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Pick your addiction

It’s said that recovering alcoholics and former smokers put their tigers in cages, whereas food addicts take theirs out for walks 3 times a day. One of the quarks of food addiction is that food is a required substance. People often ask how do you cope with being addicted to something you need?

Well, the answer is that food addicts are not addicted to all foods. I’ve never heard of someone being addicted to broccoli. It might taste good roasted with olive oil and tossed with pine nuts and Parmesan cheese, but I’ve never sat on my couch thinking, “Oh my God, I want to binge on broccoli!” And even if I did, it’s broccoli. How much damage can a load of cruciferous vegetables really do? I’m not going to start sprouting green florets out of my head.

Most food addicts have trigger foods which are easy to identify because you usually find yourself plunged face first into them. Some people have weaknesses for salty snacks, but I am mostly undone by sweet foods, especially the crunchy ones. I stopped buying Go Lean! Crunch about a year ago because I could not stop munching on it. The same goes for granola. My other triggers include honey or agave nectar, which I will suck right out of the bottle. Other obvious ones are chocolate, ice cream and most any candy. I love baked goods too, like toasted bagels, donuts, or any kind of cake or bread.

So, if I were really, really serious about overcoming food addiction, I would never eat any of these foods again. This is why I am not really, really serious about overcoming food addiction. No more bagels? Ever? For real? The very thought of never having sweet chocolate again makes me want to weepy salty tears.

Instead, my current strategy is to never bring these foods into my house, or if I do bring only one serving at a time. Boxes of 100-calorie packs do not work for me because I eat the whole box. It may say six servings on the side of the box, but I know I am just buying one serving divided into six packages. If you sit just one cinnamon roll in front of me, I will savor its gooey goodness, but if there aren’t any more to binge on, I’m ok. I’ll eat most of this stuff in restaurants too, though the never-ending bread basket can be dangerous, so I avoid that all together if I can. Sometimes this works, other times I stuff my face with pudding and wonder if the scientists will ever figure out what the hell is wrong with me.

People frequently debate what it’s better to be addicted to: food, alcohol, drugs or cigarettes? It seems a bit silly to debate since it sucks to be addicted to anything. Each one has their ups and downs. While as a food addict I cannot give up food all together, a part of me is pleased that I can still consume that which I have an unholy love for as long as I limit it to scenarios where I’m forced to moderate myself. Alcoholics and smokers have to give it up all together, poor bastards. I often complain about the social pressure there is to eat, especially at offices with lots of cake lying around, but there is social pressure to smoke and drink too. I have a friend who’s mostly quit smoking, but craves cigarettes whenever she goes to a bar because so many people smoke there. I also feel bad alcoholics because if a celebratory event doesn’t involve food, it most likely involves alcohol. I’ve lost track of the number of times coworkers or friends have invited me out drinking. If I were an alcoholic, I’d be tempted to become a homebody, or just hang around sober people. I’m mostly grateful that they invite me to bars and not cupcakeries, because then I’d be well and truly screwed.

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68 Comments

debby • January 12, 2009 at 10:19 am

What a good point! In all the posts and ‘whines’ I’ve seen and heard about food addiction, and how we can’t get away from food completely, I”ve never seen anyone point out that we just aren’t addicted to ALL foods.

Hey, and if you find a cupcakerie, can I go with you? (actually, I think there is such a place in San Francisco, and I dream about going there.)

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Kelly • January 12, 2009 at 10:23 am

I love this post. I’m often comparing food addiction to that of alcoholics or drug users. It’s no more easy for them as it is for a food addict but you can always distance yourself from alcohol and drugs, one has to have food to survive.

I ran across your blog through Fat Bridesmaid. I love it! I’m also on my own journey.

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Tara • January 12, 2009 at 10:24 am

This is an interesting thought – can one addiction really be better than any other?

Maybe it’s just me, but I would rather be addicted to something I could just give up cold turkey. Sure, it’s nice to be able to still each nachos every now and then, but to me it makes it harder to go back to NOT eating nachos the next day. Everytime I “fall off the wagon” it’s harder to get back on. I’m sure it’s that way for smokers and drinkers too, but at least they aren’t forced into situations where those things are present on a tri-daily basis.

I’m not sure I agree with you, but thanks for giving me something to think about!

