Exposing the High Cost of Food Addiction

For over twenty years I was addicted to the Standard America Diet, and as a result I overate and became 100 lbs overweight. Consequently, I developed several nutritional diseases: heart disease, pre diabetes, hypertension, osteoarthritis, chronic bronchitis, and boils; just to name a few. And to maintain that obese state I had to consume at least 3700 calories a day.  

Last year I calculated the average food expenses of my indulgent eating habit and was nearly shocked at what I discovered. 

Basically, I was eating in excess of $4,500 / year than I am now as a Nutritarian. My entanglement with the Standard America Diet drained at least $90,000 from the family budget over a 20 year period of time! 

Numbers don’t lie. The following is the cost comparison of weekly food expenses for one person, Yours truly, Emily Boller:

 

THEN

 

 

NOW

 

 1 loaf of bread

3.90

 

 lettuce

10.00

 ½ lb of butter

2.00

 

 kale, collards, spinach

10.00

 honey

2.00

 

 colorful vegetables

10.00

 peanut butter

3.50

 

 fresh fruit

20.00

 2 bottles of dressing

5.00

 

 frozen fruit

 7.00

 1 lb cheese

5.00

 

 nuts/seeds/flax

 7.00

 32 oz. yogurt

7.00

 

 oats (on occasion)

 3.00

 32 oz. cottage cheese

6.00

 

 mushrooms

 7.00

 microwave popcorn

7.00

 

 onions

 3.00

 1 gallon of milk

3.50

 

 beans (dry / bulk)

 5.00

 2 quarts ice cream

7.00

 

 tomato paste

 5.00

 candy

7.00

 

 TOTAL

87.00

 processed cereal

7.00

     

 mixed vegetables

5.00

     

 lettuce

7.00

     

 carrots

2.00

     

 chips & crackers

7.00

     

 fruit

7.00

     

 cookies

5.00

     

 frozen pizza

5.00

     

 lasagna

3.00

     

 meatloaf

3.00

     

 chicken breasts

6.00

     

 roast beef

3.00

     

 deli meats

5.00

     

 mayonnaise

2.00

     

 macaroni and cheese

3.00

     

 garlic bread

3.00

     

 rolls and biscuits

3.00

     

 Subway meal

7.00

     

 diet sodas

14.00

     

 Dairy Queen

5.00

     

 chewing gum

2.00

     

 ice cream novelties

4.00

     

 TOTAL

166.90

 

 

 

 

THEN: $166.90* / week = $8,678.80 / year

*This amount excludes coffee and alcohol addiction; this number would've been much higher with daily stops at Starbucks or alcohol purchases.  Also, I was "only" 100 lbs. overweight so this amount would've been much higher if I would've been heavier as well.

 

NOW:   $ 87.00* / week = $4,524.00 / year

*This amount excludes backyard gardening; this number can be significantly reduced with homegrown produce.

 

 

 

Add to my former expenses a quarterly visit to an endocrinologist and a cardiologist, lab tests, surgical procedures, hospitalizations, and the various prescription and over-the-counter drugs that I had to take . . . .gluttony not only robbed me and my family of a quality life, it drained the budget as well, big time!

None of us can afford being addicted to the Standard American Diet. Food addiction is nothing to joke about. It robs and destroys health, relationships, careers, dreams, and financial resources. Instead, making the commitment to Dr. Fuhrman’s nutritarian approach is not only health promoting, it is cost effective as well. 

 

Here’s to great health, a quality life, and money in the bank to all!

Sensible boundaries keep us safe

 

For many of us who are former, chronic dieters, restrictive eating may have been a very negative experience. We may have had the euphoric high of shedding a few pounds with artificially sweetened desserts and beverages, processed meal replacements, protein powder drinks, or meticulous counting, measuring and recording rituals; but then ate everything in sight afterwards to make up for the inhumane deprivation of vital nutrients that our bodies so desperately needed for survival. 

We may have lost 10 lbs, but then binged and gained 40.   

However, when we liberally and generously flood our bodies with micronutrients, phytochemicals and rich antioxidants, it turns off the biological necessity for craving addictive, unhealthy foods and overeating. For many, it takes at least 3-6 weeks of total abstinence; replacing standard America diet foods with high-nutrient foods for the taste buds to change and to cross over to that threshold of freedom.   

Eat to Live definitely scores as the only proven program out there that eradicates addictive biological cravings, which removes the strong power-struggle with food.

However, one can’t deny the fact that it is not an all-you-can-eat, no restraints way of eating either.  There are guidelines to follow like eating only when truly hungry and stopping before full.

For those of us who have developed unhealthy habits over the years such as: using food to stuff negative emotions, or to celebrate happy occasions, or to eat according to the clock, or as a recreational hobby, or to socialize with others, there’s an intentional and ongoing diligence that has to be maintained for life

Like all addictions, one can never return to destructive habits, no matter how much the cravings for unhealthy foods have ceased. 

For me personally, I can never eat at the computer while skimming Facebook or the news. For me, food turns into a recreational hobby when I do that and I no longer focus on stopping before full. 

Just like many recovering alcoholics can no longer hang out at bars lest they revert back to unhealthy patterns, I can’t mix food with leisure activities that trigger mindless overeating.  Eating is only to nourish my body. Nothing more. It’s no longer a recreational hobby. 

So for that reason, optimal health requires sensible boundaries to safeguard oneself from past engrained habits, depending upon one’s former lifestyle.   

                                 

Eat to live.  We nourish our bodies with high-nutrient foods; eating only when truly hungry and stopping before full. 

 

Simple. Sensible. Effective. Permanent. 

 

 

 

image credit:  vegetables, flickr by Martin Cathrae   

Dopamine: why "just one bite" doesn't work

The science on food addiction has now established that highly palatable foods (low-nutrient, high-calorie, intensely sweet, salty, and/or fatty foods - those that make up the majority of the Standard American Diet) produces the exact biochemical effects in the brain that are characteristic of substance abuse.

Junk food is ubiquitously available, legal, cheap, and socially accepted; therefore, it becomes the drug of choice for many of us.

The following are some characteristics of addiction to a substance or behavior:1

  • Compulsive use of the substance despite negative health and social consequences
  • Tolerance - over time, progressively greater amounts of the substance are needed to reach and maintain the “high”
  • Withdrawal symptoms (toxic hunger) when the substance is discontinued
  • Activation of reward pathways (including the dopamine system) in the brain

Many of us have had the experience of tasting a junk food or dessert, and then feeling the intense demand from our brain: “MORE!” We feel a complete lack of control, and our commitment to excellent health all of a sudden doesn’t matter. These feelings originate from the dopamine reward system – dopamine is a neurochemical that regulates motivation, pleasure, and reinforcement related to certain stimuli – such as food.  The amount of pleasure we derive from eating a food correlates with the amount of dopamine released in the brain.2

Cookies. Flickr: Rochelle, just rochelle

Obese individuals have a diminished number of dopamine receptors

Obese humans are known to have fewer dopamine receptors (called D2 receptors) compared to lean individuals –their reward response from food is not as sensitive and it is thought that they compensate by overeating.1,3

Overeating blunts the dopamine reward response, encouraging more overeating

Why do obese individuals have lower numbers of dopamine receptors? In substance abuse, over time the brain adapts by downregulating dopamine receptors. It turns out the same happens in overeating.4 A 2011 study revealed that women who had gained a significant amount of weight over a 6-month period reduced their dopamine system response to palatable food over that time period. Similar reductions in the reward response to palatable foods have been reported in women with bulimia nervosa. These results suggest that overeating diminishes the reward from palatable food, driving further overeating and future weight gain.5,7

Desire for highly palatable food is intensified in obese individuals and overeaters

Although actual dopamine reward is diminished in obese individuals compared to lean individuals, dopamine release in response to pictures of palatable food is actually enhanced.4,6

In summary, recent research suggests that overeating and obesity cause greater desire for palatable food, but diminished reward from consuming palatable food - resulting in a progressively worsening addiction.

Our level of susceptibility to addictive behaviors varies by genetic predisposition and emotional state. Nevertheless, highly palatable food has physiologically addictive properties that will make almost anyone experience a lack of control.  “Just one bite” doesn’t work because that single bite activates the dopamine reward system, causing the brain to demand more.  Willpower, logic, and common sense are no match for addictive drives. As with other addictions, recovery requires abstaining from the addictive substance. An alcoholic can’t have “just one drink” without grave risk of relapse. The same is true for food addicts.

Natural plant foods are not as intensely sweet, salty, or fatty as the processed junk foods that are purposely engineered to excite our reward systems.  Eating whole, natural foods provides enjoyment of taste without activating addictive drives.  

Be vigilant this holiday season – stick to the foods that nourish you, and steer clear of any foods that cause you to lose control.   

Note: Addictive drives are powerful. If you are suffering from food addiction, make sure you read Eat to Live and take advantage of our supportive Member Center at DrFuhrman.comSupport from others can help you stay on track with your health goals and prevent relapse.

 

References:

1.         Taylor VH, Curtis CM, Davis C: The obesity epidemic: the role of addiction. CMAJ 2010;182:327-328.

2.         Small DM, Jones-Gotman M, Dagher A: Feeding-induced dopamine release in dorsal striatum correlates with meal pleasantness ratings in healthy human volunteers. Neuroimage 2003;19:1709-1715.

3.         Volkow ND, Wang GJ, Telang F, et al: Low dopamine striatal D2 receptors are associated with prefrontal metabolism in obese subjects: possible contributing factors. Neuroimage 2008;42:1537-1543.

4.         Gearhardt AN, Yokum S, Orr PT, et al: Neural correlates of food addiction. Arch Gen Psychiatry 2011;68:808-816.

5.         Stice E, Yokum S, Blum K, et al: Weight gain is associated with reduced striatal response to palatable food. J Neurosci 2010;30:13105-13109.

6.         Stoeckel LE, Weller RE, Cook EW, 3rd, et al: Widespread reward-system activation in obese women in response to pictures of high-calorie foods. Neuroimage 2008;41:636-647.

7.         Bohon C, Stice E: Reward abnormalities among women with full and subthreshold bulimia nervosa: a functional magnetic resonance imaging study. Int J Eat Disord 2011;44:585-595.

The Holidays

With the holidays just around the corner, I thought it would be advantageous to remember “why” we are launching the Holiday Challenge again this year. For many, the six weeks between mid-November and January 1st is a time set aside for indulging in rich and decadent, disease-promoting foods; and somehow there’s a false belief that the damage can mopped up in the new year. That mindset is a lie, because after the holidays there are Super Bowl parties, Valentine chocolates, birthday parties, anniversaries, Easter candies, Mother’s Day celebrations, graduation open houses, Father’s Day cookouts, weddings, more birthday parties, July 4th picnics, summer festivals and county fairs, Halloween treats, and then back to the holidays all over again. So together, let’s continue to establish new traditions that will not only cause us to feel alive and well over holidays, but throughout the entire year as well!

         holiday picture

I always dreaded the holidays to some degree, because that’s when I ate my worst. Not that I ate well the rest of the year by any means; the holidays just fueled my food addiction one hundred fold, all at once.

And, to top it off, it was expected by everyone to partake in the rich indulgences of the season. After all, “Everyone’s doing it.”

Well, that was the excuse, at least ~ a license to indulge ~ because the messes could be mopped up in the new year. It was a lie of course, but I believed it nonetheless.

Don't get me wrong, I loved the twinkle lights, the music, the festivities, the Nutcracker, the warm fuzzies of extra family togetherness; most everything about the season  . . . . . . except for feeling miserable from the food addiction hangovers. 

That always fogged my lenses with a dark cloud.

Not only did I have to deal with feeling lousy (understatement), I had to figure out what to wear as absolutely nothing fit from year to year.

How do I face seeing in-laws who hadn't seen me since an additional thirty pounds was packed on? What do I wear to my husband's employer's holiday party? (Thankfully, he eventually became self-employed, and those parties were crossed off my list of anxieties.) The women had buff arms and tummies to show off their *stuff* in those cute cocktail dresses. Me? The same baggie, black sequin jacket layered over a long black skirt.

To this day I will not be caught in anything with sequins. However, when I was obese they did hide my rolls of fat and large arms. For that, sequins do serve a wonderful purpose; plus, they do give off a shimmery holiday glow to cover-up the mounting depression within.

Oh, and the never ending supply of iced cut-out cookies. I always made triple the amount of dough and put some of it in the freezer; nothing like eating partially frozen cookie dough when no one was looking.

I would line the long dining table with waxed paper, and the kids would ice their cookies. Of course, much of the icing dribbled onto the waxed paper so I'd make sure to "clean it up" with my index finger. After we had dozens of iced and sugar sprinkled trees, bells, stars, circles, and hearts; they'd be layered between waxed paper in large, plastic containers to be enjoyed later (that night).

Throughout the season we always had boxes of those "surprise" chocolates. You know, the kind that are filled with maple or vanilla cream, raspberry jelly, nuts, fudge, and orange fluff. Those were over-the-top something to look forward to, right along with the gooey cherry cordials.

I was the Mom who invited the kids' friends over to make gingerbread houses. I'd ask each child to bring a sack of candy for the event. I was in heaven . . . . a table full of frosting and tons of candy. There was always such a generous amount donated that it never hurt for anyone to eat several pieces between "gluing" the houses together with the frosting and decorating with the decadent confections. Plus, everyone had too much fun to notice candy disappearing.

After six weeks of gluttonous eating: cheeseballs, dips, scalloped potatoes & ham, etc., by the end of December, I was saturated in misery. Well, that's putting it mildly. I was waaaay beyond miserable; more like suicidal at times. Seriously. Desperation drives the mind to irrational thoughts, and my heroin-like food addiction began to cloak my brain with some pretty irrational ways of escape at times.

January 1st couldn't come soon enough. A clean slate. Another promise. "I'm really going to stick to my resolution this time."  Yeah, right.

Well, by the Super Bowl, I was celebrating once again; and just in time for chocolate candies and iced cookies for Valentines, and birthday cakes laced in-between. 
 


With birthday parties, graduation open houses, and special occasions all throughout the year, I was never at a loss for my heroin-like, food addiction fix. [This must be the way a heroin addict feels.] 

Oh, those were the days of utter delight, especially when I'd clean up afterwards and find partially eaten pieces of cake in the trash to calm my jitters and shakiness. Okay, maybe not delight, but you know what I mean. I hated being trapped in the food addiction dungeon and tortured to near death on a daily basis, yet something inside of me enjoyed every minute of it. I hated it, yet I loved it. It was definitely a sickness of the mind, the body, and the soul.

 

The perpetual darkness shrouded any ray of hope. Little did I know that freedom was knocking on my door; however, the knocks were muffled by the noise and chaos.

But nonetheless, freedom was knocking.

Okay, so maybe I didn't keep my New Year's promise, but at least I got to thoroughly enjoy my birthday in May with my favorite Dairy Queen ice-cream cake.

I could always start over again the following January. Maybe I'd really mean business by then.

At least that was always my hope.

 

  

Christmas before and after  

                                                                

Based on my own personal experience and the observations of those around me, one can easily consume over 50 cups of sugar and the equivalent to 42 sticks of butter over the holidays!  (A stick of butter = 91 grams of fat.)  The following are the grams of fat in some typical foods:

fudge pecan sundae 62g

slice of cheddar cheese 10g

1 chicken breast 13g

slice of pecan pie 27g

2” square brownie 10g

1 serving fries 14g

Danish pastry 17g

1  muffin 8g

1 chocolate nut bar 19g

bacon, egg & cheese bagel sandwich  18g

2 chocolate chip cookies 10g

slice meat & cheese pizza 17g

 

 

The following are grams of sugar in foods & beverages (4 grams = 1 teaspoon sugar):

12 oz soda  38g

1” cube of fudge  15g

3 oz pancake syrup  59g

slice of fruit pie  20g

chocolate candy bar  25g

¾ c. processed cereal  12g

piece of cake  20g

hot fudge sundae  54g

2” square brownie  36g

2 iced cookies  25g

6 oz of ice cream  40g

energy drink  68g

 

 

Do the Math.  It's dangerous.   

  

Stay tuned to DiseaseProof or DrFuhrman.com for complete details about the upcoming Holiday Challenge. The kick-off begins in just two weeks! 

Eating occasions revisited

 

Last summer I wrote about the new scientific phrase called, “Eating Occasions.” You know, those times that we eat in response to stress, boredom, sadness, grief, happiness, excitement, loneliness, fatigue, nervousness, and frustration; just to name a few. Or those times that we eat because the clock strikes a certain hour; or we’re at a social event where food abounds and we just ate dinner ~ but we nibble anyway ‘cause everyone else is doing it. 

It’s so easy to succumb to Eating Occasions. In fact, I’ve realized that I’ve had to overcome two addictions in order to lose weight and keep it off. 

  • First, I had to get rid of toxic cravings for highly processed, highly salted, and high fat foods. Check. That was relatively easy for me to accomplish because it was a black and white plan to follow. Basically, if one faithfully adheres to the six week eating plan in Eat to Live, with little to no deviance, bingo, the addictive desire for the standard American diet (SAD) diminishes and then eventually goes away. In fact, the body actually craves high nutrient foods instead, and SAD foods are literally disgusting! Seriously. That sounds over simplistic, but in all reality, that’s what genuinely happens when one carefully follows the six week plan. 
  • Second, I’ve had to overcome eating when not truly hungry. This addiction has been definitely more challenging for me to conquer. Even with over 2 ½ years of nutritarian eating under my belt, I can still succumb to this nemesis at times ~ it’s a culturally acceptable habit that’s engrained into the very fiber of my being. 

Dr. Fuhrman repeatedly states that frequent eating, or eating when not truly hungry leads to higher caloric intake; and that it’s important to get in touch with instinctual signals for hunger that directs the body how to eat and not to overeat. He says that we’ll discover that we really only need about half to two-thirds the amount of food that we thought we did. Otherwise, habitual overeating will lead to excess fat that produces a lifetime of needless and ongoing suffering. 

As with any unhealthy addiction, it’s totally worth every effort to continually contend to overcome overeating. We need to seriously ask ourselves, “Are we eating to satisfy the body’s need for nourishment, or are we obliviously caught up in eating occasions?” 

A quick tune-up of the mind is much easier and cheaper than a major overhaul of the body.  May we all choose to eat for health today! 

 

image credit:  flickr by Kirstea

Food addiction is no joke

Emily Boller obeseMany of us have come out of, or are in the process of, coming out of years of severe food addictions that have consumed our every waking thought and action.

My food addiction got so bad that there were times I couldn't even enter the kitchen to prepare a meal for my family . . . without eating from the moment I started the food prep to the moment the meal was cleaned up afterwards. I could’ve been miserably stuffed, but if a quarter of a pan of lasagna remained, I ate it.

Unfortunately, my children never developed the habit of doing dishes after meals, because I wanted to be alone in the kitchen to devour their uneaten food left on plates (I have five kids), and crusty, greasy leftovers in pans, etc.
 

Denial is the cloak of addiction.  There's got to be a shift of one's mindset to accept the fact that food addiction is serious stuff; just as powerful and destructive as alcohol addiction or drug addiction.  Food addiction and resulting eating disorders and poor health are also destroying relationships, breaking up marriages, draining finances, and ruining homes ~ every bit as much.

 

Our society recognizes the seriousness of alcohol and drug addiction, but food addiction is a joke. Addictive foods and overeating are downplayed and promoted everywhere: by the government, the school systems, the entertainment industry, the medical industry, and even at places that should be sanctuaries of refuge such as houses of worship; therefore, we don't take it seriously. If everybody is participating in it, it must be okay, right?  Wrong.  Right along with "Say No to Drugs," "No Smoking," "Alcohol Prohibited," and "Mothers Against Meth," should be "Say No to Overeating," and "Citizens Against SAD!"
 

The truth is, we cannot, we dare not, mess with food addiction.  Period.  Abstinence and sobriety are just as critical to the food addict as they are to the alcoholic and drug addict. We must accept this fact; if we don't, we are undone. There's really no choice in the matter if we want to get completely free and get our health and lives back.

Making baby steps of change may work for some, but for the majority of us who’ve been entangled for years, we need to throw internal wrestling and debate out the window and just follow Dr. Fuhrman’s basic high-nutrient eating plan that’s outlined on p. 179 of Eat to Live. It’s been successfully proven over and over again to be the way out of the food addiction wilderness. 

Food addiction is no joke; it ruins lives. 

Let's all follow the path of freedom and become everything that we were meant to be!

before and after images


Previous posts related to this topic:  Are you a food addict?  It's time for a revolution!  Lubrication, I like that word  and  Why?

 

All images presented are before and after pictures of Emily Boller; 2008 & 2010.

 

Eating Occasions

female eatingAs a culture, how much of our eating is dependent upon how we feel at the moment, the social event that we are attending, a tradition, or the numbers on a clock? Perhaps, along with being addicted to food, we are addicted to eating occasions

I’m sad . . . .

eat

I’m happy . . . .

eat

I’m bored . . . .  

eat

I’m lonely . . . . .

eat

I’m stressed . . . .

eat

I’m nervous . . . .

eat

I’m frustrated . . . .

eat

I’m at a party . . . .

eat

I’m with friends . . . .

eat

It’s 6am . . . .  

eat

It’s 9am . . . .  

eat

It’s noon . . . .

eat

It’s 3pm . . . .

eat

It’s 6pm . . . .

eat

It’s bedtime . . . .

eat

I have insomnia . . . .

eat

I don’t feel well . . . .

eat

I’m exhausted . . . .  

eat

 

When did we evolve from a society that eats meals to fuel the body to one that eats many times a day; regardless of hunger? Numerous meals and snacks a day are now scientifically called, “Eating Occasions” [or EOs for short] As a culture, are eating occasions destroying us? In the past 30 years, eating occasions have increased among all ages, with the greatest for those in the 75 - 90 percentiles; plus, the time between them has exponentially decreased.  Not only are we eating more, but with less time spaced between EOs. 1

Before I committed to nutritarian eating, I was caught in the many-times-a-day eating occasion trap. Anything and anytime was a reason for eating. Even though I’m now free from toxic hunger that drives one to overeat, I still need to be vigilant when I’m out with others that I don’t eat for social entertainment, or eat because the clock reads 12 noon, if I’m not truly hungry.  

As Dr. Fuhrman states, “Frequent eating leads to higher calorie intake.” We all know that this leads to the excess fat that produces a lifetime of needless and ongoing suffering. It’s beneficial to renew our minds from time to time and re-read the chapters on toxic hunger in Eat for Health, or listen to Dr. Fuhrman’s teleconference, “Curtailing Overeating.” We need to seriously ask ourselves, are we eating to satisfy the body’s need for nourishment, or are we caught up in eating occasions? A quick tune-up of the mind is much easier and cheaper than a major overhaul.  May we all choose to eat for health today! 

 

American Journal of Clinical Nutrition  90: 1342-1347, May 2010

   image credit: americanfeast.com

Full Belly Syndrome

obese bellyFor those of us who lived most of our lives with Full Belly Syndrome, meaning only feeling good if we were stuffed; it is crucial that we don't deceive ourselves into thinking that eating nutrient dense foods alone is going to fix our health problems. We MUST say good-bye to a full belly also! Eating "unlimited" greens, beans, and fresh fruits is not a license to stuff ourselves. Binge eating has been a habit that many of us developed over the years, and we must say good-bye to it. Bury it, and don't ever dig it back up. Ever. Full Belly Syndrome is every bit as destructive as SAD food addiction.

There were times in my obese days that I was stuffed to the gills, yet felt compelled to eat more, even if I was feeling miserable. The additional misery somehow felt good, in a sick sort of way. It felt normal.

I actually didn't feel well unless I was miserably stuffed.

Anyone else know what I'm talking about?

I truly believe that we can so trick our bodies into developing habits that even bad habits start feeling good.  Possibly it’s called addiction?

So the moral of this story is we must retrain our bodies to be content with less food, and over time we'll discover that we no longer need to feel full to feel satisfied.

obese bellies

When we are stuffed, the digestive tract is under stress, and our poor pancreas frantically works overtime to get all that extra glucose out of our blood. On top of that, we store excess fat and the cells become resistant to accepting the glucose; therefore, compounding the traffic jam of too much glucose circulating in our bloodstream. If you think about it, it's a pretty cruel thing to do to ourselves.

So, say good-bye to a stuffed belly if you want to be kind to yourself and live in optimal health!

Your body will thank you.