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  1. #1
    OutdoorAmy's Avatar
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    Breaking the Cycle of Food Addiction

    Primal Fuel
    I had been doing great since returning to paleo. My digestive symptoms have improved immensely but despite that - yesterday I gave in to what can only accurately be called food addiction.

    I had a sausage biscuit with egg from McDonalds for breakfast. A spicy chicken sandwich with a vanilla waffle cone from Wendy's for lunch and even though I really wasn't hungry I had two slices of leftover paleo pizza, a slice of paleo pumpkin bread AND a Whopper from Burger King for dinner . . . . oh, and two sodas yesterday.

    Now I'm sitting here thinking again about how much I'd like another Whopper for dinner instead of going home and making something paleo for myself. Even though I know it's bad for me - and not just in the ways it's just generally bad for everyone - but because it harms my digestion every time I eat like that (I have an as yet undiagnosed digestive disease that I've been getting tests for over the last several months). Yet, despite the discomfort, despite the trips to the ER I can't seem to shut my brain off of thinking about this particular food. And I know it will continue until I have some. In the past I've put off cravings for days, but they get worse each day until I give in. (I've tried the "tricks" to get rid of cravings before and they don't work for me - for instance, I'm sitting here sipping on cool water and am not even especially hungry, but I'm still thinking about it . . . )

    I need to bust this! I pride myself on avoiding addiction to the socially frowned upon substances like alcohol (which I rarely have) and smoking (which I've NEVER EVER done nor will I ever do) . . . but somewhere along the way, despite digestive health issues that would be a deterrent for many . . . I've developed a food addiction. It needs to end so I can truly heal!

    Has anyone successfully beaten a food addiction through lifestyle changes alone? What did you do? (And I'm not talking about just craving something sweet every once in a while either - I'm talking about real food addiction) Are there any good supplements or foods you know of for silencing that addictive voice in your head?

    It does seem to bother me more when I've not been getting good sleep . . . so I know that's a good first step for me - trying to improve my sleep. (Which is hard in a hot room in the summer, but I'm trying) . . . I just ordered some l-glutamine and 5-HTP, since I've read that both of those can help with cravings, especially for carbs . . . . Anything else you can think of?

    I hate that this makes me feel like I'm some weak willed slob - even though I know that's demonstrably untrue in every other area of my life.

    Thanks for your help!
    Healthy Bucket List:
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  2. #2
    Allenete's Avatar
    Allenete is offline Senior Member
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    It seems like you're addicted to sugar/wheat not 'bad' foods in general. It's easier to break the addiction if you know what you're trying to break ...so try to eliminate those sugary/carby foods and you'll crave them less. One step at a time, take each day as it comes, don't just try to overhaul everything at once

  3. #3
    lorichka6's Avatar
    lorichka6 is offline Senior Member
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    Have you tried paleo versions of what you are craving? Make yourself a big grassfed burger with bacon and cheese (if you eat those things) or sauteed onions and guacamole or something, make sweet potato fries, banana ice cream, 85% dark chocolate, meatza, etc. I'm the last one to give food addiction advice, but I have noticed that except for when I'm in the throws of a binge, I now prefer *good* food to the food I used to like. I eat primal more than paleo (lots of hard cheeses and butter) and while some may poo-poo this I find it helps keep me from completely derailing. So, if you are ok with certain borderline foods (cheese, lower % dark chocolate) maybe try *not* limiting those and see if allowing yourself to get pretty close to the foods you like is enough to help reduce your cravings for the crappiest forms of those foods.

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    magnolia1973 is offline Senior Member
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    What did you feel you were craving? Specific fast food, sugar and grains or carbs?
    If it was carbs, I'd incorporate good carbs in my diet regularly. There is NOTHING wrong with wanting carbs and having a sweet potato, rice or a banana. Some people need carbs. Period. Regularly. Period. So you change the balance to more carbs less fat. Wanting "carbs" is a whole different ball game than wanting taco bell, soda or a bag of chips. Understand that wanting and eating a banana is as healthy, normal and supportive of good health as eating a steak. It is not akin to eating a Whopper. You just might be one of those people that can not be low carb. So if it is just carbs, try eating good carbs as a regular part of your diet.

