Food dependence and how to fight it

Nutrition is not a joke. The study of this phenomenon can shed light on the worldwide problem of obesity. Find out what kind of relationship exists between refined foods and the human brain.

Author: Kessi Smith

Experts in fitness and nutrition have buzzed all ears with their instructions: "fast food kills you", "do not even try to touch donuts," "chips are evil." People who lead a healthy lifestyle, such "prohibitions" seem obvious, although sometimes difficult. As a rule, we are guided by the principle "tell yourself" no "". However, for some, the principle "tell yourself" no "does not work.

Refined foods – Products subjected to factory processing. As a result of this treatment, the original product is divided into its constituent parts, flavors, colorants, stabilizers, flavor enhancers and other additives are added to it to give it a marketable appearance and to extend the shelf life.

Recently, scientists conducted a study on psychology, physiology and dietology, as a result of which it was found that food dependence is a serious problem. Scientific research on the relationship between nutrition and the centers of dependence in the brain is not often conducted, their evidence base is insufficient. However, there is every reason to believe that refined sugar, refined carbohydrates, fat supplements, salt and caffeine form a dependence in humans. People who are dependent on refined foods, to give up the sweet is not just difficult, but impossible.

Food dependence (albeit at a still hypothesis level) can be an explanation of why it is so difficult for us to struggle with excess weight or why extra pounds return after losing weight, given with such difficulty. The facts show that to solve problems with overweight it is necessary to use psychotherapeutic techniques, as well as to teach people proper nutrition and to instill a love for physical activity.

Theoretical bases of dependence

Despite the lack of a proven scientific basis, a number of studies have found conductive ways in the brain that are activated by over-eating foods, just as stimulating pathways that cause euphoria are stimulated in the case of drug or alcohol dependence. Scientists have established the presence of similarities in reducing the number of dopamine receptors and weakening their response in obese people and drug addicts. Dopamine receptors are responsible for pleasure. If the brain does not get the usual level of pleasure from the usual dose of the drug, the addict is forced to increase the dose in order to get a "buzz".

In the case of food dependence, suppression of dopamine receptors leads to the fact that a person enjoys only by increasing the amount of food. Moreover, in 2011, a study was conducted, the results of which show that people with a high body mass index (BMI) have a low density of dopamine receptors.

In a study conducted in 1999, it was found that when you see photos of a chocolate cocktail in the brain of people with food dependence, reactions similar to those observed in the brain of addicts undergoing treatment for cocaine dependence when watching a video with the use of crack. Obviously, in the human brain there are more complex dependencies associated with food than the usual replenishment of energy reserves.

Food dependence has one terrible property – if you want to get a "dose", then you do not need to look for a dealer in the lane. Donuts, nuts or crackers are sold everywhere – and are quite inexpensive.

Food dependence arises from the refining process. The same sugar or caffeine are organic compounds – eating one peach, we get 13 g of sugar. However, natural products contain a small amount of sugar, caffeine, fat and salt (compared to refined). As in the case of cocaine from coca leaves, ethanol from grain, opium from poppy straw, organic compounds cause dependence only when they are extracted, concentrated and added to food. Scientists say that our body is programmed to eat foods rich in carbohydrates. However, the constant presence in the diet of foods containing unnatural combinations and concentrations of carbohydrates, fats, salt, sugar and artificial chemicals, can turn us into real addicts.

Other studies show that regular excess consumption of refined products causes long-term neuroadaptation in the conductive ways of the brain responsible for pleasure and stress. Over time, this adaptation becomes the cause of depressive and anxious conditions, if the body does not get the sweet. Magnetic resonance imaging shows that foods high in sugar and fat affect the brain in a similar way to heroin, opium, or morphine. That is, the food we eat directly affects the work of the brain. As in the case of alcohol or drugs, the abuse of food worsens the conductivity of neurological pathways, resulting in food becoming an obsession. I somehow feel uneasy about this prospect.

The desire to open a package of chips is not yet an indication that your body is short of carbohydrates or that you are hungry. Scientists argue that the craving for food develops under the influence of human habitat. The former drug addict can "break", having got into an environment of old friends. Similarly, with food – when we get into a certain situation or experience certain emotions, there may be a desire to eat. One of the reasons for the development of dependence is that it is peculiar for our brain to create interrelations. If for dinner we are used to eating a hot dog, then closer to noon thoughts about it become dominant. And so every day. If you are used to finishing a dinner with dessert, then, most likely, even after a very dense meal, you will want ice cream.

This training mechanism is an interesting element of the puzzle, which is called "food addiction." It is possible that the craving for food is an acquired response: the functioning of the brain depends on our habitat and our way of life. It's not that the body needs popcorn; important is the situation – a darkened cinema hall, the smell of air corn and the tradition of buying it. Add to this the chemical reactions caused by the excess amount of salt and oil that arise in the brain. This is how the food model is formed, which is difficult to change.

Even if you do not have obsessive thoughts about food, this does not mean that you are free from bad habits associated with food. The tips below will help you get rid of the daily ritual of visiting the store for the purchase of chips and cola.

Charles Duhigg (Charles Duhigg), author of "The Power of Habit," explains that the brain "likes" habits due to their effectiveness; he has the opportunity to think less. If you want to get rid of the existing habit, you need to form a new one. This does not mean that you need to switch from "Snickers" to "Twix". No, you must create, as Dewigg calls it, "a system of incentives, procedures and incentives." As soon as you have a desire to eat a cake after dinner, go out to the air or go to the office to chat with colleagues. It is necessary to get out of the vicious circle. If you apply enough effort, the brain automatically reoriented to a new habit – you will think less about food and less worry about it.

If you are serious about getting rid of a bad habit, you need to write down the reasons why you want to do this. Janet L. Wolfe, a psychologist and author of books, says that capturing the background and emotions associated with a habit on paper makes it more conscious. If the emotions make you go to the kitchen, describe what you ate and how you felt before and after. Why do you want to eat? Having realized the reasons for dependence, it will be easier for you to overcome it.

3 – Do not forget about self-promotion

Set a small goal in front of you. Having reached it, think of yourself a reward. For example, if your small goal was to stay away from the buffet for the whole working week and you could do it, as an encouragement, go to the cinema, massage, bike, or on Friday leave an hour earlier from work. Useful awards form useful habits.

Thank you for such precious tips, they helped me a lot. 🙂


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here