Abuse of the word addiction may explain why some people believe they have food addiction

Popular Diet News: Do You Have a Food Addiction?

This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. The site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, so the post has been reproduced here.

ABUSE OF THE WORD ADDICTION MAY EXPLAIN WHY SOME PEOPLE BELIEVE THEY HAVE FOOD ADDICTION

When I saw the advertisement for a shampoo that said you would become “addicted” to it because it made your hair so silky, I knew things had gone too far. Can we really become addicted to shampoo? What about food addictions and addictions to texting, tanning, video games, the Internet, cosmetic surgery, shoes? If you believe the latest headlines, those things all have the power to turn us into addicts.

While I doubt that using the same shampoo everyday can do any harm, abuse of the term addiction can.

In my 30+ years in practice as a Registered Dietitian I’ve had many clients tell me they believed they were addicted to certain foods. Those foods were the same ones everyone else ate, but somehow they got hooked. These people couldn’t just eat a normal portion. They obsessed over the food, kept secret stashes of it and felt guilty after eating it, usually in large quantities.

The one thing these people all had in common was a feeling of helplessness once they labeled their problem an addiction. I often wondered how they would fare if they simply said they really “liked” the food?

Finding Another Word for Addiction

There is little agreement in the medical community about whether you can actually have a food addiction. When you compare it to an addiction to heroin, it seems trivial to even ask. But as in the example of the shampoo ad, I think the real problem is that the word addiction is being used too casually.

What people mean when they say they are addicted to chocolate, potato chips or pizza is that it tastes really good to them and when they eat it they want to eat more of it. That is not evidence of an addiction. If you eat more chocolate than you should, that may be a sign of emotional eating or compulsive overeating or a problem with impulse control. Or it may be nothing more than a craving.

The definition of addiction used by the American Society of Addiction Medicine states it is a chronic disease with biological, psychological, social and spiritual manifestations. There are a lot of chocolate lovers in the world, but they don’t all have a chronic disease. In fact, when it comes to so called food addictions, it’s interesting to note that only some people are affected. There are significant gender and cultural differences in what becomes an addictive food. That is not the case with alcohol, nicotine or opium.

I understand that it is very difficult for some people to control their consumption of certain foods. Their genes, brain chemistry, and personality may predispose them to becoming dependent on certain substances or behaviors. But when it comes to food, it just may be a question of too much of a good thing.

If you think you are addicted to a food, try to reframe the way you think about it, starting with the language you use. You’ll enjoy that chocolate much more if you focus on how much you love the taste while eating it, rather than fearing you won’t be able to stop eating it because you’re addicted to it.

If someone offered you a million dollars to never eat your “favorite” food again, could you do it?

Dr. Oz continues to make unsupported claims about sugar substitutes

Misinformation About Sugar Substitutes Continues on The Dr. Oz Show

You can see and hear my interview with The Skinny On Low Cal about the recent Dr. Oz Show that continued his misguided attack on low calorie sweeteners here: Myth-busting the Recent Dr. Oz segment on Low Calorie Sweeteners . Don’t be fooled by all his circus tricks. The published and peer-reviewed science says these sweeteners are safe and an effective tool for weight management when used as part of a balanced diet along with regular exercise. That is also the opinion of international food regulatory agencies and trusted health organizations including the American Heart Association, American Diabetes Association and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

 

Disclosure: I am a consultant to the Calorie Control Council, but all statements are my own.

Eating regualr meals makes it easier to control food chocies

Breakfast Myth: Skipping Breakfast to Save Calories

This blog was written for the Bell Institute for Health and Nutrition. You can read the original post here.

After writing my last post about Making Time for Breakfast I realized it covered just one of several reasons given by clients for not eating in the morning. Since there are so many others I thought it would be useful to put together a short series on the Top Myths for Not Eating Breakfast.