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Doji Bo • January 12, 2009 at 10:28 am

I am probably weird in this way — my favorite binge foods are tomatoes, green peppers, blueberries, and raspberries. Preferably right off the vine! All of which cause a great deal of protest in my intestines! There is of course the dark chocolate, but that actually is easier for me to control!

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deanna • January 12, 2009 at 10:28 am

I agree with you and think you have a great stratgey! I try to do the same thing and it does work. Out of sight, out of mind. I for some reason, think the “have to eat to survive” is a bullshit excuse. Yes, I do have to eat to survive, but not chips, mcdonalds, soda and all the stuff I binge on – infact that will bring me closer to my grave. We should look at it as “I need to eat healthy to survive”.

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LOLfitness • January 12, 2009 at 10:36 am

I quit smoking over a year ago. I still crave it, but that’s okay. I’m trying to approach sugar the same way I do cigarettes. “Oh, I’ll just have one sugar-coated pecan” works exactly as well as “Oh, I’ll just have one drag” :)

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Abs • January 12, 2009 at 10:38 am

Best Freudian slip ever.

“One of the quarks of food addiction…”

Quark… isn’t that a low-fat soft cheese?

OK, I’ve just researched and it’s pretty much unknown in the US (I’m in the UK) but it’s still funny to me.

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Mellissa • January 12, 2009 at 10:42 am

You know I normally do not really post or anything I just really enjoy reading all the others posts and your blog. But After reading this I have never thought of food as an addiction. I was like holy crap that is me. You know I have never been thin or anything close to it in my 21 years of life and have struggled year after year and resolution after resolution to no avail. And just because we need food to survive, so that is why you eat, is such a crappy saying I just want to laugh because I have used that stupid excuse..lol..so anyway I am just rambling and nobody wants to know all this but anyway I just wanted to say how eye opening this post was for me..one day I am going to have a story about my weight loss journey…so yeah..thanks for sharing..have a great day..

Mellissa

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jenna • January 12, 2009 at 10:45 am

My new years resolution this year is to not eat any type of pasta for this whole year (Pastas my bad trigger) . I am hoping that after a whole year of not eating my trigger food i wont crave it anymore… ha im sure thats not gonna happen but heres hoping. Ill let you know if it works though.

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gknee • January 12, 2009 at 11:03 am

Good insight– but it still is more complicated, in my humble opinion. Our real world encourages excess consumption but also ridicules excess body size.

this is what I think I know now for sure- all addictions serve an initial noble purpose. They help us find a little happiness, a little treat, a little calmness in our world— and then taken to excess (which they inevitably do) they make us sad and downtrodden and more anxious than we ever could imagine. Our life becomes our battle with our addiction (in my case- food) rather than us living an authentic life.

Don’t you ever feel that your purpose on this earth (or even in this day) was made for more than just worrying about what to eat today, how big your ass is or how bad you feel about what you ate yesterday?

I know that I have. We were meant to live for so much more– that I believe. I am hoping to find it and wish it for you as well.

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Flora • January 12, 2009 at 11:05 am

I’ve been thinking about the role food plays in my emotional life. I don’t know if “addiction” is the right word, but there is definitely a dysfunctional cycle of craving, reward, crash and re-craving in the way I deal with some foods. The pattern probably has a biochemical basis beyond just the emotional effect, although it started with a flawed response to some emotions.

For me, the worst is bread and butter. I’m not even that crazy about the stuff, but once I start I have a lot of trouble stopping, and the binge often carries over into other foods. If I don’t have bread around, I don’t miss it, but when it’s there it’s hard for me to rest until I eat it all.

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Fooled • January 12, 2009 at 11:06 am

One of my triggers is popcorn. I’ve had people tell me that popcorn is a pretty harmless snack food, compared to cookies and whatnot. But I will eat the whole bag within an hour, and I’m not talking about a microwaved bag, but a bag you buy off the shelf where the chips and things are. And I feel all bloated and really hungry by lunch or dinner, and craving another whole mess of it by the time the day is over. I definitely binge on popcorn, but it really is the lesser of the evils, such as cookies or other baked goods or tortilla chips.

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Jen • January 12, 2009 at 11:07 am

Picking a good addiction is like picking a good way to die. I think the recovery literature has some good lessons for everyone, not just people with addictions. I think sometimes recovery is framed as not abusing the substance anymore, when it’s really about learning how to live in a way that you don’t need it to get through the day. Even people like me who don’t think of themselves as addicts find ourselves doing stupid things (shopping when we have no money, wasting time, eating too many cookies) to distract ourselves from realities we don’t want to face.

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ben's mom on a diet • January 12, 2009 at 11:25 am

Oh man, 100 calorie packs are so banned from my house. When I have a box, I may as well empty all bags into a big bowl and just bury my face in it.

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Brandi • January 12, 2009 at 11:36 am

I don’t have anything useful to say, but your entire post made me say, Yes.

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Bob • January 12, 2009 at 11:49 am

Re you comment about what foods you’ll overeat if you start, that’s why Atkins used to recommend eating cheese or eggs if you had a late night craving. It was unlikely anyone was going to eat a pound of cheese (but if you put those things on breads or crackers, look out…)

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Rebecca Hoover • January 12, 2009 at 11:50 am

Trigger foods are sooooo not allowed in my house, and damned if anyone else thinks they should have them.

And something sad, in some of my weaker moments, I’ve totally been known to binge on peas, spinach, broccoli, what have you. I wanted to stick with my diet but crave that stupid, bloaty feeling of overfullness. How sick is that? I guess I should be glad it’s a veggie.

Kudos to you, living alone would be so hard on my diet, no one would be around to shame myself into some control, except me. Ha Ha Ha Ha

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Diane MacRae • January 12, 2009 at 12:02 pm

Did you ever consider that you’re addicted to carbohydrates?

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Dinah Soar • January 12, 2009 at 12:16 pm

You know, I was thinking along this same line. Woe-ing that I’m addicted to food and have to deal with it. But then I thought–nope, you don’t have too. Because I could sustain my life with a liquid meal 3x a day. A thing I just guzzled down for sustenance, never having to “eat” again.

But would that stop my cravings? NO–because the minute I saw a pizza commercial or watched the movie Chocolat I’d be dying for a slice of hot stringy cheesy pizza–just like you might be reading these words and getting a mental image–or a luscious chunk of dark chocolate followed by an equally luscious church of decadent milk chocolate.

So–I decided– other addicts, like smokers, drinkers, druggies–they don’t have it any easier than I do. As cigarettes, and booze and narcotics are the drug of choice for the aforementioned, food is my drug of choice.

Smokers have their favorite brand of smokes, drinkers might prefer beer to Vodka, and when it comes to drugs some are hooked on crack while others marijuana. And I am hooked on, well sweet and salty carbs. Not apples and peas or meat or even cheese…unless the cheese is on carbs like bread or crackers or pizza.

Having owned up to that truth I realize that unless I overcome my addiction to my drug of choice I’ll never win the war. It’s time I quit saying giving up foods that bring me down is harder than giving up cigs and alcohol and drugs–because it’s not.

I opt to chew my food instead of going liquid because I don’t want to give up the sensory pleasure I get from food. I could give up eating via chewing and survive. But I don’t want too. Just like the alkie doesn’t want to give up his beer while watching the game or wine with dinner…because it gives him pleasure. Forget that it’s ruining his life–he still wants it.

Realizing that I have the option of not eating–that I could survive with a feeding tube or an IV–hey, people in a coma don’t eat and they don’t starve to death– I then realized I can’t use the “I have to eat” as an excuse for my slips..I can’t say I have it harder.

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Karen • January 12, 2009 at 12:17 pm

Really good post. The most confusing thing about to me about my food addiction/eating disorder is how to distinguish between genuine hunger and my distorted ideas about food enticing me to eat. I’ve long ago figured out that it’s safer for me to just not have certain foods in the house — anything baked, cereal, things like that — and to avoid eating things like bread and pasta as much as I can, but I often find that I can also overeat on seemingly healthy non-trigger foods, or feel driven to eat more often than I really need for the same reason. So my biggest challenge of late is to learn to distinguish between actual hunger and my eating disorder exerting pressure on me to eat when I don’t really need to.

In the end, I think that like any addiction, mine will always be with me in one form or another and I realize that when I feel stressed or bored or tired or sick my immediately impulse will be to go eat something even if I just ate, even if I’m not hungry, even if I told myself 100 times that I won’t have anything off the office bagel platter…

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gknee • January 12, 2009 at 12:22 pm

@Jen – “Picking a good addiction is like picking a good way to die” is going into my list of fav quotes. thx u made my day!

