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Irene Rubaum-Keller Headshot

Are You a Food Addict?

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Are you a food addict? Is there such a thing? What do people mean when they say they're food addicts? Aren't we all food addicts? We need to eat to live so... It's like saying you are addicted to water or sunlight. "Hi, I'm Irene. I'm a water addict." " Hi Irene."

Generally, when people say they are food addicts, they mean they have trouble controlling the amounts they eat of certain foods. Most food addicts don't have a problem with broccoli but they may have a problem with chips, ice cream or cake (for example).

Studies indicate that the pleasure centers in some of our brains light up more than others in response to food. You might be someone who really gets a charge from certain foods. That charge can be habit forming. If that brownie really made you happy, you are likely to want to repeat the experience. It is very basic. You see the brownie and your brain lights up. The sight and/or idea of the brownie causes a certain amount of pleasurable activity in the brain. This creates an urge to eat the brownie. The strength of that urge can vary from weak to so strong it is impossible to resist. If you eat the brownie you get the pleasure of the taste and your brain is happy. Repeat.

If that describes you and your relationship with certain foods then there is an upside to it. You Love Food! You get great joy out of the taste, texture, aroma and experience of food. That is fantastic! Sometimes life offers us little in terms of pleasure and if you love food then you get pleasure every time you eat. I am pretty sure that my brain looks like the Las Vegas strip at night when it gets near See's candy. I actually cherish this aspect of myself as I work with so many people who get little or no pleasure from anything.

So can you have your brownie (or See's candy) and eat it too? The answer is yes and no. When you commit to writing down your food and keeping track of the calories it turns all food into numbers. Brownies average around 120 calories per ounce. One piece of See's candy averages 75 calories. Frosted cake averages 130 calories per ounce.

If I want to have See's candy, I go to the See's store and get 3 pieces. The sample they give you for free also has calories, so my See's candy experience costs me around 300 calories for 4 pieces. The fudge brownie bites at Starbucks have 300 calories. You can get one and leave the scene. If you have trouble with certain foods that you love, don't bring them into your environment in large quantities. Use environmental control to have your cake and eat it too. Just don't bring the entire cake home.

You can learn to manage a food addiction by either using environmental control or using complete abstinence. I work with someone who had to give up eating pizza. It was a trigger food for him and so, even though he could go and get one slice, it would set him off on an eating binge that could last for two days. He finds that he does much better, in general, if he just doesn't eat pizza. He gets a lot of pleasure from the other foods that he can eat in moderation so eating pizza just isn't worth it for him.

So to have your cake and eat it too, write it down and count the calories. Use environmental control with the foods you can't control. If a particular food is just too dangerous for you, don't eat it. There are so many other foods to choose from.

That's it for now. Good luck and let me know how you're doing.

If you'd like to participate in the research for Irene's new book about weight loss, please visit http://www.eatingdisordertherapist.com and take the survey.

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