Boundaries Keep Us Free from Addiction

Emotional eating and food addiction not only ruin health, but relationships as well, because both addictions have the potential to cause irrational thinking and behaviors. 

  • In the throes of my addictions I stole my children's Easter candies, Halloween treats, Christmas cookies; carefully making it look like nothing was missing, of course. 
  • I ate my husband's leftover birthday pie our first year of marriage, and when he found out he was shocked and furious! I even ate the top tier of our wedding cake that was intended for our first year anniversary celebration.
  • I ate out of the trash can; especially after a party when half-eaten Sloppy Joes and pieces of discarded birthday cake were calling my name. I would wait until the guests had gone home, and my family was sound asleep before the raid.  I loved the paper plates loaded with leftover cake and frosting flowers stuck to them the best.  
  • Besides my favorite, burnt edges of lasagna straight from the pan, one time I even ate salty, hardened hamburger grease that was sitting on the kitchen counter in a container - now that's the humdinger of addiction!

And to be totally honest, the 100 lbs of fat that I’d gained as a result of emotional eating and food addiction wasn’t nearly as painful as the inner turmoil and shame that it created within. The addictions consumed my thoughts, actions and moods; and both ruined precious relationships along the way. However, I overcame them by establishing a clear boundary line and made the steadfast decision to stay within it. Impulsive slip-ups happened from time to time, but I refused to let them derail my decision to stay 100% committed to be free from addiction and get my health back.   

That may sound too simplistic to be true, but it worked. 

Within four days of making the commitment to carefully follow Eat to Live, my teenage son with Type I diabetes ate a 2# bag of M & M’s, and he didn’t inject himself with insulin to cover it.  Suddenly, I was thrust into a tumultuous medical crisis that lasted the better part of three months. I wasn’t able to focus on books or programs to unravel the reasons behind my emotional eating. I didn’t have time to analyze every morsel of food that went into my mouth. During that time of crisis I couldn’t dig up past wounds to contemplate those who had wrongfully hurt me, or that I had hurt. My thoughts were consumed with saving my child’s life, and nothing else mattered.        

Thankfully, I had copied the Six-Week Plan, that’s outlined on p. 216 of Eat to Live, onto several 3x5 cards and had them laminated at an office supply store.  Those cards were my “boundary line” at all times.  I kept one in my purse, one in a book, one in the car, and attached one to the front of the refrigerator with a magnet. Those cards made all decisions for me, regardless of the turmoil that engulfed me.

I also worked on a daily piece of art anytime that I was tempted to eat. I carried 4"x4" squares of Bristol board, and colorful markers and pencils with me everywhere I went. I focused on creating art instead of eating food; and many times it was just doodling with colors in a hospital room. That was a tremendous tool to help divert my frustrations and anguish, and the resulting cravings to eat.

After three months the numbers on the scale were down 40 lbs, but more importantly, both emotional eating and addictive cravings for unhealthy food had significantly subsided.  I actually craved green vegetables instead of bacon, cheese, and peanut butter!

I've had episodes of emotional eating since then, but they have been short lived. For example, the following year during another diabetic crisis involving my son, I was pouring cocoa powder into bowls of oatmeal and banana ice-creams like crazy. (More like I was dumping it on!) Dr. Fuhrman told me to "Stop. Stop immediately, and don't use anymore cocoa powder for two weeks." That was my boundary line. Sure, I still nearly drowned in raging emotions that were all over the place, but I clung to the safety of the boundary line throughout the ordeaI and overcame both emotional eating and addiction to cocoa powder as a result.   

Then this past summer I was extremely sleep deprived and experienced PTSD symptoms from a sudden, tragic event in my life.  I craved dopamine producing, high calorie, low-nutrient, “healthy” foods over high-nutrient choices.  Dr. Fuhrman instructed me to focus on shopping and preparing delicious tasting, high-nutrient foods; and to focus on getting deep sleep every night by darkening my bedroom windows. Again, that was my boundary line. Within a few weeks the PTSD symptoms subsided, I desired high-nutrient foods again, and my sleep cycles were restored.


If we want emotional, psychological and physiological freedom from addictions, we must establish a clear boundary line and stay within it no matter what. 


It may seem scrupulous, but it has to be.