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K • January 12, 2009 at 12:23 pm

@Bob – maybe not a whole pound, but I would happily eat many, many little slices of cheese. It’s what I tend to eat when I don’t have anything sweet in the house. And while I would quite quickly become sickened by eating bread or sweets, this doesn’t happen with cheese…

We’re all different.

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K • January 12, 2009 at 12:24 pm

@Abs – I thought of subatomic particles! Is it a top quark or a strange quark?

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Andrew is getting fit • January 12, 2009 at 12:41 pm

I’ve had to give up bread cold turkey. I looooove bread. I crave bread. Bread is my best friend.

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Jen, a priorfatgirl • January 12, 2009 at 12:53 pm

*raises my hand* Hello, my name is Jennifer and I am a food addict.

Thanks PastaQueen for being a safezone for us food addicts to unit & talk about our struggles – you have truly inspired me to get to the real problem of my struggle with weight. Although I have lost the pounds, I am just now starting to get to the bottom of how it all began.

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victoria • January 12, 2009 at 1:21 pm

Did you have fun skiing?

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KateG • January 12, 2009 at 1:23 pm

Mostly I think we might all prefer to have that OTHER addiction, and not ours. I think I have the tendency to see mine (food, naturally) as worse, or harder to overcome, because it is the one I am stuck dealing with. But having known several people who are addicted to smoking and/or alcohol, I can objectively recognize they are all difficult. And while anyone can live without alcohol or nicotine, they are both readily available and therefore readily tempting. I would say I believe there is an addiction-prone personality or perhaps even genetic makeup. Mainly because almost everyone in my family is addicted to something, at least on my dad’s side. My dad and his two brothers are all alcoholics (though depending on the day it’s likely only one of them will admit it). And my dad and one of the brothers are addicted to smoking. So to me it’s no surprise that I use food as a way of dealing with my issues. In a way, acknowledging that I am addicted to food has made me feel much more compassion for my dad and uncles. I think in our society it is considered much “worse” to be addicted to either alcohol or nicotine, but since I feel like I understand the underlying emotional issues, I can stop myself from judging them and other addicts. I mean, in a way it makes some sense that society stigmatizes certain addictions more than others – surely the alcoholic is more likely to damage others through DWI and the smoker imposes second hand smoke on everyone. But still, we are all struggling with trying to find the thing that will stop us from turning to potentially harmful substances.

Wow, sorry this is so long, but I guess your post affected me quite a bit. Thanks for writing it.

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Lyn • January 12, 2009 at 1:33 pm

I dumped the entire sugar bowl into the trash this weekend because I couldn’t stop putting big spoonfuls in my tea. And since I drink tea 5 or 6 times a day, it wasn’t good. I can handle a small squirt of agave nactar, but I’d really like to get to the point of drinking tea straight. Sugar is so addictive to me…

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Melanie • January 12, 2009 at 1:43 pm

Everything you describe sounds like an amino-acid deficiency. When you really, really *need* that cookie or bread or whatever, you’re brain is screaming for serotonin, or dopamin, or one of the other “feel good” chemicals that makes life worth living.

It truly IS an addiction, just as you described, and the power if this addiction is no less than that of a junkie.

Read “The Diet Cure” or “The Mood Cure” by Julia Ross for more info.

If you’re prone to depression, apathy, poor sleep and HUGE CRAVINGS in order to “feel good” if only for a few minutes, then the solution could be as simple as supplementing your starved brain with some amino acids.

I never thought I could live in the same house with a cake or carton of ice cream and not devour it in a day like a coke-addict snorting away in the bathroom UNTIL I started taking care of my brain chemistry. Wow, what a difference.

We’re not crazy. Our brains are starving. Good luck everybody.

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Hilary aka Ms. Turtle • January 12, 2009 at 1:49 pm

The scary thing is that cupcakeries are on the rise! There are at least four here in Austin, and their numbers keep multiplying. GAH.

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Amy • January 12, 2009 at 1:54 pm

@Bob – I, too, would consider my only food addiction to be cheese.

I quit smoking (more or less, I still smoke once a year), and that was hard – but still easier than giving up cheese. I could easily eat a block of cheese in one sitting. I’d be sick, but I could do it.

