Hooked on Food
Are you captive of a food addiction?
Getting to Be a Habit continued...
In an animal study at Princeton University in 2002, researchers found that
after rats binged on sugar, they showed classic signs of withdrawal (such as
"the shakes," anxiety, and changes in brain chemistry) when the sweets
were removed from their diet, suggesting that sugar may have addictive
Yet many doctors and dietitians remain unconvinced that the drive to eat
certain foods is a true food addiction. "People do crave three basic tastes
-- fat, salt, and sugar," says Keith Ayoob, EdD, RD, associate professor of
pediatrics at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and a spokesman for the
American Dietetic Association. "Infants as young as a few days old do have
a preference for sweeter foods. But when you say that a particular food is
addictive, you imply that it's out of your hands. I don't buy that. I'm not
aware of any evidence that chocolate is addicting. People like it because it
"Yes, people do get into habits," adds Ayoob. "But the good part
is that habits can be changed."
Breaking the Food Addiction
If food addictions are real, how difficult is it to break them? Clinical
psychologist Douglas Lisle, PhD, says that at the TrueNorth Health Center in
Rohnert Park, Calif., where he is director of research, patients have had the
most success through "therapeutic fasting" -- in essence, rebooting the
"hard drive" in their brain through a period of water-only fasting in a
medically supervised setting, followed by the introduction of a diet
emphasizing fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, and seeds.
(The process is described at TrueNorth's web site,
But if your stomach is already growling at the mere thought of a total fast,
try making a complete break just from the foods you crave -- a process that
Barnard says works much better than trying to eat them in moderation. He argues
that staying completely away from a food item for three weeks often resolves
the problem. "At the end of three weeks, your tastes will have
changed," he says. "You won't want the food as much anymore."