a well-trained body goes a long way towards helping a slightly
off-kilter mind. For example, if I were to force down that
aforementioned slice of Sara Lee® heaven, I'd get physically
sick. After years of clean eating, my digestive system has lost its
ability to handle the toxic effects of a sugar hit like that, not to
mention the preservatives and additives. Thanks in part to these
newfound "limitations," today I can walk away from the cake or limit
myself to one or two bites—but that's taken years of training.
safe to say that junk food addiction is a very real thing. The first
place to look for proof is the ever-mounting pile of scientific
evidence, including a recent study out of Sweden showing that the
hormone ghrelin, which activates the brain's reward system and increases
appetite, reacts similarly to sugar and alcohol.
Why we're hooked on garbage
Then there are the increasingly decadent foods we have 24-hour access to. In his book The End of Overeating,
Dr. David Kessler theorizes that manufacturers have, over the years,
engineered the balance of fat, sugar, and salt in junk food to the point
of making it irresistible. He refers to our gluttonous response to this
crackified food as "conditioned hypereating."
Most of this
current thinking revolves around physiological factors, such as the fact
our brains are hardwired to seek out highly caloric foods as a "feast
or famine" instinct left over from caveman days. Unfortunately, human
beings are slightly more complex than our primitive ancestors. By
adulthood, most of us are a hodgepodge of neuroses and psychoses for
whom a Twinkie has become a security blanket, so this urge to splurge
will never completely vanish. Sure, you can retrain your body to crave
healthy food, but your psyche may never stop seeking validation, Hostess® style.
How to keep that addiction under control
it wasn't easy. If you're going to break a sugar habit, it's going to
take time, patience, and willpower. But take it from a guy who used to
work his way through an entire box of Cap'n Crunch® for breakfast: If I can do it, so can you. Here's where to start.
You might be one of those lucky souls who just decided to walk away
from the candy counter and never looked back. Good for you. I'm not one
of those people. Eating right is much easier than it was 20 years ago,
but it's still a process. That said, the rewards are innumerable, so why
don't you set down the pudding pop, grab a peach, and join me?
- Clean all the junk food out of your home. Think
of the stereotypical image of the woman getting dumped by her boyfriend
and climbing into bed with a tub of Ben & Jerry's®. If
that tub wasn't in the freezer to begin with, odds are that our
protagonist would have instead settled for a soak in the tub.
There's also "unconscious eating" to worry about—when you just grab a
bag of fried carbs while you're sitting in front of the tube and stuff
your face for no reason. If you don't have access to the junk, the only
bag you'll be able to grab for will be filled with baby carrots. If
someone brings some junk over for a dinner party, enjoy it with them and
dump the rest when they leave.
- Make 80% clean. Relax with that other 20%. Just
because your kitchen cupboard no longer looks like a movie theater
concession stand doesn't mean you can't live it up sometimes. If most of
your diet is super tight, you're doing great, so cut yourself some
slack. When I made my first big push to clean up my diet, Friday was
Cookie Day. I ate like a saint 6 days a week, but every Friday I had a
giant chocolate chip cookie and a latte.
Knowing I had Cookie Day to look forward to made all the celery on the other days much more palatable.
- Make a comforting ritual out of eating healthy. The
fact that Cookie Day was a ritual was also quite helpful. Unhealthy
eating is often ritualistic—something comfortable and constant that you
can depend on. Not only can you have your own Cookie Day—a conscious,
controlled, weekly moment of indulgence—but you can replace unhealthy
rituals with healthy ones.
For example, I used to drink at
least two servings of alcohol a night. I'd have wine or beer with dinner
and then another one when I was sitting around reading or watching TV.
When I realized that second drink wasn't doing me any favors, I replaced
it with a cup of herbal tea. The 21-days-to-form-a-habit thing has no
scientific backing, but eventually a behavior pattern will set in. In my
case, after three weeks I stopped missing that second beer. Then, after
a few more weeks I really started craving the calming, peaceful feeling
my cup o' chamomile gave me. Now it's a nightly ritual.
- Discover new, yummy fruits and veggies. There's
a lot of weird, healthy food out there. Sometimes, we avoid fresh
produce because either we're either bored of the same old oranges or
there's a stigma associated with particular produce. Dad just forced you
to eat asparagus one too many times. If this is a problem for you, buy
fruits and veggies you don't recognize. If you don't know how to prepare
it, do an internet search for "(produce name) + recipe." You might
stumble on a new flavor that completely blows your mind.
me, that magic fruit was the cherimoya, or "custard apple." They're
green and scaly on the outside, thick, white, and creamy on the inside,
with a rich taste as sweet and satisfying as the richest sorbet. My
mouth is watering just writing about them.
- Carry healthy foods with you at all times. If you carry a purse or a
backpack, throw an apple or some raw nuts in there. In this Fast Food
Nation, it's pretty easy to find yourself in situations where you're
hungry and, shucks, you just have no choice but to buy a donut because
that's the only thing you have access to.
You don't have that excuse if there's a snack in your pack. Here are a few to consider:
- Fresh fruit (Apples and oranges travel well!)
- Dried fruit (It all travels well!)
- Raw nuts
- Whole-grain crackers
- A Shakeology® packet
- Binge on healthy foods. I'm
probably the only person who will ever give you this advice since it's a
wee bit questionable. Every once in the while, something emotional
triggers me and I need to eat junk. Someday I might completely conquer
this urge, but not yet. When I feel this happening, I hit the fridge and
"pre-binge" on healthy foods, mainly raw veggies. Sooner or later, the
ice cream or chips come out, but by that point, I'm so full of broccoli
or spinach that I'm not physically capable of doing too much damage.
Dysfunctional? Maybe, but a vast improvement over the alternative.
Labels: Beachbody, food addiction