But, with the exception of Christmas cookies, there is no other food out there that I cannot put down after one bite.

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Karen • January 12, 2009 at 2:07 pm

@Tara – I actually agree with you. If I had the choice, I think I’d rather my major vice/addiction be smoking than food, though obviously smoking is also very, very bad for you and very hard to quit. It just seems like it would be easier mentally to have a completely clear picture of what the end result of your efforts to quit needs to be: no more cigarettes. Period. Food addiction requires a very delicate balance that is hard to attain, harder than just not doing something anymore.

But of course, quitting smoking isn’t easy, but at least you know precisely what you need to stop doing.

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Tina • January 12, 2009 at 2:07 pm

mmmmm. chocolate.

Yes, I received chocolate from several students before the holidays. After grazing on sugar all day for two straight weeks, I took a cue from you and put them in the car. I know I’m less likely to go out in the cold multiple times a day to eat chocolate (don’t ask me why this practice doesn’t work for smokers though!) and the added bonus is that they’re now all frozen so when I do have a piece, it lasts longer. I don’t know what I’ll do come summertime though.

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Dee • January 12, 2009 at 2:15 pm

@debby – There’s a place in Sacramento called, Cupcake Craving. They sell like 50 different varieties of cupcakes. Nothing but cupcakes…

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Amanda • January 12, 2009 at 3:13 pm

Good post! You make a lot of sense. What kind of life would it be without great food?

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Jodi • January 12, 2009 at 3:14 pm

Great post. You can find wonderful scientific insight on this issue in Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes (also check out the Protein Power books). Basically, we have stone-age bodies and stone-age DNA. The agriculural revolution (which brought us grains, flours, sugars, CARBS!) happened only 10,000 years ago (and much later for many ethnic groups). Our bodies aren’t adapted to so much carbohydrates, and they do crazy things to our system. It’s not about self-control or discipline. It’s the insulin response. I highly recommend Taubes’ book.

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metro15 • January 12, 2009 at 3:29 pm

It’s like you read my mind! This is sooo what I’ve been thinking about. I’m currently on a pretty strict 30 day plan, but after that things loosen up considerably. I have been thinking about my trigger foods (like pizza) and how I can fit them in my diet so I don’t feel deprived, and yet don’t overdose on them. I think I’ve decided like you that if I want pizza I’ll buy a slice and no more. That way I’m not tempted to eat the entire thing… And no pizza in the freezer, as I always think oh it’s there if I want it and then eat the whole thing right away.

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Sue B • January 12, 2009 at 3:35 pm

The food addiction thing is interesting because we all start out as babies eating only when we’re hungry and stopping when we’re full. Then for some of us food becomes something other than fuel and we start eating WAY beyond the point of hunger. And, like you said PQ, we’re not stuffing our faces with broccoli. It’s sweet, smooth, salty, crunchy highly processed crap.

For me, big portions of my trigger foods (high carbs, high fat, high sugar) act like a sedative, numbing my emotions, feeding something missing in me. So in a way, food is a drug because it’s used to alter a mood like alcohol or nicotine. Food as fuel is necessary to keep our bodies going but food as a drug is something else altogether. Mmmm. I just came up with that conclusion as I typed this comment. Therefore, my goal, I need to work on, is to be conscious ever time I eat and identify what I am eating and why. Easier said then done.

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Tiffany • January 12, 2009 at 3:47 pm

So glad to hear I’m not the only one with the tendency to eat the whole box of 100 calorie packs in one shot. I stopped buying them because of that too. I’ve tried to replace them with healthier snacks like fat free yogurt and bananas. For the same reason, I’m not going to go on some wild banana binge. Though for some reason I imagine that if I did, there would be a lot of scratching of armpits and hanging from the shelving involved.

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Hilary aka Ms. Turtle • January 12, 2009 at 4:01 pm

@Jen – “Pick your addiction” could be the “Use your illusion” of our decade. (Thank you, Axl Rose.)

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Melanie • January 12, 2009 at 4:56 pm

@Jodi – Taubes book is excellent. My problem when watching carbs was getting freakin’ depressed (low on serotonin) during any low-carb diet I tried — well AFTER getting my insulin/blood sugar under control.

