Why Food Addiction Isn't Your Fault + 7 Ways To Curb Cravings

Functional Medicine Doctor & NY Times bestseller By Mark Hyman, M.D.
Functional Medicine Doctor & NY Times bestseller
Dr. Mark Hyman is a practicing family physician, a nine-time #1 New York Times bestselling author, and an internationally recognized leader, speaker, educator, and advocate in his field. He is the Director of the Cleveland Clinic Center for Functional Medicine.
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When it comes to why so many people are overweight, studies show that food addiction — particularly addiction to sugar — is often the root cause.

Food addiction creates a vicious cycle of cravings, often for sugary foods that spike your blood sugar. As your brain’s pleasure center lights up, you simply crave more of that substance that gives you a “high.” You become powerless against the brain’s hardwired response to seek out pleasure.

So rather than lack of willpower, specific biological mechanisms drive addictive behavior and hold you hostage.

Nobody chooses to be a drug addict or alcoholic. Nobody chooses to have a food addiction, either.

How Food Addiction Happens

There are many signs that suggest you might struggle with a food addiction. Maybe you eat when we’re not hungry, or when you’re agitated, anxious, or stressed out. Or maybe you find you need a certain food to experience pleasure or reduce negative emotions.

But as I said before, food addiction is not your fault.

You see, food companies have designed sugary, processed food products with highly addictive properties. They are literally and figuratively feeding your addiction.

If you grew up attending a school that had only deep-fried food, was stocked with vending machines of processed foods, or was ringed by convenience stores where you could grab a 64-ounce Big Gulp on your way home every day, it’s no surprise that your habits and taste buds got wired that way.

Certainly, personal responsibility does play a role. But willpower just isn't enough when your brain’s reward mechanisms kick in, thanks to the toxic influences of sugar and processed foods.

7 Ways to Curb Cravings and Crush Food Addiction

You don't have to succumb to food addiction. With these seven strategies, you can take control and regain your health and taste buds while reversing your risk of diabesity:

1. Balance Blood Sugar. Blood sugar swings drive cravings, so make sure to keep your blood sugar steady. If you eliminate sugar and artificial sweeteners 100 percent, your cravings will go away.

2. Go Cold Turkey. Target specific foods or drinks that create addiction — and eliminate them. A good place to start is with my book, The Blood Sugar Solution 10-Day Detox Diet.

3. Eat the Right Foods. To cut down on cravings, always include these three components at meals:

  • Good protein: fish, organic eggs, small amounts of lean poultry, nuts, whole soy foods, and legumes
  • Good fats: fish, extra virgin olive oil, unrefined coconut oil, olives, nuts (other than peanuts), seeds, and avocado
  • Good carbs: beans, vegetables, whole grains, and fruit to balance our blood sugar

4. Manage Stress. Chronic stress can trigger the hormones that activate cravings. If you notice you are having a craving, ask yourself two questions: “What am I feeling, and what do I need?” Then, see if there is something besides food that can fulfill that need. Adopt a daily stress management program that includes deep-breathing exercises, meditation, a calming CD and other relaxation techniques.

5. Target Food Allergies. Foods you are sensitive to, like dairy and gluten, can feed addiction. Eliminating these food allergies isn’t always easy. But after two to three days without, you'll discover renewed energy and relief from those cravings.

6. Create an Exercise Plan. Among its many benefits, exercise also helps control your appetite. Some people may benefit from a 30-minute brisk walk. Others will want to add burst training, weight resistance, or other more rigorous exercises. Whatever it may be, find a program that works for you.

7. Get 8 Hours of Sleep. Not getting enough zzz's drives sugar and carb cravings by messing with your appetite hormones. By sleeping eight hours every night, you'll hit your “reset” button and help eliminate food addiction. Here are some smart sleep strategies that can help.

If you ever struggled with an addiction to a particular food, how did you break free? Share your story below or on my Facebook page.

Mark Hyman, M.D.
Mark Hyman, M.D.
Dr. Mark Hyman is a practicing family physician and an internationally recognized leader, speaker,...
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Mark Hyman, M.D.
Mark Hyman, M.D.
Dr. Mark Hyman is a practicing family physician and an internationally...
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