Food Addiction: Why Do You Overeat Yourself and How to Get Rid of It?

Food Addiction: Why Do You Overeat Yourself and How to Get Rid of It?

How come we so often overeat ourselves with things that are not good for us? I have yet to meet the first woman who overeats herself on celery sticks: we always overeat unhealthy products.

Have you ever emptied a sugar bowl?

I know all about food addiction: I have been addicted to sweets in particular for more than 20 years. Yet I never ate a sugar bowl. I indulged myself in milk chocolate with hazelnuts, crunchy biscuits, stracciatella ice cream, and white bread rolls with butter and sprinkles, just to name a few. It wasn’t just sweets either. A family bag of bell pepper ribbed chips wasn’t safe either if I popped the first three of them in my mouth.

In the 1970s a lot of research was done with rats into the addictive effect of our supermarket food. Time and time again, rats have been found to eat themselves extremely obese within weeks if given unlimited access to a random mixture of packaged foods from the supermarket. In one case, rats even continued to eat cheesecake despite expecting an electric shock with the first bite. When they were cut off from this supermarket food for a while, they showed the same withdrawal symptoms as cocaine-addicted rats: sick, chattering, and too anxious to explore, which rats usually do. They were food addiction junkies.

Food addiction: the combination of sweet, fat, and salt is highly addictive

Food Addiction: Why Do You Overeat Yourself and How to Get Rid of It?

We now know that a product that contains sweet, fat, and a little bit of salt is highly addictive, as is the combination of salt, and fat with a little bit of sweetness. So addictive, in fact, that neuroscientists liken it to an addiction to cocaine. wow. That is quite something!

Let this combination of sweet, fat and salt occur in almost all products in the supermarket! Paprika ribbed chips are predominantly salty but contain a little bit of sweetness, and ice cream is particularly sweet but contains a little bit of salt. Both contain fat. This is for good reason: the food industry is well aware of how addictive these combinations are and it is in their interest that we continue to eat as much of their products as possible.

Nature only gives us products that are sweet, salty or fat. There is no natural product that combines these three flavors. If that were the case, humans would probably have died out long ago, because then we would have sat like junkies under the trees with these fruits and stopped exploring.

Food addiction: the consequence of a dopamine-driven reward system

How does an addiction actually work in your brain? A craving is a term used by neuroscientists for the strong desire for addictive substances such as certain foods, drugs, sex, shopping, gambling, or gaming.

Our reward system, a primitive part of our brain (our reptilian brain that works in much the same way in rats as it does in humans), prompts us to seek out things we need to survive, such as food. This brain with instincts and reflexes dates back to a time when our survival depended on our ability to find as much food as possible and, if necessary, steal it from the noses of others.

If this succeeds, our brain rewards us with the chemical dopamine: a neurotransmitter. Every time we get a stimulus that we have become sensitive to, such as our supermarket food, the dopamine level is boosted considerably and it is especially dopamine that triggers a strong craving for more and more and more and more. When these cravings take over as a result of dopamine peaks, an addiction arises.

“Those little devils in our brain” provide the craving

Notably, we experience pleasure through other neurotransmitters including serotonin, oxytocin, and acetylcholine; not by dopamine. The cells that produce dopamine are therefore also called “the little devils in our brain” by neuroscientist Wolfram Schultz. The devil is in arousing the craving.

Food Addiction: Why Do You Overeat Yourself and How to Get Rid of It?

No one is addicted after one cigarette, game of gaming, or a bar of chocolate. But activating the reward system, again and again, ensures that just seeing, smelling, or thinking about chocolate is enough to activate cravings in our brain’s reward system. And then there is usually no stopping it.

Thirty years ago addiction was still seen as a lack of willpower and spine. It is now recognized by neuroscientists and governments that it is a disease and that addiction is also possible without drugs. Like a food addiction.

It’s not your fault!