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Rhonda • January 12, 2009 at 5:36 pm

@Tara – I’m right there with you, too! If it were alcohol or cigarettes, I could just quit buying them and not have them in my house. …But food is something that I have to have. I agree with PQ about the trigger foods, but there have been some times when I ate the heck out of a food that I didn’t even particularly like. WTH??? It’s crazy how I do that. I guess it’s emotional. I’m trying not to whine. I’m trying not to give up on striving to live better in a healthier way…it ain’t easy. :)

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alisa • January 12, 2009 at 5:51 pm

Its totally true that its not all food that trigger food addiction

However, the ones that trigger my addiction (baked goods) ARE everywhere – bakeries on street corners, cookies brought into work, in the snackroom, friends wondering if I want to “share dessert”, staring at me at au bon pain while I am waiting for my salad…..takes discipline to block them out!

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G.G. • January 12, 2009 at 5:59 pm

@Melanie – Amen to the low carb freak-out. I experienced the same thing.

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Eva • January 12, 2009 at 6:00 pm

@Abs – quark is very well known here in Germany and I love it :)

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Emily • January 12, 2009 at 6:08 pm

@Rhonda – I think it seems easier to be addicted to something that you can “just give up entirely,” because that is not the thing you are addicted to.

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RG • January 12, 2009 at 6:54 pm

What I’m finding interesting about the whole “addiction” angle is the cycle of doing X to feel better and then feeling guilty about doing X. Whatever X is, it’s the cycle that matters. It’s the cycle that keeps us away from dealing with the Rest of Our Lives.

I’m not sure that’s helpful to anyone but me, but right now I’m on the “good” side of the cycle; eating right and exercising take up my energy. And still, it’s a way to avoid life.

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Lynn • January 12, 2009 at 7:59 pm

I found you through the book–you are incredible! This issue is a big one. I used to go to Overeaters Anonymous, and one group had a lot of people with multiple addictions. They had successfully used twelve-step programs to deal with other addictions, maybe drugs, alcohol, and smoking, but they seemed to agree that they had done the other ones first and found food to be the last and most difficult. They struggled like me, though they usually weren’t physically very fat, unlike me. This is my only addiction, and it has ruled my adult life. Thanks for blogging and for the community you’ve created.

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Lori • January 12, 2009 at 8:30 pm

I completely agree that it’s an addiction. I can’t have even a bite of my trigger foods without going on a binge. I lost 50 lbs. in the past 6 months on a healthy eating plan (which included NONE of my trigger foods). The first week or so was difficult because I was still craving, but once I was fully dedicated to the plan, I had no cravings for anything, could stop eating when I was full, and even realized I didn’t need nearly as much food as I was used to eating. Unfortunately, I got off track around the holidays. I’m trying to get back into my eating plan, but it has been difficult.

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DonnaLynn • January 12, 2009 at 9:18 pm

What an accurate post. I really need to sit down and figure out what my trigger foods are. I have a general idea, but general ideas don’t really work for me. I need to be more specific. I’ve tried keeping a food diary to figure it out, but then I only just didn’t write it down if I felt guilty eating it.

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Sara • January 12, 2009 at 9:28 pm

I believe that many of us with food addiction issues aren’t necessarily addicted to EVERY food, but I can’t agree wholeheartedly with the idea–because my personal food issues seem to buck the assertion.

There are foods I like more than others, some that will most certainly more likely lead to me ending up in a heap on the floor surrounded by wrappers/husks/shells/crumbs, etc. But my trigger food isn’t really a food at all–more of a ‘concept’.

My trigger is ‘the uneaten portion’. No matter the food, no matter the relative caloric value or where it falls on the good food/bad food continuum, if it’s in front of me I want to eat it. All of it. I can eat enough of it to be fully satisfied, but if the rest of it remains before me I can think of little else sometimes. If I’m being proactive and aware, I have it removed from my sight and disposed of. If I’m unable to give it up, I have it boxed up to take with me, and the chances that I’ll end up eating it with my fingers before the car hits the garage at home are about equal with the chances that it will make it’s way into the fridge where I’ll most likely have it eaten before my head hits the pillow that night.

I wish it wasn’t this way. I wish I could summon control as easily as I can find the right word in my head to describe my lack of it, but it isn’t. I’m working on it though. Maybe someday…

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Debor • January 12, 2009 at 9:50 pm

I have spouted the “I can give up food cold turkey like an alcoholic can give up drinking” line a time or two myself. I apologize to all alcoholics for making such as purely stupid and thoughtless remark, btw.

