I don’t know about you, but I love sweets.
Ice cream, cookies, cakes, pies … these are all things that I readily eat and if it had no harmful and unsightly effects I would readily and happily devour daily.
But unfortunately, that’s not a possibility. And even more unfortunate for me, I’ve indulged in these sweet confectionaries for so long that trying to get off it and make healthier eating options has now become not just a chore but also a pain in the ass!
But when I get going I can stay the course. I just need to get the mojo to decide that finally, fitness and health is what I want and I don’t care what I have to do to get it. Since weight loss is 80% mental for me, I have to go through the 6 stages of motivation to break the sweet cravings hold on me long enough to start forming new habits.
So here are the steps I’m working on to mentally ready to stave off the cravings that these sweet, salty, fattening foods inflict on me.
I recognize and admit there’s a problem.
Available evidence in humans shows that high palatable foods with sugar and sweetness can induce reward and craving that are comparable in magnitude to those induced by addictive drugs.
What’s worse, is that while an addict can try to stay away from illicit drugs and the stomping grounds where they are used, it is relatively impossible to avoid sugar because eating sugary foods can become ingrained into our lifestyles and routines. We use it to sweeten our coffee and tea, it’s in our bread and cereal, our medication … our own body makes it, and it even naturally occurs in food that is good and healthy for you that you should eat.
Your brain also sees sugar as a reward, and when we eat these concoctions, it hijacks our brain releasing dopamine which makes you keep wanting more of it. As we continue to eat more sweets we are reinforcing that reward, and after a while, like Pavlov’s dogs, our brain will go on autopilot.
That’s why I can start eating a handful of potato chips and before I know it you’ve eaten the whole bag without realizing it.
I’m an addict.
If there is free or highly palatable food nearby I will succumb and eat it. This is not about willpower or if I want health bad enough. This is dealing with the situation and doing what’s necessary to make new habits and manage my jones because they will ALWAYS be there … waiting.
I accept that it will be hard
Do we really think we can just ‘will away’ a so heavily funded and heavily ingrained habit? The learned behavior of queue and reward from high sugar, salt and foods have caused real changes in how my brain functions. Our biochemical feedback system has been hijacked and in order to stop craving sugar, I have to outsmart myself, plan and remove temptation.
This is not easy because I can’t just abstain from food. There are times where I will need to do strange things to avoid a relapse, people may laugh or stare and others may not support me in this decision and that’s okay.
I accept and tell myself that there is no easy way out, no magic pill that I haven’t found, and no way to the other side without doing the work.
Prepare myself for the challenges and decide when I will succumb so I don’t fall into a trap.
I remind myself I’m being manipulated
It’s not enough that the sugar industry is feeding you ‘alternative facts’ to keep piling on that syrup, but there is a marketing industry, restaurant industry and others who work overtime to make food irresistible to us.
They know our weakness. And they are VERY good.
In reading ‘The End of Overeating’ by Dr. David Kessler, I learned the food industry’s aggressive marketing tactics that they use to help us lose control over food. In Michael Moss’ book Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us, The New York Times reporter states ‘The public and the food companies have known for decades now – or at the very least since this meeting – that sugary, salty, fatty foods are not good for us in the quantities we consume …[but] what I found over four years of research and reporting was a conscious effort – taking place in labs and marketing meetings and grocery store aisles – to get people hooked on foods that are convenient and inexpensive’
This is a wolf versus a lamb situation, and if you don’t believe it, take this exert from Michael Moss’s findings: “Frito Lay had a formidable research complex near Dallas, where nearly 500 chemists, psychologists and technicians conducted research that cost up to $30 million a year .. their tools included a $40,000 device that simulated a chewing mouth to test and perfect chips, discovering things like the perfect break point”
With companies throwing down that kind of money on research you best believe they play to win.
