Perhaps you’ve been pleased with how you’ve been eating. You’re following Raymond Francis’s book, Never Be Fat Again, eating a nutrient dense diet, taking good supplements, avoiding toxins and exercising. You’ve given up counting calories and diets that made you feel deprived, stressed and irritable, and you’re quite happy losing weight slowly but steadily. You’re feeling like you’ve finally got a handle on this thing called food.
Then it happens. At the Farmers Market you’re hungrier than you anticipated. A baker there sells organic, gluten-free, whole grain muffins. Although carbohydrates are a problem area for you, you’ve had these particular muffins before without difficulty, so you eat one, and it hits the spot.
Back home you get a distressing phone call from a friend that makes you feel anxious. Making lunch, you add wild rice to your chicken-vegetable soup. You mean to add only half a cup, but end up adding a cup and a half. After finishing the soup you’re still “hungry,” but the only thing you really want is more of that rice.
And so it begins . . . more rice, more “hunger.” Maybe some almond butter would help. Maybe a banana to go with the almond butter . . . . pretty soon you’ve eaten way more than you need and you’re still not satisfied.
You’re in the grip of a food craving leading to a binge that no amount of food is going to satisfy.
How do these things happen?
For one thing, they happen because, as scientists have now shown, many foods can act like drugs—as powerful as alcohol and cocaine, and we get addicted to them. Refined sugar is the worst, but all carbohydrates, salt, fat, and certain chemicals found in chocolate and cheese will trigger the release of “feel-good” chemicals, the body’s natural opiates, which are in the same family as morphine and heroin. So-called “comfort foods” offer these in many delicious combinations. In addition, we may have allergies we’re unaware of, and the stress of allergic reactions, even outside of our awareness, promotes release of these very same “feel-good” chemicals, paving the way to addictions to these foods.
“Trigger foods” like these become all the more powerful if we’re under any kind of stress: nutrient deficiency, toxicity, strenuous dieting, insufficient sleep, illness, a seemingly insurmountable problem, a difficult relationship, and the list goes on. Under these conditions we have a strong desire to “self-soothe,” and for many of us the opiate power of food fills this need.
The problem is compounded if your gut bacteria have become imbalanced by antibiotics. We have trillions of gut bacteria, all demanding to be fed. While the beneficial bacteria prefer green vegetables and other healthy foods, pathogens want a junk food diet of carbohydrates and unhealthy fats. Giving them the food they crave encourages them to quickly proliferate and demand more of the same. Their escalating cravings become our escalating cravings.
This is how, before you know it, the situation can spiral out of control.
- Cowin RL. Feeding and reward: Perspectives from three rat models of binge eating. Physiology and Behavior. July 2011;104(1):87-97.
- Ahmed SH. Sugar addiction: pushing the drug-sugar analogy to the limit. Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care. July 2013;16(4):434-439.
- Norris J. Do gut bacteria rule our minds? UCSF News Center. August 15, 2014. Accessed online June 10, 2016.