You make the excellent point (which I have chosen not to consider before) that brussel sprouts have never held any power over me. I have never felt I would die if I couldn’t get my hands on liver.

Now I just have to figure out what to do about chocolate.

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Trisha • January 12, 2009 at 9:56 pm

First of all, I want to say I’m sorry about the crap you’ve been going through. You’ve been on my mind alot since I read your post. I’m praying for a miracle for you, and I hope you got to have fun skiing.

What a great topic today. I saw a study just the other day that said carbs are as addictive as cigarettes and cocaine, and I believe it. I struggle with carb addiction every day.

One thing that sucks about this addiction is that you wear it on your sleeve, and you’re constantly judged for it. A person could be addicted to drugs or alcohol and others may never know, but you can take one look at me and see what I’m addicted to. It seems to me drug addicts are sometimes treated with more compassion than an overweight person. A drug addict “needs help.” Someone, like myself, who is addicted to carbs is often looked upon as just a fat, lazy slob. I need help too, but I’m not exactly sure how to go about it.

I thought maybe cutting carbs out almost altogether may be the answer, like an alcoholic cutting out alcohol. I tried Atkins again just a couple of days ago, (for like the 50th time) and by the end of day 2 felt like pure crap. So, I’ve failed yet again.

Reading your post and the comments was comforting to me. Seeing I’m not the only one who struggles with this made me feel a little less like a freak.

Thanks, and take care.

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s • January 12, 2009 at 10:01 pm

@Diane MacRae – i know *i* am.

at least, processed sugars and some starches.

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becky • January 12, 2009 at 10:03 pm

We have a cupcake place here in Omaha, NE called cupcake island. I personally have not allowed myself to go there. I might end up eating a dozen all by myself.

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Dawn • January 12, 2009 at 10:31 pm

I agree that not having it in the house is key for me too. Plus sometimes I’m just mentally stronger than other times.

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Theresa • January 12, 2009 at 11:01 pm

Very well written and provocative. I want to start by saying people who are really addicted to drugs and alcohol I believe are really looked down on by society and quite often have a lot more difficulties. People spend money on food that they might not have and can go into debt, but they don’t often end up in jail as a result of a DUI or killing someone or puking on themselves or beating wife/kid/best friend up and not even remembering it. How many food addicts end up committing armed robbery, hanging out in crack houses, selling themselves for muffins?

I am overweight and have food issues. When I stopped drinking and using I turned to food and it has been a huge struggle but I work with homeless people and trust me no matter what you do not want to be an alcoholic/drug addict. In our town smoking finally became against the law in all restaurants. I believe smoking is a horrible addiction and many smokers feel ostracized.

Don’t want to diminish at all what food addicts are going through, but it is another addiction is NOT better.

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jenny • January 12, 2009 at 11:22 pm

Well. You are quite on track with your research. Food intake has long been associated with dopamine release in sections of the brain that are associated with reward. These same areas of the brain become active with almost any other drug of abuse.

Some recent research has found that some people with high BMI’s, as well as those who are compulsive overeaters, have lower availability of dopamine receptors.

Behaviorally, this could mean that compulsive eaters are trying to compensate for the fact that the signal isn’t getting through as it should – even though you are releasing lots of dopamine with lots of eating, only a small part of that dopamine is getting through – so your brain says I’M NOT GETTING ENOUGH. SEE THOSE COOKIES OVER THERE? GET TO IT!

For me personally, I feel the compulsion as a little voice – it’s almost like OCD, where it won’t go away until the target has been eradicated and nothing remains but an empty plate (even though I’m way full) or an empty bag. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the same brain mechanisms were involved in both disorders.

/geekery

(sorry, I”m a neuroscience student)

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Jen Hughes • January 13, 2009 at 10:04 am

It’s said that recovering alcoholics and former smokers put their tigers in cages, whereas food addicts take theirs out for walks 3 times a day.

I can’t believe I”ve never heard that before. Brilliant.

My husband is an alcoholic (recovering). We’ve had this discussion often. He just quit cold turkey 4 years ago. It’s not quite as easy to do that with food since we need it to survive.

