Your relationship with food !
On my desk I have a long list of posts and newspaper articles I plan to write sooner or later. I add to it daily. So maybe you think I just go to the list and attack the first article like you might clean your house on a certain pattern – one room at a time every time.
Well no, that’s not how it happens. Look at it this way. Company just left your house and one of your bathrooms is really be bugging you. You clean it first. Same thing for me. Something on my list continues to weigh on my mind. Today I am responding to the weight on my mind.
Usually I write about some health condition like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, or osteoporosis. And someone who has that condition may be interested and read. This sorta makes it look like health is a one-condition thing and without such a diagnosis you have no reason to care. That, of course, is wrong.
What do all health conditions have in common?
Every condition has characteristics in common with every other one. At the simplest possible level the most common characteristic is the diet of the patient. And the food itself may not be the most important. Rather what really matters is your “relationship” with your food. So let’s talk relationships.
A real “need” for alcohol, a cigarette, cocaine or other drug (sometimes prescription), and sugar reflect a very bad relationship with something that can be called an addiction. Addictive substances feed the pleasure center in our brain, making us forget stresses in life that bring us “down.” Those who are addicted are seeking an “up.”
We all differ in what we call “stress.” But regardless of the circumstance, stress can make us sad, depress us, create anxiety, cause worry, confusion, and/or pain.
Further, we all vary in our ability to cope with stress. My version of stress might seem no big deal to you and vice versa. Those who manage stress well have developed healthy methods of coping. Those who don’t deal with stress effectively have only one method of coping; we lean on something that triggers the pleasure center in our brain and make us, at least for a minute, forget the stress.
Most everybody knows that alcohol, cigarettes, cocaine and other such drugs can be deadly sooner or later. For some people even the tiniest bit of those substances simply turns into a large amount, perpetually, perhaps forever. What most people don’t know is that sugar works exactly the same way. And sugar comes in many forms, sometimes refined sugar in a sugar bowl or a cake and sometimes starch in chips, pasta, or bread.
Under stress (whatever your personal version of stress is) you turn to foods containing sugar to get that “high.” This is your pleasure center at work.
Processed food – sugar/starch
I will always emphasize the importance of minimizing processed food for all of us, addicted, obese, plagued with chronic disease, or not. Why? Because those foods are deficient in the vitamins and minerals that are essential to our health. Don’t think for even a minute that you can remain healthy and live long without those micronutrients.
For the non-addicted, the occasional “treat” containing sugar/starch usually occurs in some sort of social gathering and isn’t a problem. They make up for any deficiency with the rest of their diet. But those who are obese, diabetic, and perhaps addicted may not eat an occasional treat. They will eat a lot, one after another, perhaps in private – especially when they feel the need for an “up.”
Have a chat with yourself
You may need to have a little chat with yourself. It is possible that you are not addicted but rather just didn’t realize that all that starch and sugar is not really food. Perhaps you are just trying to eat cheap. Perhaps you have been stress eating but haven’t reached the point of an addiction. You now know and can choose to adjust your diet.
On the other hand, if the very thought of not drinking sodas, eating bread or cookies creates a pit in your stomach and sends you to the pantry, you may be addicted.
The price of food addiction
The price of addiction is lots of fat, sometimes obvious body fat and sometimes hidden fat inside your body around/in your liver, pancreas, even heart. The price of that addiction will be illness.
So think about this. Do you find yourself often grabbing handfuls of chocolates or Doritos for a “boost?” Does something going “wrong” in your life (your definition of wrong) result in eating a sack of M&Ms or potato chips? You may be addicted.
Recovery from food addiction is identical to alcohol, cocaine, cigarettes. That means it isn’t pleasant. But somehow an”intervention” is required. It’s your choice. You can look for help in overcoming an addiction. Or you can respond to the stress this post created by grabbing a sack of chips or a gallon of ice cream and watching Netflix.
Pat Smith is the author of “It’s All About the Food,” a book that guides nutritious food choices as the way to avoid illness and maintain a healthy weight. Pat is a resident of Montgomery County, AR, president of Ouachita Village, Inc. board of directors (Montgomery County Food Pantry), and president of the Mount Ida Area Chamber of Commerce board of directors. Her email address is email@example.com; phone number is 870-490-1836; visit her website at allaboutthefood.org