Many people believe that if they do not eat breakfast they will consume fewer calories by the end of the day and lose weight. This is one of those ideas that looks good on paper, but might not work out as planned.
Besides all of the nutritional benefits of eating breakfast, starting the day with a meal may help improve weight management. In fact, it is one of the most common behaviors shared by the 10,000+ people who make up the National Weight Control Registry.
In reality, this belief in “calorie saving” can sabotage the unknowing dieter and can even lead to weight gain and frustration. Here are the proof points needed to help you dispel the myth that skipping breakfast= weight loss.
BELIEF
I will eat less by the end of the day.
REALITY
A recent study suggests that those who skip breakfast may end up eating more when they finally eat, and could make less healthy, more high-caloric choices.
BELIEF
Not eating for 15 hours or more will make me lose weight faster.
REALITY
Your metabolism is likely regulated by the amount of fuel supplied to it throughout the day. Choosing not to refuel after an overnight fast, may slow down your metabolic rate and affect weight loss.
BELIEF
I like to have plenty of calories left at the end of the day so I can eat all I want.
REALITY
Hunger is a signal from your body that lets you know you need to eat. You also get a signal that tells you when you’ve had enough so you can stop when you are satisfied. If you learn to respond to these two internal cues, you will be less likely to eat for other “external” reasons and may have an easier time managing your weight.
Two new anti-obesity drugs have been approved this summer giving consumers more help with weight loss

3 Anti-Obesity Drugs Now Available in U.S.

This post was written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. The site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, but you can read the original post here.

TWO NEW ANTI-OBESITY DRUGS HAVE BEEN APPROVED THIS SUMMER GIVING CONSUMERS MORE HELP WITH WEIGHT LOSS

After 13 years with only one Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved pill for weight loss available in the U.S., the agency added two more anti-obesity drugs to the arsenal in the past 30 days. Qsymia is the latest.

I covered the Belviq when it was approved last month. Before that, Xenical was the only option. It received FDA approval in 1999, then became available in a lower dose as the over-the-counter drug Alli in 2007.

What does this recent flurry of activity in the world of anti-obesity drugs mean?

To the 68 percent of American adults who are either overweight or obese (that’s more than 23 million people) it means hope. Hope that one of these drugs will help them win the battle they fight every day with overeating. They still have to learn to make better food choices and be more physically active – no pill can replace that – but maybe, just maybe, one of these prescriptions will make it easier.

Obesity is a complex disease with multiple causes. No single treatment will work for everyone. Since each of these drugs functions in a different way, one could be better for you than another.

If you tried weight loss pills in the past and didn’t get the results you expected, you may want to try again. If you’ve been afraid to try them before, keep an open mind. It’s a hard battle to win alone.

FAQ About the Anti-Obesity Drugs

How do they work?

  • Some have a single mode of action, others have a combination of effects. They may:
  • Suppress appetite
  • Increase metabolism
  • Block absorption
  • Increase satiety
  • Stimulate alertness

How much weight can I lose?

FDA approval is based on studies that show weight loss is greater using the drug than can be achieved from just diet and exercise alone. Weight loss varies for each drug and with one’s ability to comply with the diet and exercise recommendations, but range from 5-10 percent.

How long must I take them?

Each of the available drugs must be taken daily to maintain results. They are not a cure, but a treatment that must be continued for the rest of one’s life.

Do they have side effects?

As with most drugs there are risks associated with their use, but when taken as recommended the benefits are expected to outweigh any risks for most people.

Can anyone take them?

Most are approved for adults only. Some are restricted if pregnant, when taking certain medications or if suffering from other conditions. These concerns must be discussed with your physician.

Some related blogs:

  • My post on last month’s anti-obesity drug: New Weight Loss Drug Wins FDA Approval
  • Some thoughts on what obesity is not: Reflections on Obesity and the Weight of the Nation
  • Why obesity isn’t our biggest problem: Metabolic Syndrome is Worse than Obesity

 

Follow these rules to avoid overeating when ordering off restaurant menus.

Save Calories When Ordering Off Restaurant Menus

FOLLOW THESE RULES TO SAVE CALORIES AND AVOID OVEREATING WHEN ORDERING OFF RESTAURANT MENUS

Who doesn’t enjoy the convenience of sitting down in a restaurant and ordering whatever we want off the menu? Apparently most of us do since one third of our meals are eaten away from home.

I covered the downside of splurging over the holidays in a previous blog, but dining out provides an opportunity to over eat all year round. The price we pay is not just rung up at the register. We give up a significant measure of control over the source of the food, how it’s prepared and how much is served to us. And that’s not good.

The only recourse is to follow some rules when you place your order to regain control over what arrives on your plate. It takes a lot more self-control to avoid eating half your meal once it’s served than to simply order wisely so the excess food is not in front of you.

These rules do not replace the need for you to order the foods that fit best into your day of eating. And they don’t ask you to give up all of the foods you love! Instead they give you some additional ways to reduce the chance of splurging when eating out, and that’s a good thing.

