Food Addiction Fires Up the Fat Cycle

When a heavy coffee drinker stops drinking coffee, he feels ill, experiencing headaches and weakness, and even feels nervous and shaky. Fortunately, these symptoms resolve slowly over four to six days. Discomfort after stopping an addictive substance is called withdrawal, and it is significant because it represents detoxification, or a biochemical healing that is accomplished after the substance is withdrawn. It is nearly impossible to cleanse the body of a harmful substance without experiencing the discomfort of withdrawal. Humans have a tendency to want to avoid discomfort, so they continue the toxic habits to avoid the unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. When we discontinue consuming healthy substances, such as broccoli or spinach, we do not experience discomfort. We feel nothing. Only unhealthful, toxic substances are addicting, and, therefore, these are the only substances that cause discomfort when you stop consuming them. Their addictive potential is proportional to their toxicity.

Uncomfortable sensations are very often the signals that repair is under way and the removal of toxins is occurring. Though it may be difficult to adjust to this way of thinking, feeling ill temporarily can be seen as a sign that you are getting well. That cup of coffee may make you feel better temporarily, but any stimulating substance that makes you feel better quickly, or gives you immediate energy, is hurtful, not healthful. Any substance that has that immediate effect is toxic and called a stimulant. Healthy foods do not induce stimulation. When you meet your needs for nutrients and sleep, your body will naturally feel well and fully energized, without the need for stimulation.

The heavy coffee drinker typically feels the worst upon waking up in the morning or when delaying or skipping a meal. The same is true for the many of us who are addicted to toxic foods. The body goes through withdrawal, or detoxification, most strongly when it is not busy digesting food. Eating stops withdrawal because detoxification cannot take place efficiently while food is being consumed and digested. A heavy meal will stop the discomfort, or a cup of coffee will alleviate the symptoms, but the cycle of withdrawal will begin again the minute the caffeine level drops or digestion is finished and the glucose level in the blood starts to go down.

The more you search for fast, temporary relief with a candy bar, a can of soda, or a bag of chips, the more you inhibit the healing, detoxification process. Then, your body becomes more toxic because you gave it more low-nutrient calories. Calories consumed without the accompanying nutrients that aid in their assimilation and metabolism lead to a build-up of toxic substances in the cells that promote cellular aging and disease. Eating low-nutrient calories increases dangerous free-radical activity within the cells and allows for the build-up of cellular waste. These low nutrient calories also increase other toxic materials in the body, such as Advanced Glycation End Products (AGEs). AGEs affect nearly every type of cell and molecule in the body, and are major factors in aging and age-related chronic diseases. Their production is markedly accelerated in diabetics, and they are believed to play a causative role in the vascular complications of the disease.

AGEs are the result of a chain of chemical reactions and may be formed external to the body by overcooking foods or inside the body though cellular metabolism. They form at a constant but slow rate in the normal body and accumulate with time, but their formation can be accelerated by your eating habits. Dry cooking methods such as baking, roasting, and broiling cause sugars to combine with proteins to form AGEs, while water-based cooking, such as steaming and boiling, does not. AGEs are highest in burnt and browned foods, such as brown-bread crust, cookies, and brown-basted meats, but these compounds also can build up in cells from the consumption of low-nutrient calories, especially calories from sweets. So, eating both overcooked foods and low-nutrient foods leads to the build-up of AGEs and ages us faster.

When you eat a diet that is based on toxic and addictive foods—such as salt, fried foods, snack foods, and sugary drinks—you not only build up free radicals and AGEs in your cells, but you also set the stage for ill feelings when you are not digesting food. Unhealthy food allows your body to create waste byproducts that must be removed by the liver and other organs. Only when digestion ends can the body fully take advantage of the opportunity to circulate and attempt to remove toxins. If the body is constantly digesting, it can’t go through this detoxification process effectively.

When detoxification begins, people often feel queasiness or malaise. Eating something restarts digestion and shuts down the detoxification process, making the bad feelings go away. The worse the nutritional quality of your diet, the worse you will feel if you try to stop eating food for a few hours. You will only feel normal while your digestive tract is busy

This is an excerpt from Dr. Fuhrman’s book Eat For Health.

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Jackie - September 8, 2009 9:55 AM

I do great following the plan until my pms starts and then I feel like I am starving. It is really hard to get through these times because my body is craving carbs (unhealthy carbs). The plan goes out the window. Any advice on how to get through the times?

Michael - September 8, 2009 4:35 PM

Maybe try filling up on healthy carbs like oatmeal with raisins and a little brown sugar on top or fruit. A favorite food I eat when I'm really craving unhealthy sweets is Ezekial bread with some almond or cashew butter, raisins and sliced banana. A chocolate smoothie may also help.

Emily Boller - September 8, 2009 9:37 PM

You can still continue to eat for health during those times. Delicious ice cream made out of frozen bananas, nuts, and real chocolate cocoa powder; and/or scrumptious fruit sorbets are great for replacing unhealthy carbs. Dr. Fuhrman and his wife, Lisa, demonstrate how to make both in their DVD, "Secrets to Healthy Cooking" that can be found on

My children's friends even request "homemade" ice-cream when they come over to our house. It's a hit for all ages. Go ahead and continue to eat for health, AND splurge on great tasting food at ANY time of the month! (Plus homemade ice-cream is much cheaper than store bought.)

Have the mindset to be kind to yourself at ALL times; that's the backbone of optimal health.

Stephanie - September 8, 2009 10:13 PM

I eat "healthy junk" when I'm PMSing. Lots of date-nut pop 'ems, any Fuhrman desserts that involve nuts and dates (and usually cocoa powder), and plenty of fruit. It might be more calories than I need, but at least it's better than the alternative. That said, I find I PMS much less now that I eat healthfully.

Also, where is Gerry???

Emily Boller - September 9, 2009 3:29 PM


Always make sure you are filling up on plenty of raw and steamed vegetables, including salads BEFORE eating higher calorie carbs, even the healthy ones like the homemade ice-creams, etc., if you are desiring to lose weight in the process.

I have discovered that cravings are minimal, if any, when I've intentionally been choosing the raw and steamed green vegetables, which are the highest in nutrient density.

Regardless if the cause of the cravings are PMS related or not, eat foods that are the highest in nutrient density to subdue all cravings.

Splurge on high calorie, healthy treats anytime of the month, but only AFTER you have nourished your body with high nutrient-dense foods.

Healty "treats" like homemade ice-creams and sorbets are important as the psychological feeling of "deprivation" has the potential to trigger binge eating if one has a predisposition to it.

A post devoted to falling-off-the-wagon will be put up in the near future. Check back as that particular post may help you through your times of PMS struggles.

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