If you have an unhealthy food addiction, you’re not alone. Food addiction is a gripping disorder
affecting many Americans. Considering the culture of cheap, easy, fast food in the US, it’s
nothing to be ashamed of nowadays. The good news is that the addiction can be overcome, by
first admitting it’s powerful control and then making changes.
Effects of Unhealthy Foods
Unhealthy food addiction can lead to overeating, binge eating, bulimia (induced vomiting),
mental disturbances, anorexia and obesity. In the US, one-third of all adults can be classified
as “obese,” or excessively overweight. They are unable to free themselves from the pull of
unhealthy foods, being hooked on processed foods, fast foods, sugar and fat.
The addiction to these unhealthy foods is as real as drug addiction. After all, sugary and fatty
foods send signals to the brain to release dopamine and serotonin. These are chemicals in the
body that help humans experience feelings like pleasure, calmness and well-being. But, over
time, excessive amounts of sugar and fat dull the brain’s sensors. Eventually, the person becomes
overly tolerant of extreme amounts of unhealthy food. The consequence? The person requires
higher levels of sugar and fat to feel the same way, to experience the food-induced sensation of
happiness and calmness. This allows the unhealthy eater to essentially overdose on unhealthy
food, again and again, searching for that “high.”
How to Kick the Unhealthy Food Addiction
So, what can be done about it?
Unhealthy Food Addiction Awareness
Well, first the addict needs to become aware of the effect that the US culture is having
on them and on a daily basis. Americans are bombarded with images of tempting and
unhealthy foods on television, in magazines, on the Internet, and on billboards, just to
name a few. The food industry continually tempts consumers with advertisements for
fast food and cheap prepackaged products sticky with high fructose corn syrup, oily
with “bad” unhealthy fats, and slippery with processed cheese.
All these products appear to be delectable food choices, until one considers their lack of
nutritional value, and what affect over-consumption of unhealthy food has on a person.
Highly processed foods tend to cause a sudden spike in blood sugar which results in
energy. However, blood sugar then falls just as rapidly, leaving the eater craving more
sugar. Energy is delivered quickly, but is followed by extreme tiredness. This tiredness
causes the person to reach for more food, hoping for a jolt of energy. And a vicious cycle
Find Healthy Substitutes
To combat the negative effects of unhealthy food in the diet, it’s important to gradually
replace them with healthy foods. Some healthy choices are whole grains, vegetables, rice,
legumes, fruits and nuts. These foods are high in fiber, which keeps you full longer. They
are also rich in nutrients, which keeps your body healthy. Gradually, the body and brain
will adapt and will become sensitive to this new diet, deriving more rewards, such as
happiness, calmness and well-being.
The body will become dependent on the healthy foods consumed the same way it did
the unhealthy ones. In time, it will take smaller quantities to get the satisfaction needed.
Another plus is that blood sugar will stabilize and energy will be consistent throughout
Do Something Different for Different Results
Just like with any other addiction, you have to change your environment and complete
way of life. Recognize the activities (or non-activities) that cause you to crave the
unhealthy snacks the most. For example, if you know that every time you watch a DVD
you must have snacks, find something else to do to stay busy. Keeping yourself busy will
help your curb your appetite for unhealthy foods.
• Instead of sitting around watching TV while snacking on cookies and chips, do
something different. Read a book. Take a walk around your neighborhood. Go visit
friends. Get busy with an intense hobby or project that will keep your mind occupied so
you won’t even think about food. In time, you’ll become more and more disciplined to eat
full meals, only at mealtime. Then, it’s up to you to make sure it’s a healthy meal.
Make the Choice to Change
It’s important to remember that unhealthy food addiction leads to obesity, decreases health,
impairs mobility, shortens life expectancy and negatively impacts self-esteem. The addiction has
a powerful control, which becomes more powerful as the disorder is allowed to progress. But, by
acknowledging the problem, coming up with a plan and forming new healthy eating habits, the
brain will heal. This will, in turn, allow the body to form new additions, to more healthy foods,
such as fruits and vegetables.
This article was written by Kiesha Joseph and Sarah Grace Villaflor. They are health
ambassadors from Daily Bread. Daily Bread provides high quality, healthy short-term and long-
term food storage for emergencies and other uses.