CALORIE-SAVING RULES FOR ORDERING OFF RESTAURANT MENUS

BREAKFAST

  • Custom Omelet Rule – Order only 2 eggs, not the customary 3, and only with vegetable add-ins.
  • Breakfast Meats or Eggs Rule – Since side orders of breakfast meats are large, skip the eggs if you really want bacon, sausage or ham.
  • Buttered Toast or Fried Potatoes Rule – Request one or the other with that omelet, egg or breakfast meat order, not both.
  • Pancakes or Toast Rule – No contest, if you’re not ordering pancakes as your breakfast, don’t add them to an egg order.

LUNCH

  • Cheese or Meat Rule – Think Kosher and try not to combine cheese with meat on sandwiches, pizza or burgers. Let sliced tomatoes, onions or mushrooms take its place.
  • 50% Burger or Fries Rule – Split one or the other, but don’t eat a full order of both.
  • No More Than One Fried Food Rule – If you must order something fried, don’t have anything else in your meal fried. That means the traditional “fish and chips” is out.
  • Wet or Dry Salad Rule – The bigger the salad, the more dressing it takes to wet it down. If you’re having an entree salad, be prepared to use just lemon juice, no calorie dressing or wet vegetables to partially moisten it.

DINNER

  • Cocktail or Carbs Rule – For each alcoholic drink you order, be prepared to eliminate a serving of carbohydrate in the form of bread, pasta, rice, potatoes or dessert.
  • Appetizer or Dessert Rule – If your add something to the beginning of your meal, don’t also add something at the end. Sharing is the only other option.
  • Bread & Butter or Dessert Rule – Like an appetizer or a cocktail, you can’t afford to add the extra calories from a basket of bread to the front end of a meal then order dessert on the tail end, too. Check the quality of the bread and the dessert menu to guide your decision.
  • Double Green Vegetable, No White Starch Rule – A double order of any sautéed vegetable will contain fewer calories than a dressed baked potato, creamy mashed potato, rice pilaf, risotto or pasta in sauce.
  • Vegetable-Only Salad Rule – A first course salad picks up a lot of extra calories for every non-vegetable item tossed into it, like dried fruit, nuts, cheese, croutons and bacon. Make sure your salads are made from garden vegetables only.

Find more helpful hints here:

Is Overeating at Christmas Just one More Way to Splurge?

Heartburn does not have to be part of Thanksgiving dinner

Is Heartburn on Your Thanksgiving Menu?

PLAN AHEAD TO AVOID THE DISCOMFORT OF HEARTBURN AT THE END OF YOUR THANKSGIVING DINNER

Just in time for your Thanksgiving feast, here’s a short primer on heartburn, the worst part of any holiday meal. While there are many different causes of heartburn, and some people suffer with it all year long, overeating is one cause that can trigger this uncomfortable burning sensation in anyone enjoying a traditional turkey dinner with all the trimmings.

Heartburn is the feeling people get in their chest, often described as indigestion. It can lead to nausea, a bitter or sour taste in the mouth and burping.

Acid reflux is the action that produces those sensations. Gastric acids are moving up the esophagus, or food pipe, that normally carries chewed food down into the stomach. The esophagus does not have the same protective mucous lining that the stomach is coated with, so the acids burn the lining of the esophagus when they come into contact with it.

A weakened lower esophageal sphincter (LES) is the cause of the problem. The LES is a ring of muscles at base of esophagus that are only supposed to open to allow food to enter the stomach. If they are weakened or compromised in any way, they may open and allow the contents of the stomach to pass up again.

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, or GERD, is the condition when this occurs regularly. The 30 million who suffer from GERD may not be able to tell you what it stands for, but they know it as the sound they make when they have it.

Factors contributing to GERD:

Obesity, pregnancy, smoking, hiatal hernia and certain medications for high blood pressure, anxiety, insomnia and asthma.

Foods that can trigger reflux symptoms:

Citrus, chocolate, drinks containing caffeine or alcohol, fatty and fried foods, garlic, onions, mint flavoring, spicy foods and tomato-based foods.

Recommendations to reduce discomfort:

Wear loose-fitting clothes, eat smaller meals, don’t lie down after eating, don’t smoke, avoid trigger foods and beverages.

Other treatments to get relief:

Calcium-based antacids neutralize acid for short term relief, proton pump inhibitor drugs decrease the amount of acid produced in your stomach, H2 blockers lower the amount of acid released in the stomach.