    Or do you want sugar and gluten? Those foods do have addictive qualities and can be eliminated. They both sneak up on me a lot. I try and just "get it done" when I want one of these items. So I might have a burger with a bun, eat very clean for a few days and be done with it. I have bread probably once or twice a month of recent and want to cut back. It's hard because it is a food profile I want that can't be cured with a burger in a lettuce wrap. Like I can eat a burger in lettuce and love it, but when I want a burger in a bun...I just want it. So I make it grassfed, side of veggies, savor every bite. Throw out the extra buns, and its done. Sugar is really hard and I just eat it in small amounts- dark chocolate, in my coffee, occasional icecream. I'm gearing up to do a no sugar month as my palette is deciding it likes sweet stuff again and a month without it makes me very sensitive to it. I figure for me that giving up wheat and sugar is not in the cards, so I work to minimize it as best I can. It's worked pretty well.

    The last- are you craving fast food? I think that is more difficult. Sometimes I want it. They make that shit addictive. It's weird, I drive by a McDonalds going to and from my barn. On the way to the barn, still full from breakfast, it smells GROSS. On the way home, feeling kind of hungry, it smells GOOD. I try and handle fast food cravings by telling myself if I still want a burger and soda after lunch, I can make one at home, and I seldom still want it after a meal.

    Anyhow, I think all of these things are really different to deal with. You probably can not eliminate carbs. Period. And you don't need to. And you should not. You can eliminate gluten and sugar, but maybe you can live with them in small amounts, but you need to figure that out. And with fast food.... wanting a burger is not a carb craving. The whole trigger on that addictiveness is a full on mix of fats, carbs and flavors engineered to override your appetite to eat more. IMO, next time you want a whopper so much you want to kill someone, make a real burger with a bun, cheese, mayo etc. and eat it. But do not hit the Burger King, Wendys or McDonalds ever again.

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  5. #5
    OutdoorAmy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Allenete View Post
    It seems like you're addicted to sugar/wheat not 'bad' foods in general. It's easier to break the addiction if you know what you're trying to break ...so try to eliminate those sugary/carby foods and you'll crave them less. One step at a time, take each day as it comes, don't just try to overhaul everything at once
    No offense, but I think you didn't really read my post at all. I've been back on paleo for 3 weeks now, and pretty strict paleo at that. Because I'm trying to heal my gut issues (which may be IBD or autoimmune related - check out my journal for all the details on that though). I've been eating no added sugars and the only fruits I've had were low sugar berries and citrus fruit. Since I was following SCD I wasn't eating ANYTHING starchier than pumpkin. No sweet potatoes. Mostly leafy greens were my main veg. Sometimes carrots or zucchini. Yet, after 3 weeks, I STILL had the urge to binge - so clearly "just cutting them out" doesn't stop the craving.

    I'm like an alcoholic. This is MORE than just cravings -- it's an addiction, and I can clearly see that now.

    Quote Originally Posted by lorichka6 View Post
    Have you tried paleo versions of what you are craving? Make yourself a big grassfed burger with bacon and cheese (if you eat those things) or sauteed onions and guacamole or something, make sweet potato fries, banana ice cream, 85% dark chocolate, meatza, etc. I'm the last one to give food addiction advice, but I have noticed that except for when I'm in the throws of a binge, I now prefer *good* food to the food I used to like. I eat primal more than paleo (lots of hard cheeses and butter) and while some may poo-poo this I find it helps keep me from completely derailing. So, if you are ok with certain borderline foods (cheese, lower % dark chocolate) maybe try *not* limiting those and see if allowing yourself to get pretty close to the foods you like is enough to help reduce your cravings for the crappiest forms of those foods.
    I have. It helps temporarily but the craving for a specific food always comes back. And what food it is seems to vary.

