After making the transition to a whole-food, plant-based diet, our renewed energy and wellness spurs our desire to share our new lifestyle with our family and friends. Unfortunately, our excitement many times is quickly subdued with blunt responses such as "I could never give up my meat, dairy, and eggs!" A closer examination of their response reveals the underlying force that drives their food choices... FOOD ADDICTIONS.
Definition of an addiction
- A strong and harmful need to regularly have something (such as a drug) or do something (such as gamble).
- An unusually great interest or intense craving in something or a need to do or have something.
- The state of being enslaved to a habit or practice or to something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming, as narcotics, to such an extent that its cessation causes severe trauma.
- Characterized by tolerance and by well-defined physiological symptoms upon withdrawal.
Rich, nutrient-deficient, toxic foods have turned us into food addicts!
Using the definition above, food cravings and our refusal to remove certain foods from our diets would certainly qualify us as food addicts. The brain is affected by addictive, unhealthy food much like it is from addictive drugs.
Drug addiction causes temporary euphoria and an increased sense of neurological excitement when taking the addictive substance. This same process takes place when we eat super-concentrated, hyper-palatable foods. When the addictive substance is removed or the effects have worn off, feeling ill will follow. In order to keep from feeling ill, the addictive substance must be taken regularly. Withdrawal symptoms and/or a resistance to exclude certain items from our diets represent the toxic and controlling properties of that particular food item. Its level of toxicity is in direct proportion to the level of intensity of its withdrawal symptoms. The more toxic the diet, the more severe the cravings, withdrawal symptoms, or resistance will be.
Withdrawing from food addictions produces symptoms such as light-headedness, headaches, fatigue, nervousness, confusion, irritability, and shakiness. These are actually signs of "toxic hunger." Toxic hunger is a result from consuming the typical American diet, which is deficient in micronutrients and phytochemicals, and rich in high-calorie processed foods, sugar, animal products, and oils. In contrast, whole plant foods do not produce food addictions, cravings, withdrawal symptoms or require detoxification. Whole plant foods are non-toxic and promote optimal health. Spinach, carrots and corn for example are not foods that produce intense cravings and feelings of euphoria; they are non-toxic and non-addictive.
High-fat foods "deadens our brain's dopamine response"
Dr. Michael Greger's video describes how the food industry develops products that stimulate our brain's reward system, similar to that of tobacco and controlled drugs. He highlights a recent study conducted on high-fat foods which revealed identical brain activity when compared to that of drinking sugar water. Therefore, addictions are intensified when combining products containing both refined sugar and high-fat products.
People who consume both sugar and fat regularly such as ice cream, Dr. Greger explains, "have a deadened dopamine response in their brains similar to drug abusers that have to use more and more to get the same high. Once you've so dulled your dopamine response, [with frequent ice cream consumption] you may subsequently overeat in an effort to achieve the degree of satisfaction experienced previously, which contributes to unhealthy weight gain."
High-fat and sugary foods share a common factor - calorie concentration. "Consumption of a calorie-dense diet compared to the same number calories in a calorie-dilute diet leads to that numbing of the dopamine response. It's like the difference between cocaine and crack. Same stuff chemically, but by smoking crack cocaine we can deliver a higher dose quicker to our brain." Calorie concentrated foods such as high-fat animal products disable our brain's pleasure center which results in overeating to compensate.
Those with reduced dopamine response may "experience less enjoyment from other activities as well." Dr. Greger adds "That's why cocaine addicts may have an impaired neurological capacity to enjoy sex and why smokers have an impaired ability to respond to positive stimuli. Since these all involve the same dopamine pathways, what we eat--can affect how we experience all of life's pleasures."
Is your diet toxic?
Most people are not aware they have an addiction to foods. Their irritability, fatigue, headaches, and shakiness several hours after they haven't eaten a meal are mistaken for hunger or hypoglycemia when actually it's their body experiencing detoxification symptoms from their rich, toxic diet. Consuming rich foods once again, quiets the addictive symptoms. True hunger does not produce these symptoms.
How can you determine whether or not you have a food addiction? Whichever foods you insert into the following blank...."But I could never live without my (fill in the blank)!" The foods that you placed in the blank are the foods that have become your "drug of choice." These hyper-concentrated, hyper-palatable foods have seduced and hijacked your dopamine receptors which prevent you from enjoying the delicious taste and textures of simple, whole plant foods. If the mere thought of cutting these items out of your diet produces great anxiety, fear, emotional distress and anger, it's likely that your food choices are controlling you.
For those following high-fat, low-carb, animal-based diets, no amount of scientific evidence will persuade them into removing these toxic items from their diets. Their addictions override their reasoning. While ignoring the overwhelming bulk of evidence in the scientific literature, they eagerly promote recent studies which support their position regarding saturated animal fats. The results from these studies can easily be explained when the data is thoroughly examined. For more information regarding how studies can be manipulated in order to produce favorable outcomes, read our articles "Deciding Which Direction is Best" and "Unscrambling the Truth About Eggs." Dr. John McDougall responds to this by saying, "People love to hear good news about their bad habits. They ignore the bulk of the science, exaggerate the truth, and make false associations." More information regarding the dangers of Low-Carb Diets can be found here.
Our addiction to food forms the foundation for which modern medicine thrives. Unfortunately, we live in a culture that wants a quick fix. Instead of devoting our time and effort into making meaningful dietary changes, we place our faith in pills and surgical procedures to solve every possible health care problem. For this reason, the majority of patients opt for ineffective and toxic drugs and procedures - so that putting forth any effort on their own is not required. This allows us to continue to indulge in our bad habits and addictions without having to pay the price. Modern medicine promises fantastic benefits, it gives us what we want and not what we need. It offers quick fixes for symptomatic relief instead of treating the underlying cause of disease, which is a nutrient-deficient, highly acidic, toxic, low-fiber diet. Now THAT truth is a hard pill to swallow! As Dr. McDougall likes to say, the pharmaceutical business helps us "Die sooner with good looking numbers!"
As you'll see from the links below, consuming foods that are high in calories, protein, fat, sugar, salt and oil fuel and appease food addictions. The good news is that consuming foods that are "calorie-dilute" rather than "calorie-concentrated" helps restore our dopamine sensitivity so that we can once again derive the same pleasure from eating whole natural foods. If you've realized that you have a food addiction and wish to break free from the addictive nature of these hyper-concentrated foods, please watch Dr. Doug Lisle's one-hour presentation "Losing Weight Without Losing Your Mind" below.
For more information regarding food addictions and "calorie concentration" click on the following links: