We all love eating processed junk food. It's fun, it's comforting, and let's be honest; it just plain tastes good. Of course, that's because it's designed to be that way, and many of us end up becoming addicted to processed food. Even in the best of times that's a problem, but now with the never-ending saga of Covid-19, that addiction can actually make things much, much worse.
"By stimulating the reward pathways in the brain, addiction to processed foods can feel just like the times when we wanted to stop smoking, but couldn’t,” explains Dr. Joan Ifland, who is a Fellow of the American College of Nutrition, holds her PhD in Addictive Nutrition, and had been interviewed by The Oprah Winfrey Network, Fox News, KTLA, Shape, Fortune, U.S. News, and others.
“And COVID is making food addiction worse,” adds Dr. Ifland, author of the textbook Processed Food Addiction: Foundations, Assessment, and Recovery. Here are five signs you're addicted to processed foods in these trying times...
2. You Have A Plan To Eat Less But It Doesn’t Happen
You have a plan to eat one cookie or chip, but somehow the whole package gets consumed. You wake up planning to eat clean but by 10am, you’re caving to the treats in the pantry. You’re determined not to get fast food but by the evening, you’re waiting in that line of cars for your favorite mega meal.
3. You’ve Lost Weight But The Weight Has Come Back
You followed a food plan that didn’t have enough calories on it. You’ve been able to follow doctor’s orders or an expensive weight-loss plan. Or maybe you’ve even undergone an eating-disorders program or bariatric surgery or residential stay -- but the overeating came back.
4. You Know You Shouldn’t Be Eating Something, But You Eat It Anyway
Forgive yourself for not being able to make all those weight-loss programs work. They are usually too focused on the consequences of food addiction, but not the addiction itself, so they just don’t work for food addiction.
Forgive yourself for developing the addiction in the first place. This started when the tobacco industry took over the processed food industry in the mid-1980s. They loaded up foods with sugar, fat, and salt the same way they loaded up cigarettes with nicotine. Then, they loaded up television with lots of triggering ads. Within 20 years, 70% of Americans were overweight or obese. This is not your fault.
Spend time contemplating the sources of lapsing. It’s triggers or cues that activate the addicted neurons in your reward centers. It can be people who eat processed foods in front of you. It can be television or any exciting media. It’s not because you lack willpower.
Get the processed foods out of your life. Quit like you would quit tobacco. Processed foods include products that contain sugar or sweetener, flour, gluten, excessive salt, processed fats, dairy, caffeine, or food additives. Keeping them out of your house reduces cravings. Even if you end up getting into your car to go get the bad stuff, it still helps not to have it within easy reach. Give yourself lots of time to gradually eliminate them from your diet.
Avoid stress. Stress activates the addiction. You’re not actually stress- or emotionally eating. You’re "addicted-eating," and the addiction was woken up by the stress or emotion.