    Quote Originally Posted by magnolia1973 View Post
    What did you feel you were craving? Specific fast food, sugar and grains or carbs?
    It's usually something very specific like sweet and sour chicken, or a Whopper. But sometimes it doesn't matter. I could binge on paleo-safe foods too! (For instance, a couple weeks ago - before giving into the non-paleo binge - I ate two whole Enjoy Life chocolate bars in one evening . . . they were dark chocolate, no dairy, gluten or soy . . . but still). Sugar and grains are definitely MORE addictive to me and tend to be what I crave . . . but sometimes it's not even about carbs at all - it's just about the feeling of having something in my mouth and full stomach.

    Think anorexia, but opposite. Many anorexics talk about how that get addicted to feeling empty - to the point some don't even want to drink water because they can't stand the feeling of having something in their stomachs. I'm the opposite. I don't tolerate the feeling of an empty stomach very well for very long.

    Alcoholism is also another good comparison - and it was realizing that I could/would say many things about food that an alcoholic says about booze that really made me realize I'm an addict. (Just replace eat and binge with drink and you'll see what I mean). I can eat healthfully in front of others, but then binge when no one is looking. I've tried different healthier foods but I'll binge on them. I feel ashamed afterwards. I want to change and I'll go weeks sometimes without binging - but then I'll fall off the wagon hard and have to climb back on. Even though I know it's hurting my health (think like an alcoholic with cirrhosis who keeps drinking even though it could kill them - or a smoker with emphysema that keeps smoking) I keep eating foods I know are damaging my gut and keeping it from healing. Even though I've spent literally thousands of dollars over the last year trying to get to the bottom of my abdominal pain and bowel issues. (Though I do think having an actual diagnosis, which I still don't have, would probably help some . . . )

    I can't do "safe" carbs though. I'm trying to heal my gut and I've been avoiding starches as well as most FODMAPs. I've been following an SCD paleo plan. (SCD allows for some things that aren't paleo - but I cut those out). And I can't do gluten either - every time I eat it I get digestive symptoms. (Though, like I mentioned above - even though I won't have it in my house - knowing that I'm going to get type 7s and tenesmus is not enough to stop me from going to get a spicy chicken sandwich at Wendy's if the craving is that strong).
    Healthy Bucket List:
    • Summit all of Colorado's 14-ers
    • Hike the Appalachian Trail
    • Do a real pull-up
    • Run a 5k
    • Be "Hot For Training Camp"



    Check out my journey at Outdoor Amy's Blog.

  6. #6
    SuBee's Avatar
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    The supplements you mention are the ones I've seen mentioned before in this context--I hope they help! I don't have much else to offer, except that I wonder if it might help to keep a... never mind, I think you said you're keeping a journal? I guess I was just wondering if you might find patterns of activity that occur in the time leading up to a binge. A week of especially hard workouts, or a few nights of not enough sleep, or stress at work. Getting enough sleep and making time to meditate daily are high on my list of goals right now.

    I think there is quite a bit of information in the forums on this topic--you might be able to find some more help there. I wish you the best!

  7. #7
    Lady D's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by OutdoorAmy View Post
    I had a sausage biscuit with egg from McDonalds for breakfast. A spicy chicken sandwich with a vanilla waffle cone from Wendy's for lunch and even though I really wasn't hungry I had two slices of leftover paleo pizza, a slice of paleo pumpkin bread AND a Whopper from Burger King for dinner . . . . oh, and two sodas yesterday.
    I was talking about a book called "Beat The Feast Beast" over on this thread about binge-eating, and that treats the desire to binge-eat, which is a specific thing that's NOT about needing the nutrition in the food, and the theory that's behind it is that eating certain kinds or amounts of food induces like a chemical high that your body can then get every bit as much addicted to as any street drug.