Need more proof? Robert Lustig in his presentation on ‘Sugar: The bitter truth’, unearths the ‘Coca-Cola conspiracy’ that is a prime example of food being engineered to make us want more and can’t stop ourselves. In a 20oz bottle of coke there is enough sodium(75mg) to equal to a pizza couple that with caffeine which is a diuretic, it makes you thirstier. So while you are drinking it you want more to drink.’ Do you think that’s just a coincidence?
I can’t knock ’em. I want what they are selling.
They are providing me with a feeling, a memory. A feeling if you will. And they are so gracious, that they give me so much more than the emotion. When I’m done eating – I also get the guilt, shame, and pounds as free bonuses. Make no mistake, they make their money getting you hooked.
I see food for what it is
We use food for in so many different ways:
- To feel better
- Because we are sad or depressed
- Because we are happy
- we give food as gifts
- we use it as a way to socialize
- we use it to celebrate
- we use it to mourn together
- we eat it alone
Hardly anything these days isn’t associated with food. But cake, confectionaries, baked goods and other sugar-laden foods are not rewards or treats for good behavior, they are a sabotage for our goals.
Coupling emotions with food is a bad idea because the purpose of food is for fuel to the body, not our minds. Food is all little pieces of information in how the food should be used in the body. If it tastes good then great, but it’s not the main purpose.
I forgive myself
Food is engineered to induce excess. I fell for it time and time again.
I’m not weak. I’m not a failure.
I ate it and enjoyed it and now I’m reaping the rewards. There is no value in beating myself up any further, constantly questioning how I allowed myself to get this bad, why didn’t I do something sooner etc.
There is also no point in the doom and gloom dialogue of how big we are, and how we’ll never lose the weight. I offer myself grace, forgive myself for being blinded and vow to do better from here on out.
Then I get pissed off!
There is a multi-billion dollar industry dedicated and willing to do anything to get you hooked on the sweet creations. So much so, that in the 1960s, the sugar industry paid three Harvard scientists the equivalent of $50,000 to downplay the link between sugar and heart disease and just last year the New York Times published an article revealing that Coca-Cola provided millions of dollars in funding researchers who also downplayed the link between sugary drinks and obesity today.
Companies know the effect of the sugar, salt and fat combination has on us. They know we will get hooked. They know how to entice us and make themselves irresistible and they don’t care. They don’t give two shits that I’m miserable, hate looking at myself in the mirror or have some weird obsession with food that stresses and depresses me.
They just want money. They don’t give a shit about me.
And they don’t give a shit about my kids either. Because they open market to our children. Kelly Brownell, a Yale University professor of psychology and public health who has been a vocal of the dangers of processed-food says “As a culture, we’ve become upset by the tobacco companies advertising to children, but we sit idly by while the food companies do the very same thing. And we could make a claim that the toll taken on the public health by a poor diet rivals that taken by tobacco’
Sure no one put a gun to your head and said eat more cake, but a smoker knows from the attorney general that smoking will probably kill you. We were deprived this knowledge and could have known decades earlier of the impact even Robert Lin ex-Frito Lay executive views the decades lost as time ‘other smart scientists could have spent searching for ways to ease the addition to salt, sugar, and fat’.
Just like smoking, we could have chosen to eat cake and be merry regardless of the warning but we could have also heeded the warning and change course. I could be having a totally different conversation right now.
Make the Change
I can tell you that after reading ‘The End of Overeating’ that was enough to get me through all these steps or feelings in one sitting.
Sure I still have moments where I DECIDE to have a highly palatable meal. But guess what, it’s my choice. I recognize the risks and I’m not under the influence of my addiction (at least in that moment). Some days I lose focus, slip up and have to come back through the phases to get back on track.
And that’s ok’.
The goal isn’t to cure yourself and never eat another donut again. It’s to no longer be a slave to our food. To truly be cognizant of what’s happening, what we are doing and why.
To get pissed off enough to want to end mindless eating.
What do you say? Are you in?