 

Some will think it is extreme, but so is addiction. 

 

Addicts cannot afford compromise. Addicts cannot turn back. If we do, we will be undone, because the addiction will recover strength and take over our lives.  



 You may also be interested in reading The Powerful Snare of Compromise” and

“Food Addiction is Just as Powerful as Drug Addiction”

 

 

image credit: “Death by Dumpster Diving” © 2012 by Emily Boller




 

Let's Boycott Our Processed Food Nation

A few days ago, I was explaining my nutritarian diet to an acquaintance when he made a remark about the apparently dreadful sounding blandness of my diet. “You just eat plants? What?! You poor dear. That must be horrible, honey.” Boy did this get me frustrated! Putting aside the fact that I think the foods I eat taste divine, his comment got me thinking, what’s really sad here is our nation of over-processed eaters whom have become so far removed from the taste of real foods. The reality at the heart of his comment was that most people have now been conditioned to only enjoy the taste of heavily salted or overly sweetened processed foods.

Strawberries. Flickr: clairity

While this shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone, Americans are obsessed with the flavors of packaged foods and we are now eating 31 percent more packaged food than fresh, and we consume more processed foods per person than the individuals of any other country. We certainly do love our TV dinners, chips, sweet and salty snacks and ready-to-eat meals.  My theory is that if we have to tear open a bag, unwrap plastic or open a box, people will assume the food will be tasty.

I recently read Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser, which is a sobering account of how far off the deep end we’ve become as a nation of processed food loving peoples.  I’m sure any reader will agree with me that a meal of fresh tropical mango and papaya salad with thinly-sliced raw greens and coconut-lime dressing is just not going to maintain its natural flavors (or even stay fresh), if it were shipped from California to Connecticut and then had to stay on the shelf in a grocery store for a few more days after that. While French fries might not be as prone to perish as a tropical mango and papaya salad, those little fritters just aren’t going to maintain their natural freshness or flavors of the original potato either.  In reality, almost all of the foods we buy in packages contain artificial flavors produced by food scientists in white lab coats in factories in northern New Jersey.  I learned this and infinitely more in Fast Food Nation, and besides being a huge walking and writing advertisement for the book, my point is that our bodies haven’t evolved to eat this artificial processed junk yet and until we do, we need to begin evaluating where our food comes from and what ingredients are added to them.

So, not only do I love the natural, unprocessed foods that I cook for myself, I know there won’t be any of the ingredients that go into producing the artificial flavorings of a Burger King strawberry milkshake, such as amyl acetate, amyl butyrate, anethol, butyric acid, hydroxyphrenyl-2-butanone, methyl benzoate, or other obscure most of us have never heard of.  Mind you, there are no real strawberries added to processed strawberries flavorings like this one. As my dad likes to say, our taste buds are adaptable and it takes time to adjust to the subtler flavors of natural plant foods.  Once going nutritarian for even just a few weeks, taste buds can change and fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds become more desirable. My mouth waters at the thought of a fresh kale salad with lemon-tahini dressing, a Portobello mushroom burger or chocolate cherry “ice cream” made from bananas and almond milk.  I love the taste of the foods I eat, I love that I’m not consuming any ethyl methylphenylglyci-date (an actual chemical used as an ingredient in many artificial flavors), and most importantly, I love being healthy.  So who’s with me on a quest to avoid processed foods for good? For all of you already healthy eaters, how do you feel when someone thinks your diet is absolutely tasteless and you know it can be knock-your-socks-off delicious? As our obesity epidemic and disease riddled society continues to flourish, we are going to have to say no to those processed packages and hello to the new age of unprocessed, nutrient-rich plant foods.   

Every Day Counts; Let's All Get Healthy in 2012

 

The holiday season can be a joyous time when we celebrate with our family and friends.  However, with unhealthy foods everywhere, I take bad nutrition seriously because people die from it.  I am sick of seeing people injured and dead, especially when they learned about the power of superior nutrition and did not take advantage of it. Food addiction is powerful for sure, but think about if that junk food (white flour, white rice and white sugar are dangerous junk) is worth a cancer diagnosis or open heart surgery. When junk food is eaten, including the traditional, disease-promoting foods served at the holidays, you may get momentary pleasure as it passes the lips, but the results continue on to compromise your health now, and many years in the future.  For some reason people do not realize that they aren’t granted a new body after they harm the one they have. We pay a price, usually later in life for our dietary indiscretions. As we get older, the more years one remains overweight and the more times you indulge in cancer-causing foods, the more difficult it becomes to assure protection against a tragic life-threatening cancer when you finally do decide to eat healthfully. Now is the time to throw your cigarettes away, not next year. Now is the time to get off your soft drinks and sugar addiction, not after the holidays.

Since everyone can use great recipes (and I supply many of them) to make delicious desserts and main dishes, I do not see the reason to eat white flour and sugar-filled garbage that creates cancer. Just because the world has gone crazy, and has become addicted to dangerous refined foods and factory farmed junk-food chicken and meats (factory-farmed meats are junk-food too) doesn’t mean you should join the self-destructive insanity.  

 

Remember how eating unhealthful and overeating while celebrating the holidays left you feeling ill and regretful in the past?  (And it wasn’t likely that pleasurable either.)  I doubt pigging out on junk is that pleasurable compared to cocaine or heroin. Not that I would know that, but I do know that food addiction kills a thousand times more people each year than cocaine addiction. Plus, not having good health magnifies every emotional problem plaguing your life and is a contributory cause of depression. Now is the time to change things. Make the effort, set the example and do not let the holidays derail your commitment. Giving up addictive and harmful habits are tough, but you have to be tough on yourself to succeed. Accept no excuses. It will be well worth it. Do it now. Make the commitment.    

 

Don’t know where to start? Try these simple guidelines taken from my book Eat to Live:

  • Eat at least one large salad each day.
  • Enjoy generous amounts of cooked green vegetables with mushrooms and onions.
  • Satisfy your sweet tooth with at least three fresh fruits each day.
  • Eat at least one-half cup of beans each day. 
  • Remember the acronym GOMBBS. Greens, onions, mushrooms, beans, berries, and seeds. These are the most health-promoting foods.
  • Avoid completely these disease-promoting foods: white flour, sugars, artificial sweeteners, oils, and factory farmed animal products. Unhealthy food is designed to be addictive – keep it out of your home.
  • Retrain your taste buds to prefer healthy foods. Staying away from sugar and salt is the secret to a heightened sense of taste and enjoyment of natural flavors.  

 

Here are some tips for staying on track:

  • Always keep your kitchen stocked with fresh and frozen produce.
  • Budget time: plan out when you will shop for groceries, cook, exercise, relax, and spend time with friends and family.
  • Plan your meals ahead of time and make a detailed grocery list before you go shopping.
  • Cook vegetable bean soups in large batches, and store leftovers in the refrigerator so you can quickly heat some up for lunch or dinner later in the week.
  • Stay focused on your health – eating right is self-care. Do not allow the unhealthy influences around you to derail you from your health goals.
  • My new 90 percent rule (I just made it up today) does not mean that you can eat 10 percent of anything. It means the 10 percent of animal products or flour products or sweet desserts can still be made from whole grains, natural fruit and dried fruit sweeteners, and more naturally raised and cleaner animal products.   In other words, I see no reason for people to continue to consume the worst foods on the planet. Junk food kills and just perpetuates food addictions.

 

Fast forward to next holiday season: you will make the best choices; the ones that will allow you to achieve overall health and quality of life. You'll be celebrating your health instead of simply indulging in the “traditional” destructive foods. As you eat for optimal health and vitality, you’ll be able to more fully enjoy the special times with family and friends. You will flourish and it will be the most enjoyable holiday season you've ever had. There will be no need to “start over” next January 1st. You will already be committed to your health, and feel pleased with yourself for maintaining your healthy habits over the holidays.  So are you going to take my holiday challenge? 

The official kick-off begins on Monday, November 21st.  Click here to read the official rules and to make my Holiday Challenge Promise. 

 

 

 

image credits:  flickr by terren in Virginia and EraPhernalia Vintage

Holiday Challenge? I could NEVER do that!

 

Remember the wonderful reasons why we are eating high-nutrient foods?  click here

 

The Holiday Challenge rules and promise will be posted this coming Tuesday, and the official kick-off will be on Monday, November 21st.  Let's all enjoy the best holiday season yet!

 

Let us know the reason(s) why you will be jumping on board the Holiday Challenge this year.

 

 

image credit:  Esther Boller

Think about health when faced with tough decisions

Planning in advance to eat healthfully is quite easy – but what happens when you are confronted with an immediate decision between healthy and unhealthy food – especially when you are hungry?

Here’s an example: you’re at a party where everyone is munching on chips, cheesy dips, and greasy finger foods. You see a platter of raw vegetables and fresh fruit, but you feel tempted by the junk food. Do you stick with the produce or indulge in the calorie-laden snacks?  What goes on in your brain while you’re making that decision?

Subconsciously, we assign a certain value to each food, asking ourselves, “How will each of these foods taste? How healthy is each one? What is more important to me right now, taste or healthfulness?”

Vegetable platter. Flickr: Bruce Guenter


Junk food. Flickr: bloomsburys

Decision-making is thought to be controlled by part of the brain called the ventromedial prefrontalcortex (vmPFC), which also plays a role in regulating emotions and emotional reactions.  A 2009 study found that another region, the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (dlPFC), may help the vmPFC to decide that healthfulness is more important when making food decisions.   In people who showed more self-control in their food choices, the vmPFC was activated by pictures of foods they had as healthy and foods they rated as tasty; however, in people with less self-control, the vmPFC was only activated by foods they rated as tasty, not the ones they rated as healthy. Also, those with more self-control had more activity in the dlPFC during food decisions.  These results suggest that the dlPFC may reduce the value that the vmPFC assigns to tempting unhealthy foods, helping us to exert self-control in our food decisions.1

So, can we choose to activate the dlPFC to have more self-control when making food decisions?  If so, how? 

That’s exactly the question that this research group’s newest study tried to answer. Subjects were asked to fast for at least three hours prior to the experiment. They were shown pictures of 180 different foods and asked to respond within three seconds “yes” or “no” to whether they’d want to eat the food.  Before they experiment, they were told that one of their choices would be randomly selected, and if they answered “yes” for that food, it would be served to them later. 

Before each group of 10 food photos, a message would be displayed on the screen saying either "consider the healthiness," "consider the tastiness," or "make decisions naturally." These messages were designed to shift the subjects’ attention toward either taste or health – if they were reminded to think about health, would it change their brain activity and cause them to make a healthier choice?

The answer was yes. After seeing the “consider the healthiness” message, subjects were less likely to choose unhealthy foods, and more likely to choose healthy-untasty foods.  They also said “no” to foods more often after seeing the “healthiness” message than after seeing the “naturally” message.  

What was going on in the brain? In response to pictures of healthy foods, the vmPFC showed more activity in the presence of the “healthiness” message compared to the other messages.  The dlPFC was more active in response to all of the food pictures in the presence of the “healthiness” message compared to the other messages.  This result suggests that the dlPFC was more able to help the vmPFC put more value on healthiness after the “healthiness” message.   The subjects made healthier choices when they were reminded to do so.2,3

The message here is that making the tough decisions between taste and health is easier than we think – if we can remind ourselves that health is the more important quality, we can alter the way the brain values the foods involved.  When faced with a decision between delicious healthy food and tempting unhealthy food, we can use reminders to shift our attention toward health:

    • Post sticky notes in your kitchen, or on your desk at work, saying “Choose the healthiest foods” or something similar.   

    • Make a sign that says “GOMBS* fight cancer in every bite.”

    • When you are looking at a menu in a restaurant, or making a food choice outside of your home, remind yourself “I choose to eat healthy foods,” or “I do not eat disease-causing foods.” Write these statements on a visible card you keep in your wallet or pocketbook.

    • As Dr. Fuhrman recommends, put a sign on your refrigerator that says “The salad is the main dish!” 

According to this research, reminders like these do work.  We can train ourselves (and our dlPFCs) to use healthfulness as the most important quality by which we value foods.

*GOMBS  = Greens, Onions, Mushrooms, Beans, Berries, Seeds

 

References:

1. Hare TA, Camerer CF, Rangel A: Self-control in decision-making involves modulation of the vmPFC valuation system. Science 2009;324:646-648.

2. Think healthy, eat healthy: Caltech scientists show link between attention and self-control. EurekAlert! http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2011-07/ciot-the072611.php. Accessed August 15, 2011.

3. Hare TA, Malmaud J, Rangel A: Focusing Attention on the Health Aspects of Foods Changes Value Signals in vmPFC and Improves Dietary Choice. J Neurosci 2011;31:11077-11087.


 

Are you continually fatigued?

Do you find yourself grabbing a cup of coffee to make it through the morning?

Do you reach for a pastry when you need a quick boost of energy?

Is food a stimulant to keep you going?

Emily Boller when she was a young motherFor years food was my stimulant to combat fatigue. As a young mother it was my drug of choice to make it through a stress-filled day of caring for a three-year-old, an 18-month-old, and a newborn. Fatigue was temporarily overcome with morning donuts and a grilled cheese sandwich for lunch. Nap time for the babies meant *down time* for Mom; a bowl or two of caramel praline ice cream and corn chips. Nine o’clock bedtime for the kids began my happy hour of processed cereal, milk, and crunchy peanut butter. 

I didn’t know at the time that my overwhelming fatigue was an addictive withdrawal symptom from eating poorly. In fact, Dr. Fuhrman says that fatigue is one of the chief withdrawal symptoms mistaken for hunger and an excuse to eat for more stimulation. When a person eats healthfully, he/she no longer feels fatigue; although tiredness may be experienced when more sleep is needed. There’s a big difference.   

My addictive cycles continued for years.

When those babies got older, I had to keep up with the rat-race of soccer practices and games, wrestling matches, dance practices and recitals, 4-H meetings and projects, sleepovers, birthday parties, thrift shopping for kids’ clothes and shoes, and the never ending mountain of laundry that five children produced. Because I continued to eat poorly, McDonald’s drive thru was a necessary, mid afternoon pick-me-up when my fifth baby was asleep in his car seat in-between an older sibling’s dance practice and music lesson. Then I desperately needed that late night bowl of cereal and milk to calm my shakiness before crashing in bed.    

Food temporarily enhanced my alertness; it kept the shakiness and cravings of withdrawal at bay and boosted my motivation when I was down-in-the-dumps. Food had nothing to do with nutrition, but everything to do with stimulation and moment-to-moment survival. In fact, I had been incorrectly taught that shakiness and cravings were signs of low blood sugar and that I needed to eat, when actually they were symptoms of withdrawal. 

Perhaps today is the perfect time to hit the “pause” button of life and ask:

  • Is food a stimulant to temporarily energize the symptoms of fatigue due to addictive withdrawal?
  • Or is food a source of optimal nutrition to keep the body functioning at its very best?

 

The former will produce a sub par life of disease and continually feeling blaahhh.

The latter will produce a disease-free life full of health and vitality!

 

 

 

That's What You Get For Eating Out In Vegas

Las Vegas.  Flickr: http2007

I have always been an advocate that you can find healthy food anywhere. I tell people this all the time when they ask if I dine at restaurants or how I handle social events involving food. Boy, did my trip to Vegas prove me wrong. 

I traveled to Vegas with hard-core meat and junk-food eating friends. Besides their affinity for foods I consider grotesquely inedible, I love these people and cherish them as my friends. They tried to please me in our restaurant choices and I figured there would be vegetable options on every restaurant’s menu, so I was initially pretty easy going about where we went to eat. I figured worst-case scenario, I could ask the chef to steam some vegetables for me. It would be no big deal, I thought.

Upon our first lunch outing, my friends chose a Japanese restaurant. I was famished and as such, agreed to eat wherever they desired. When I glanced at the menu, I was a happy girl. The menu was a treasure trove of vegan and vegetarian options, all which seemed as tasty as any home cooked meal. I ordered the Crispy Lettuce Rolls, which were to be filled with mushrooms and tofu. Can’t go wrong with that, right? Wrong.

When my meal arrived it looked delicious, so I eagerly took a big bite. What I tasted was pure salt. That’s what my meal was. Lettuce wrapped in salt. Much to my later regret, I continued to consume the meal because I was famished and as a salt-binge ingénue, didn’t comprehend the repercussions that eating this meal would entail. Throughout the day I felt perfectly fine, but by dinner time I no longer felt like my vibrant, healthy glowing self. I actually felt positively disgusting. I was bloated, very thirsty and uncomfortable in my own skin. In my state of physical lousiness, I began pondering how in the world other people could eat like this every single day and function normally. For dinner I was going to stay as far away from seasoned food as possible. My friends chose a Mexican restaurant with plentiful salad options. Okay, I figured I couldn’t go wrong with a salad. 

I was proven wrong once more. I asked for Portobello mushrooms instead of chicken on my salad and when I bit into those mushrooms they were oozing with salt and vinegar. I couldn’t eat my side order of beans, which I had attempted and failed to order salt free (they were pre-prepared), because they also tasted like a mouth full of salt. Needless to say, I wasted my money on food I didn’t consume. Apart from one evening meal at the Wynn in which I custom ordered a vegan meal of steamed vegetables (I loved the meal and Steve Wynn for going vegan!), I could not find healthy food anywhere.   It was a nutritarian nightmare. For lunch one day I ordered what appeared to be a healthy, grilled vegetable wrap, only to take a bite into a mouthful of grease. I couldn’t eat it. Just like the overflowing decorative opulence of many of the Vegas hotels, apparently all of the chefs at the Vegas restaurants assumed they should opulently season, sugar and grease their dishes. 

My memories of the trip will be of the wonderful shows and places we went to, but I will also remember how bloated and disgusting I felt after eating salted food. I guess the moral of this story is to arrive on vacations better prepared. I was too naïve and didn’t realize until it was too late that you must assume all food in restaurants are loaded with salt. I should have known to ask for plain vegetables and salads with the dressing on the side. I should have known to travel with a stash of nuts and apples or other healthy options to curtail my hunger. My father would have been saying, “I told you so!” I learned my lesson. No more veggie junk-food hangovers for me!

     

Prediction: Breast cancer rates will skyrocket in the next 20 years

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness month, and I want to raise awareness that childhood diets are the major cause of adult cancers, including breast cancer. [1] I also want to raise awareness that women are not powerless against breast cancer – mammograms for ‘early detection’ are not the only defense and do not even offer significant benefits. The most important thing to be aware of is that women can achieve meaningful risk reduction with powerful preventive lifestyle measures.

The American Institute for Cancer Research estimates that 40% of breast cancers are preventable through diet and lifestyle measures. I propose that we could prevent much more than 40% of breast cancers in the future, if we can ingrain healthy habits in our children at a young age.

Early studies found wide international variations in breast cancer rates, originally generating the hypothesis that nutrition is a major determinant of breast cancer risk. Obesity is a significant risk factor for breast cancer:

  • Gaining one pound per year during adulthood can double breast cancer risk after menopause.
  • Obesity alone is thought to be responsible for 17% of breast cancers.
  • Obesity is associated with greater tumor burden and poorer prognosis in breast cancer patients. [2, 3]
  • Production of inflammatory molecules and estrogen by body fat, as well as elevated insulin and insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1) levels are thought to contribute to obesity-related breast cancer risk. [2]

Plenty of experts have predicted that the explosion of childhood obesity we have seen in recent years will result in crisis proportions of heart disease and diabetes in the future, but cancer seems to be ignored. Today, over 30% of children are overweight or obese. [4] Clearly, with all the research demonstrating that obesity is a major risk factor for breast cancer, our young girls are in danger.

The prevalence of early puberty, another established risk factor for breast cancer, has been consistently increasing over the past 100 years. Today, by the age of 8, 18.3% of Caucasian girls, 42.9% of African-American girls, and 30.9% of Hispanic girls have already entered puberty. Obesity, soft drinks, and excessive animal protein are the likely culprits (Read more).

This is a grim indication of things to come – when these girls reach adulthood, tragically we will see an upsurge in breast cancer cases. With the increases in fast food and processed food consumption in America in the last 20 years, I predict a tragic explosion in pre-menopausal breast cancers in our country in the next 20 years.

