By Dr. Melina Jampolis
As a weight loss physician, I see lots of patients who think they are addicted to food. Food addiction is being increasingly recognized as a real condition. It can lead to changes in brain chemistry similar to those seen in other types of substance dependence including drugs, alcohol, and nicotine. It also shares several behavioral features including loss of control and continued use despite awareness of the negative consequences. But unlike other substances of abuse, we have to eat to survive.
Modern foods, which are often highly processed, high in fat and sugar, and contain a variety of flavors and textures to improve taste and eating enjoyment, are especially addictive. Professional counseling may be required in more severe cases of food addiction, but here are several tips to help you overcome milder cases.
1. Never let yourself get too hungry. It is critical to control the physical aspect of hunger throughout the day to give you more control over the mental/emotional aspect. I suggest trying to eat a protein-based meal or snack every 3-4 hours to help keep blood sugar more stable, minimizing your physiological craving for sugar.
2. Limit food cues that lead to overeating. Put desserts and snack foods on the highest shelf possible or in the back of the freezer to minimize the visual cue to eat them. Change restaurants if you always order the same unhealthy meal at your favorite. Plan active dates with friends instead of calorie-filled happy hours.
3. Go for nutrient density, not calorie density. Try to eat mainly nutrient rich, minimally processed foods that are low in added sugar, saturated fat, and salt to fill you up without fattening you up.
Dr. Melina Jampolis is one of only several hundred board certified physician nutrition specialists in the United States. She is the Diet & Fitness Expert for CNN.com and the author of “The No Time to Lose Diet.” Find out more at www.drmelina.com.