So don’t beat yourself up if you again fail to ignore the drop pot at 4 o’clock at the office or if you give in to a cappuccino grande with a chocolate chip cookie on your way home at Utrecht station or at a gas station. It’s not your fault! It’s those little devils in your brain that have been kidnapped by a food industry that knows incredibly well how this reward system works in your brain.

They invest tens of millions of euros in research into this and are conducting tests with people in MRI scans to measure which components of their ice cream gives the highest dopamine peak. Do you think I’m exaggerating? Unfortunately not. Read the book Salt, Sugar Fat by investigative journalist Michael Moss and you’ll know forever that it’s not your fault if you eat more than is good for you. That is already very healthy for you. Good to start with. But how do you get rid of it?

How do you get rid of it?

Unfortunately, I don’t have a magic bullet that will help you get rid of your tendency to overeat tonight. It took me a while myself and I still sometimes give in to something that is not so healthy for me. But it’s not a big “thing” for me anymore and that’s what matters, I can really say with my hand on my heart that I’m done with it. Maybe my suggestions below will help you.

Food Addiction: Why Do You Overeat Yourself and How to Get Rid of It?

Provide plenty of nutrients

I am convinced (I speak from experience) that cravings also arise from lack of nutrients in your body. I always imagine that all my 70 trillion body cells need plenty of nutrients to keep themselves and therefore me healthy. Nutrients that are in products as nature gives them to us, not in chips or chocolate. So start today to make sure your cells have enough nutrients. Eat an avocado first before diving into the cookie jar or: always make sure you have something nutritious ready for grabs. This habit can change your life!

Are you hungry or thirsty?

Your body cannot tell the difference between hunger and thirst. If you feel thirsty, your body is already quite dehydrated. Often a feeling of hunger is a feeling of thirst. Because of all the sweetness and saltiness in our supermarket food, our bodies often crave moisture. Coffee, tea, and alcohol also ensure that you need extra fluids. Therefore, drink at least 8 glasses of water a day: 2 immediately after getting up, 2 in the morning and the afternoon (around 4 o’clock!), and 2 in the evening. Preferably not with meals and preferably filtered, pure water.

Avoid plenty of artificial light in the evening

Are you okay during the day, but you can’t control yourself well at night? Be aware that our artificial light at night (including light from television and computers) signals your body that it is still daylight.

To protect you from danger, it wants to stay energetic. Eating carbohydrates or sweets gives your body energy quickly and it wants that, especially if it feels that you are getting tired. Therefore, ensure that the light is dimmed in the evening and go to bed early if you are tired. Or take a quiet yoga class in the evening or read a book. How interesting is that television program really?

Are your hormones looking for chocolate?

Many women, especially on the days before their period, tend to eat more than is good for them. When they have their period, that need suddenly disappears. It is indeed your hormones that send you on the road to something sweet. Read more about this in this article: Extremely hungry before your period? Fifteen tips?

Search and find what else makes you feel good (my golden tip)

Food Addiction: Why Do You Overeat Yourself and How to Get Rid of It?

Food makes you feel good and we all want to feel good about ourselves. Preferably as much as possible. There’s nothing wrong with that, we were born to have it right here! What else can make you feel good besides that family bag of chips? What do you really crave? Attention? Time for yourself? More fun? More girlfriends? A tidy house? Do you feel more comfortable in your body? Take better care of yourself? Grab a pen and paper and write down everything that comes to mind that makes you feel good. At least 20 things!

I think this has helped me the most in kicking my sugar addiction: I started looking for everything that gave me pleasure and a good feeling and kept adding it to my life. Every day. Sometimes it’s peace, sometimes it’s just company. Sometimes it’s a walk even though I’m busy, sometimes it’s dancing alone in my living room. Sometimes it’s a hot shower and sometimes it’s a pot of tea with a big piece of milk chocolate with hazelnuts! As long as I really enjoy it, those devils can also have a party in my brain!


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