What will you do differently this year to avoid the pain of heartburn?

): Investing in childhood nutrition saves money in healthcare costs

Good Pediatric Care Offers Solution to Healthcare Crisis

Cost of healthcare can be reduced if children learn to eat right

While the nation continues to search for a way to resolve the healthcare crisis, I am convinced the answer lies in making sure every child in the country has good pediatric care. Other than selecting your own grandparents for their longevity genes, getting goo healthcare in the first two decades of life is the best way to improve your odds of beating your actuarial table.

Let me explain.

The growth and development of a healthy child require fresh air and water, a balanced diet, time to play, plenty of sleep and a safe environment. Adequate immunization and education seal the deal.

Accidents are the only leading cause of death in the U.S. (at number 5) that are not completely preventable, but virtually all of the others are.

Diet plays a major role in each of the top three causes of death while smoking controls the fourth:

  1. Heart disease
  2. Cancer
  3. Stroke (cerebrovascular diseases)
  4. Chronic lower respiratory diseases

So as I see it, the single best way to topple this country’s runaway healthcare costs is to make sure every child has an adequate diet throughout their childhood and adolescence. Establishing healthy eating habits at an early age is the best way to insure those habits will continue for the rest of one’s life and continue to protect one’s health. Trying to change poor eating habits in adulthood is far more difficult.

Pediatric healthcare providers have a distinct advantage when it comes to promoting good nutrition to their patients because the nutritional needs of children are remarkably the same around the world. They need foods of the right consistency, variety and quantity to thrive, yet no single food other than breast milk is universally found in the diets of children. Their undeveloped palates leave them open to experience and enjoy many new tastes and textures if regularly introduced, so there is no need to create special foods and menus just for kids.

To prevent overeating children should not receive external pressures to consume more than they want. Instead be allowed to respond to their internal cues of hunger and satiety. The same is true about eating for other external reasons, such as when food is used as a reward or to meet emotional needs. When these inappropriate relationships with food are not encouraged, children learn to eat for the right reasons and avoid the “food issues” that lead so many people to overeat today.

It almost sounds too simple to be true, but “you are what you eat.” The sooner in life we get that right, the better off we’ll all be.

Related articles:

Research on Mindless Eating Offers New Insight into Obesity

Guess What? There Are No Junk Foods!

Remove the distractions that lead to mindless eating to stop overeating and lose weight

Research on Mindless Eating Offers New Insight into Obesity

Eating while distracted can lead to overeating and weight gain

Research presented by Dr. Marion Hetherington at the 2011 Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo about multitasking and mindless eating provided proof that weight gain isn’t just about what you eat, but how you eat.

Dr. Hetherington explained that “satiation” is the sensation that lets us know when to end a meal or stop eating. “Satiety” describes what we feel after eating that tells us we’re satisfied, but not stuffed. Hunger is the signal that it’s time to eat again. Being able to detect each of these physical conditions has strong cognitive component.

Or simply put, we must pay attention when eating so our mind can process all of the signals that our body receives through sight, smell, taste and touch, in addition to the barrage of gastrointestinal signals transmitted with each bite.

According to Dr. Hetherington, several studies show that if you eat while doing other things, such as watching TV, reading or even talking, you can end up overeating. Appetite regulation is also affected by the amount of food available, such as large servings or buffets, even if the food doesn’t taste that good.

Based on this emerging research, a new direction for treating weight gain and obesity has evolved that focuses on the act of eating. Evelyn Tribole, MS, RD explained how Intuitive Eating, an approach she helped pioneer, allows people develop a healthy relationship with food and their own body.

Intuitive Eating is based on 10 principles which begin with rejecting the diet mentality and all the externalized rules for “dieting” that go with it. In this way the physical cues of hunger and satiety can begin to guide eating.

Ms. Tribole described “eating amnesia” as what occurs when you eat while distracted. She went on to explain that eating intuitively requires being aware of the food in front of you, as well as your emotions and body sensations.

The benefits of overcoming mindless eating and eating more intuitively go far beyond weight control according to both speakers. Practitioners gain a whole new appreciation for how to live in their own bodies and more accurately interpret their other needs, feelings and thoughts unrelated to food.

Given the abysmal results of most weight loss diets and the constantly changing food landscape, it makes sense to redirect your attention to how you eat, instead of what, if you want to lose weight. Why not shut down all the electronics and other distractions at your next meal and see how it feels?