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Irene Rubaum-Keller Headshot

Are You a Foodie Or a Foodaholic?

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Did you know that you could be a connoisseur of great food and drink and be thin? In fact, "foodies" tend to be able to enjoy all aspects of food without overdoing it. A "foodie" is a gourmet. Someone who loves great food and learns about where it came from, how it was prepared, etc. A foodie will savor each bite and pay attention to the flavors. They may know the best place in town for (name your favorite food here). A foodie loves everything about great food.

I work with food addicts. People who use food as a drug to either escape life and/or avoid withdrawal. Foodaholics are really no different than cocaine addicts or heroin addicts. The main difference lies in that their drug of choice is legal, celebrated and enjoyed by non-addicts as well as addicts. That can't be said for heroin and cocaine. However, like cocaine and heroin, certain foods activate the same reward pathways in the brain. We are still learning about how this works and who is vulnerable. We believe there is a genetic component to addiction. There is also a genetic link to depression, anxiety and many psychological issues that would cause someone to want to self-medicate.

Foodaholics are actually most like alcoholics in that alcohol is part of everyday life, part of celebrations and is tolerated, in moderation, quite well by most people who drink it. Most people who eat do not become foodaholics, just as most people who drink do not become alcoholics.

However, there is a group of people who cannot control themselves around high salt/high fat/high sugar foods. To be fair, a lot of people have trouble with this, but there is a range of tolerance for these highly-processed foods. Why is it that Mary can eat three potato chips and walk away while Sally eats the entire bag and then heads out for more? Why can George stop eating before he is full, and while there is still food left on his plate, while Jim has to finish the entire plate regardless of how full he is?

In my new book, "Foodaholic, The Seven Stages to Permanent Weight Loss," I write about how to tell if you are a food addict and if you are, what to do about it. Some say that it is the worst addiction to have because unlike an alcoholic, who can completely stop drinking alcohol, we foodaholics still need to eat to live. We have to learn to manage our tendency to compulsively overeat certain foods, find other ways to deal with our pain, learn how to handle the cravings and food fixations in an environment that seems to want to thwart us at every turn. Just turn on the TV, or the radio or drive down a main street, and you will be assaulted with fast food and junk food advertising. This is very difficult for a foodaholic and yet, it can be handled. It is possible to lose weight, keep it off and get unhooked from certain foods. If I can do it, so can you!

As we head into the holiday season, it is a tricky time of year for those of us who tend to overeat. Why not make this the time of year you love everything else about the holiday but not overdo the food aspect? We foodaholics have trouble focusing on anything but the food. If we are at a holiday party and there is a buffet, we can't just focus on the conversation, the atmosphere, the decorations or the fun outfits our fellow partygoers have on. We are busy thinking about what is at the buffet table, how much of it can we eat, can we bring some home, what looks the best, how many calories is in the guacamole, etc. We miss much of the party because we are so distracted by the food. You can change this! More on how in my book and coming up in my next blog. Happy holidays!

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