Breast tissue is most vulnerable to carcinogenic influences when it is growing and developing – during childhood and adolescence. Children are also especially susceptible to weight gain during adolescence. [5] Thus, this window of time is when a healthy diet is absolutely crucial. Animal studies have demonstrated that a high-fat diet or a body fat promoting diet during puberty promotes abnormal development of breast tissue and production of inflammatory molecules, which in turn may promote tumor growth.[6, 7] Adolescent diet was examined in the Nurses’ Health Study – greater consumption of vegetables during high school was associated with a decreased risk of breast cancer, and high glycemic index foods were associated with an increased risk. [8]

The typical American childhood diet of chicken fingers, French fries, and mac and cheese is not harmless – it is creating a cancer-friendly environment in children’s bodies.

As parents, we must feed our children healthful foods from an early age. This is the most effective protection from future chronic disease that we can provide for them. Healthy eating is a lifetime commitment, and we can give our children a head start. Our goal should be to instill healthy habits in our children so that they grow up at a healthy weight, appreciating healthy food and exercise, and hold on to those habits as adults. In order to do this, we must set a positive example, focusing on nutrient-dense, health-promoting foods.

New research is revealing the protective effects of natural foods against breast cancer. For example, mushrooms have anti-estrogenic activity, and regular mushroom consumption is associated with a 60% decrease in cancer risk. [9] Cruciferous vegetables such as watercress, other leafy greens, and broccoli contain compounds known to inhibit cancer cell growth. [10, 11]

Instead of wearing a pink ribbon, eat vegetables, onions and mushrooms – and make sure to feed some to your kids.

 

References:


1. Maynard, M., et al., Fruit, vegetables, and antioxidants in childhood and risk of adult cancer: the Boyd Orr cohort. J Epidemiol Community Health, 2003. 57(3): p. 218-25.
2. Cleary, M.P. and M.E. Grossmann, Minireview: Obesity and breast cancer: the estrogen connection. Endocrinology, 2009. 150(6): p. 2537-42.
3. Abrahamson, P.E., et al., General and abdominal obesity and survival among young women with breast cancer. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev, 2006. 15(10): p. 1871-7.
4. Ogden, C.L., et al., Prevalence of high body mass index in US children and adolescents, 2007-2008. JAMA, 2010. 303(3): p. 242-9.
5. Jasik, C.B. and R.H. Lustig, Adolescent obesity and puberty: the "perfect storm". Ann N Y Acad Sci, 2008. 1135: p. 265-79.
6. Olson, L.K., et al., Pubertal exposure to high fat diet causes mouse strain-dependent alterations in mammary gland development and estrogen responsiveness. Int J Obes (Lond), 2010. 34(9): p. 1415-26.
7. Michigan State University: High-fat diet during puberty linked to breast cancer risk later in life. 2010; Available from: http://news.msu.edu/story/8233/.
8. Frazier, A.L., et al., Adolescent diet and risk of breast cancer. Cancer Causes Control, 2004. 15(1): p. 73-82.
9. Zhang, M., et al., Dietary intakes of mushrooms and green tea combine to reduce the risk of breast cancer in Chinese women. Int J Cancer, 2009. 124(6): p. 1404-8.
10. Clarke, J., R. Dashwood, and E. Ho, Multi-targeted prevention of cancer by sulforaphane. Cancer Letters, 2008. 269(2): p. 291-304.
11. Higdon, J., et al., Cruciferous vegetables and human cancer risk: epidemiologic evidence and mechanistic basis. Pharmacological Research, 2007. 55(3): p. 224-236.

 

Junk food desensitizes the reward centers of the brain

 Chips

 

Dr. Fuhrman’s concept of toxic hunger states that the unhealthy foods at the center of the standard American diet are addictive. Like all other drugs, addictive substances involve both pleasure and pain. By definition, an addictive substance is toxic and therefore produces uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms when the body attempts to detoxify the waste products left behind. When we feel this discomfort, eating relieves the symptoms – when the body begins digestion it stops detoxification. So we mistakenly believe that these feelings are hunger, and we are then almost forced to eat too frequently in order to lessen the withdrawal symptoms from our low nutrient diets. This leads us to progressively eat more and more of the addictive food, and makes becoming overweight inevitable. Dr. Fuhrman further asserts that foods, lacking sufficient micronutrients, lead to a buildup of oxidative stress, free radicals and other inflammatory substances that are mobilized during catabolism causing distressful symptoms curtailed by overeating. 