    The added problem is, first most people don't take food addiction seriously so will suggest changing types of food to binge on, which is like telling a guy who gets falling down drunk on whisky to stick to lite beers - changing the type of stuff does nothing for that urge to get a change of mood from the intake.

    And secondly, of course, you can't just quit cold turkey.

    I highly recommend that book, and to try and summarise it a bit, the principle behind the approach to addiction in it is that the part of your brain which is hooked on the binge-eating basically manages to pursuade you, using your thought processes, your imagery and your feelings to get you to do behaviours that override your aspirations, common sense and better judgement, and that part of the brain, which the authors hypothesise is connected to the animal-like, survival-drive parts, they nickname "the beast."

    The feast beast will use any circumstances, bad or good, including a long period of eating really well, to trick you into thinking a binge is a legit and reasonable thing - and of course you know better afterwards, but what alcoholic doesn't have that same regret?

    If you can trace and backtrack to the arguments that made you decide to eat that McD's breakfast, and so get a start on a day of food choices your better judgement didn't make, you can see and hear your beast in action, it has access, obviously, to all those parts of your reasoning and emotion and it SEEMS like it makes sense at the time.

    There's no point arguing logically with that drive, but what that book does, and its companion "Rational Recovery - The New Cure For Substance Addition" does is teach you how to recognise when that addicted "beast" part of you that just wants its fix is talking, so you can avoid taking action on its urges.

    That book literally saved a very good friend's life when they'd done the rounds of AA, rehab on the health service and everything, and I really think they have something good in their approach to addiction.

    Anyway that's all I think I can bring to this, and maybe it won't be for you, but I wish you well! Good luck.

  8. #8
    lorichka6's Avatar
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    I've read Rational Recovery (the alcoholic version of what LadyD mentioned above). I'm going to look for the food-specific one she mentions but if you can't find that one around (near me, RR is on the shelves at Barnes and Noble) I highly suggest picking that up to start. It sounds as though you are in a similar boat to me (sorry...) and this isn't really food related, it is brain related. And RR (and hopefully the other one as well) will give you some tools to deal with your brain. For some uplifting reading I suggest Brain Over Binge. I bet her story will sound remarkably similar to yours.

  9. #9
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    marcadav is online now Senior Member
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    Are you getting adequate vitamins and minerals? Your body may need something and that needs manifests as a craving.

    You might check out The Diet Cure by Julia Ross. In the book there is a chart that gives deficiency symptoms, addictive substances used, natural solutions etc.

  10. #10
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    Primal Blueprint Expert Certification
    Are you having trouble controlling the way you eat? Many of us with this problem have found help in Food Addicts in Recovery Anonymous (FA). FA is a program based on the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. The program offers help and recovery to those whose connection with food can be understood as a form of addiction. There are no dues or fees and the meetings include no weigh-ins. Membership is international and includes men and women, adolescents, and the elderly. All are welcome.

    People who find help in FA vary greatly. Some of us have been diagnosed as morbidly obese while others are undereaters. Among us are those who were severely bulimic, who have harmed themselves with compulsive exercise, or whose quality of life was impaired by constant obsession with food or weight. We tend to be people who, in the long-term, have failed at every solution we tried, including therapy, support groups, diets, fasting, exercise, and in-patient treatment programs.

    Some of our members have been in continuous recovery (maintaining a stable, healthy weight and enjoying freedom from obsession with food, weight, bingeing, or bulimia) for over twenty-five years. Members with five to ten years of recovery are increasingly common.

    FA has over 350 meetings throughout the United States in large and small cities such as Boston, San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, Charlotte, Grand Rapids, Atlanta, Fort Lauderdale, Austin, and Washington, D.C. Internationally, FA currently has groups in England, Canada, Germany, New Zealand and Australia. If you would like more information about FA, please check out our website. If there aren’t any meetings in your area, you can contact the office, where someone will help you.

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