food, such as driving past a fast-food restaurant, and the urge to eat the food grows insistent. Once the food is eaten, the brain releases opioids, which bring emotional relief. Together, dopamine and opioids create a pathway that can activate every time a person is reminded about the particular food. This happens regardless of whether the person is hungry.”  If you unaware, these dopamine and opiods play a large role in drug and alcohol addiction.

I do not claim to be a food expert. Or a health expert. I can really say with full confidence that I am completely ignorant of the reality that food has on my body, the environment, and future generation’s health.  I can’t spell out all the processes that happen when I eat processed foods, but what I do know is this:

  1. Whole foods do not endorse food addictions.  When we eat the way nature intended, there is no manipulation of the brain and chemicals.  Our body naturally does the right thing.
  2. If a company is spending thousands of dollars researching what synthetic items to put in my food to make me eat more, they probably don’t have the best in mind for me and my family.  It is about money to them, not my overall health.
  3. If I can’t pronounce the ingredients, there is something wrong.
I know that eliminating processed foods is a challenge.  And the change won’t be overnight.  It has been my way of life, and culture is run by it. Processed food is cheap, readily available, and popular.  There is this inward struggle of, “I know that I want to eat right (not as a diet, not as a trend, but a conscious life choice) BUT I just really love my pizza, ice cream, crackers….I have been fine my whole life eating these things…”
The biggest argument in my mind however, is what it all comes back to- money.  Does a low income family of five really stand a chance in eliminating processed food?  Can we really afford to be a whole food family?  Beggars can’t be choosers right?  I beg to differ.
“The challenge is how do we explain to America what’s going on — how do we break through and help people understand how their brains have been captured?” Kessler said.
So what can we do to fight the addiction of processed foods:
  • Educate yourself
  • Change the way you view food.  Instead of looking at that jelly filled donut as pure bliss, see it in its true light.  If you stop coveting this special treat in your mind, then your brain can not “activate” these rewards centers, and it must adapt.
  • Full disclosure of what is in your food.  If we know that the same synthetic chemical used in silly putty is injected in your chicken McNugget, won’t you less likely feed this to yourself or your family?
  • Change the way you see advertising.  Is it really normal/cool to eat this way? Change your view of what is desirable.

    And this is what is desirable?

  • Americans spend 90% of their income on processed foods.  Take responsibility, even if it means one less processed meal for your family for a night of whole foods.  It is worth it.

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2 thoughts on “Addiction to Processed Foods

  1. Pingback: How To Break a Junk Food Addiction

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