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azar • January 13, 2009 at 1:37 pm

@K – i get it…

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Johanna • January 13, 2009 at 2:15 pm

@Doji Bo – Agreed on the blueberries and rasberries! Yum!!

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Kimberly • January 13, 2009 at 2:20 pm

I have found that is just easier to give up my trigger foods altogether because I am not responsible enough to eat them in moderation.

I also have taken the very radical step of removing all food from my home. If I want to eat I have to plan to eat. I don’t order in. I have to go out and get it. I have the life that allows me to do that, but it works for me.

Alcoholics and drug addicts have to abstain from their addiction. Food addicts still have to eat and in order to overcome this addiction I think that you have to approach it from the standpoint that we can never eat like a normal person again. I know I am not normal. I know that I eat more than just to sustain my life. I eat past the point of good sense or good health and I have to work hard to not do that. I am willing to give up those foods that trigger me to binge because I want to be healthy more than I want to eat them. My own gallbladder surgery was enough to get me to take a good, long look at how I was killing myself through food and make the changes that would reverse that lifelong trend.

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Tilleul • January 13, 2009 at 2:48 pm

I had binge eating disorder for 20 years (diagnosed by my doctor, my therapist and my psychiatrist, and with years of attempting and occasionally succeeding at recovery). At my worst I would eat ~5000-6000 kcal/day and gain ~2 lbs/week.

It turns out that it had a physiological basis: I was malabsorbing nutrients due to a mild gluten intolerance. The only symptoms other than the bingeing were mild IBS symptoms and anemia, and later on, joint pain (which is why I tried going gluten-free, and it worked on that too). Our bodies interpret lack of essential nutrients (as Melanie said, amino-acids among others) as starvation, and send us very, very strong signals to eat, eat, eat, especially things high in fat and sugar.

This man, whose mother had BED for years (now GF and “cured”), thinks that even people who don’t have problems with gluten can eat too much of it (in an attempt to eat “healthy” whole grains) and also can have malabsorption problems:

http://www.celiac.com/articles/1034/1/Food-Cravings-Obesity-and-Gluten-Consumption-by-Dr-Ron-Hoggan-EdD/Page1.html

I really, really hope that this helps someone. I feel so much saner than I used to (my tiger was a ravening, slobbering nightmare beast). What completed my recovery was Linda Bacon’s book, “Health At Every Size”. She explains things like our taste buds taking 3 weeks to adapt to a new taste, and so if you hang in there 3 weeks, you will start to crave more of your new diet. This will only work if you’re getting enough nutrition/nutrients though. Good luck and good thoughts to all.

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Shannon • January 13, 2009 at 6:08 pm

@jenna – I’m doing a sugar free January (which I didn’t start until the 5th) as sugar is my binge food. After only a week in, I’ve noticed my cravings have decrease signinfigantly, so banning your trigger does seem to work.

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Kristy • January 13, 2009 at 8:37 pm

Addictions are awful. I’ve been addicted to cigarettes, coffee, bars, anything that provides a feeling I want to feel again, or takes away one I want to avoid. :-).

I really like this article. I found it in my “quest” to quit smoking. And I revisit it often as I work on things like food addiction (hello pizza and 100 calorie packs…)

http://www.yogajournal.com/practice/679

It discusses the mental/emotional roots of addiction, and suggests ways to remove them.

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julie • January 14, 2009 at 5:04 pm

@debby – I think I’ve noticed a cupcake place in the Marina or Cow Hollow. I find it hard to believe that there are stores dedicated to just cupcakes, but I remember seeing a few in Vancouver. No stranger than donuts, I guess. I won’t eat one, but occasionally a place (Ritual Coffee, e.g.) will have these mini-cupcakes, and I’ll eat one of those. I guess my moderation is too moderate right now, being not yet at goal weight.

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Heathe • January 15, 2009 at 8:10 pm

Thank you, Jennette, for your honest thoughts!

I’m reading your book and I love it. Thanks for being so candid and so inspiring!

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Gina • January 20, 2009 at 2:31 pm

If we could have sponsors like people get in AA then when a craving strikes we could call or txt them and then they can talk us down from eating something bad for us. I’d love to have that!

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Jennette Fulda tells stories to the Internet about her life as a smartass, writer, weight-loss inspiration, chronic headache sufferer, and overall nice person (who is silently judging you). She does this at JenFul now, but you can still have fun perusing her past here.

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