Scientists studying addiction are now confirming Dr. Fuhrman’s assertion that unhealthy food is indeed addictive. Scientists following up their preliminary data on the subject

have published a new study in Nature Neuroscience showing that drug addiction and compulsive eating have the same effects on the brain – they desensitize brain reward circuits.1 In the brain, eating is motivated by pleasure and reward. 

The researchers studied three groups of rats – all three groups were allowed access to their standard (healthy) chow at all times. In addition, rats had either no access, restricted access (1 hour per day), or extended access (18-23 hours per day) to palatable energy dense food for 40 days. This palatable energy dense food consisted of nutrient deficient processed foods readily available to humans – things like sausage, bacon, and cheesecake.2

Extended access rats gained weight rapidly, and were significantly heavier than chow only or restricted access rats. Their calorie intake was almost double that of the chow only rats. Even the restricted access rats developed binge-like eating behaviors, getting about 66% of their daily calories during their 1 hour of access to the unhealthy food. 

The scientists used electrodes to measure the rats’ reward thresholds. The reward threshold is the minimum amount of stimulation that produces feelings of satisfaction. As the experiment continued, extended access rats had progressively higher reward thresholds. This means that their reward circuitry became less and less responsive, and a greater amount of unhealthy food was therefore required to satisfy their appetites. Even when the rats were taught to anticipate an electric shock, they kept eating, not even trying to avoid the shocks. This compulsive behavior in the face of negative consequences is a hallmark of addiction.

The scientists traced these effects to a decrease in levels of specific dopamine receptors in the striatum region of the brain. These exact neurobiological changes have been shown to occur in rats that are given extended access to heroin or cocaine. In fact, after access to the unhealthy food was no longer permitted, withdrawal (measured by continued elevation of the reward threshold) persisted in these rats for a full 14 days - rats in withdrawal from cocaine have been reported to experience withdrawal for only 48 hours. These results demonstrate how powerfully addictive – and powerfully toxic – unhealthy food is.

In the Western world, we have extended access to unhealthy food – nutrient-deficient processed food seems to be everywhere we turn. In such an environment, it is almost inevitable that we will become addicted, progressively gain weight, and suffer the health consequences. Only by removing the toxic, addictive foods from our diets and replacing them with health promoting foods can we break the cycle of toxic hunger and achieve excellent health.

 

References:

1. Johnson PM, Kenny PJ. Dopamine D2 receptors in addiction-like reward dysfunction and compulsive eating in obese rats. Nat Neurosci. 2010 Mar 28. [Epub ahead of print]

2. Scripps Research Institute (2010, March 29). Compulsive eating shares addictive biochemical mechanism with cocaine, heroin abuse, study shows. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 16, 2010, from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100328170243.htm

Food Navigator. Food addiction: Fat may rewire brain like hard drugs. http://www.foodnavigator.com/Science-Nutrition/Food-addiction-Fat-may-rewire-brain-like-hard-drugs/?c=DFrDdGqlXj9PxLeDW0x8cw%3D%3D&utm_source=newsletter_daily&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Newsletter%2BDaily

NewScientist: Junk-fed rats have ‘drug-addict’ brains. http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn18706-junkfed-rats-have-drug-addict-brains.html?DCMP=OTC-rss&nsref=health

 

Children Eating Sweets Daily Linked to Violence

Colorful image of a pair of hands holding some multi colored square block candies

Children who eat sweets and chocolate every day are more likely to become violent adults according to UK researchers.

The Cardiff University study involving 17,500 people is the first study to look into effects of childhood diet on adult violence. It found 10-year-olds who ate sweets daily were significantly more likely to have a violence conviction by age 34. The researchers found that 69% of the participants who were violent at the age of 34 had eaten sweets and chocolate nearly every day during childhood, compared to 42% who were non-violent.

The link remained even after controlling for other factors such as parenting behavior, location of where child lived, not having education after the age of 16 and whether or not they had access to a car when they were 34.

So not only does eating junk food in childhood increase the risk of adult cancers as stated in my book Disease Proof Your Child, there is now evidence that suggests eating sweets may contribute to sending your child to jail down the road. Interestingly, this link between violent behavior and sweets was better than the link between abusive parenting behaviors and violent crime. Parents need to know that giving their children sweets is dangerous for many reasons.

The study was reported in the British Journal of Psychiatry.