Welcome back to my series on sugar (aka processed food) addiction.
I’m not sure if you’ve noticed this, but anytime I post about sugar addiction, I don’t use pretty pictures of triggering foods.
Why is that?
Because you could have the best of intentions to eat a whole foods diet, and as soon as you see or smell something highly caloric and highly palatable, you brain starts to think about eating that thing. You may even start to salivate. If you don’t have a strong defense mechanism, chances are, you might go in search of that food and get derailed from your best laid plans.
Researchers found that after looking at the high-calorie food photos, study participants’ brain regions linked with appetite were activated. Meanwhile, these regions weren’t activated when they looked at the photos of non-food items. Looking at the pictures of the high-calorie foods was also linked with a greater reporting of craving sweet and salty foods. Source
Once this fact was pointed out to me, I started to become really aware of how every image that came into my view, every location I was in (think movie theater or theme park), every book I read, every conversation I had-it all had the possibility of contributing to my eating food that I didn’t want to be eating.
When I would see or smell something “indulgent” I would check in with myself, and more often than not I had a sudden urge that I wanted to eat something.
The good news is now that I know this, when I’m “exposed” I can quickly talk myself off of the ledge.
But I have, over time, put up some boundaries to keep these instances from happening too much. I wouldn’t want to find out what would happen if I was exposed to images and smells of my old favorites too often or for too long.
Your house can either be the safest place for you food-wise or it can be a complete mine field. If you live alone, or with a person that is 100% on board with your processed free diet lifestyle, count your blessings and do a happy dance every day, because you have a greater chance of success with giving up the junk than the rest of us poor souls.
If this is not your lot in life, there’s still a lot you can do to help yourself. If you do the grocery shopping, you can refuse to purchase and bring into your home any food that is a possible trigger for you. This has worked for me pretty well. It’s not perfect, but the progress from where I was at, say, 7 years ago, is profound. Crap still makes it’s way into my house. Some because it’s brought in by the other family members (and I can throw it out as soon as they are not looking) but I confess, I’m buying things that I’m not proud of to this day. I just make sure that they are not my trigger foods. It’s not the best case scenario, but I’m trying not to create a war zone in my home. We are a work in progress.
If you live with others who don’t appreciate your unique needs, try having a conversation with them where you explain your situation and your goals, apologize for any part you have played in the situation, describe your concerns, ask for their perspective (and really listen) and then figure out a plan together to get everyone’s needs met.
This might include keeping food for other people out of your view, like in a refrigerator/freezer in the basement or garage or even in a locked cabinet if necessary. Hey, we gotta do what we gotta do!
Chances are you work in an office environment where people share food. At least that’s what all of my environments were like. It was a constant stream of SAD food placed on the kitchen table at my former office, some of it placed there by me because I wanted it out of my house! Plus, everyone (except me) seemed to love it.
If you can ask the management and your coworkers to keep the food out of public view, that would be the best case scenario. Who knows, maybe other people would be happy about this as well?
When we had pot lucks at work, I always made sure to bring enough of my food so that I never felt deprived. It worked out really well for me.
At the end of the day, we have to learn to respectfully assert our needs. There is nothing wrong with doing that.
Restaurants are one giant food trigger, so choose the restaurants to you go to carefully. At least in the beginning, try to avoid the ones that have big glass dessert cases right where you walk in. After a while, those things in the case will start to look like fake cardboard items, but in the beginning, this can be a real challenge.
I like to look online at a restaurant’s menu before I arrive. It’s best for me to figure out what I am going to order before I step foot in the place.Writing down your intention is a whole nother level of protection. If it looks like ordering is going to be a challenge, call the restaurant in advance and see what they are willing to accommodate. If you know ahead of time that all you can get is a plate of lettuce, tomatoes, onions and cucumbers (haven’t we all been in that situation?), at least you can bring some beans and rice to inconspicuously pour into your bowl.
We gotta do what we gotta do.
If that’s too far outside of your comfort zone, you can:
(1) decline restaurant invitations and make walking dates with your friends and loved ones, or
(2) eat before going to the restaurant and order tea or a club soda with lemon or lime
Television, both commercials and shows
Have you ever watched The Kardashians? Why are they eating in almost all of the scenes? Have you ever noticed that? If you have awareness, you will find that watching other people eat makes you feel hungry, so avoid shows like this, but even more intense are cooking shows.
I have to admit, I used to be the world’s biggest fan of cooking shows. I was a complete and total food porn addict. No amount of binge watching The Food Network was too much for me.
At some point I just made a decision that those shows didn’t support my recovery and I stopped watching. Occasionally, I will watch Top Chef, but I find that I’ve become pretty bored with all of it now. I’d rather read a good book.
Commercials? What are those? I just fast forward through any and divert my attention when I realize the food porn is being advertised. Awareness really helps me to stay on my game with all of these images.
True story: I used to use every trip I made to the grocery store to buy myself some totally decadent treat. It was a bizarre way for me to justify my addiction. I was like, “I’m not buying boxes and bags of the stuff. I’m just getting ONE thing while I’m here and that’s all.” It was such an ingrained habit that the only way I broke it was when I hired someone to do all of our grocery shopping. I didn’t grocery shop for almost ten years. Don’t hate me, I was desperately trying to keep my shit together while running a company and raising 3 small children. I had to save myself.
But I do all of our grocery shopping now in two to three trips to the store per week. This is a tough one, because grocery stores are a hot mess for us processed food addicts. Even Whole Foods.
Here are some ideas for how to make it out of the grocery store with your integrity intact:
- Never shop hungry
- Divert your attention
- Stay away from the scary departments altogether
- Have a list
- Ignore everything else
- If you see something that is triggering, have your mantra ready. Mine is, “That shit is poison. Gross!”
Books and magazines
If my first love used to be The Food Network shows, my second love was cookbooks and food/recipe magazines. I know you know what I’m talking about. The pleasure I got out of laying in my bed and night and reading one like it was a dirty romance novel was intense. Many times I said to myself, girl, look at this ridiculously large cookbook collection you have. You’ve got to give most of them away or you just can’t buy anymore. And so I did it. I would give most of them away and within a few years, I’d have to do it all over again.
Today, I have little interest in cookbooks. Could this be a sign that something inside of my brain has fundamentally changed for the better? I’d like to hope so.
The reason I mention this is because looking at cookbooks is just another way of triggering us to crave more and more food. If you’ve got food issues, I highly recommend that you get rid of any that you don’t use regularly and stop buying new ones, at least for a good long while. Do you really need more recipes? I certainly recommend that you experiment with not reading cookbooks for pleasure. What do you have to lose except your excess weight?
You could read this instead. I just finished it and it was AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!
What have I missed? Do you have any tips to share?