Susan U. Neal RN, MBA, MHS
In our society, the overabundance of delicacies is hard to resist. At first, it seems fun to eat whatever we desire. However, that momentary pleasure is fleeting. It is unhealthy to overeat, and when that becomes a habit, eventually we become addicted to food and can’t stop eating. Therefore, we binge. You need to get to the root cause of dysfunctional food eating issues so you can heal. This article will review the top five root causes of overeating and an inappropriate relationship with food.
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#1 Lack of Knowledge
Delicious unhealthy foods are conveniently available to us. But just because we have access to them and the freedom to eat them doesn’t mean we should. If we understand which products are harmful, we can avoid them. You may have no idea that modern hybridized wheat contains gluten that most humans can’t digest—that’s why gluten sensitivity is becoming an epidemic. Gaining accurate knowledge about food is not always easy because of false or conflicting information. Yet, gaining knowledge regarding unhealthy versus healthy foods is crucial to making a positive lifestyle change. So make sure your information is from a reputable source.
In addition to being addictive, sugar and refined carbohydrates cause disease. Chronic ailments such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity are related to the consumption of too much of the wrong types of food. Therefore, gaining knowledge is essential to changing one’s eating habits.
#2 Food Addiction
We live in a culture of entitlement—where we feel we deserve to satisfy ourselves to our heart’s content. Countless varieties of delicious, unhealthy foods are available to us at a whim. Even the commercials on TV entice us to indulge. It is amazing that everyone in our culture has not fallen into the food addiction trap. Entitlement leads to indulging, which leads to addiction. It is a slippery slope once you take your first bite of that addictive food. Down the slope, you fall as you consume the whole package—which you did not intend to do. If you are addicted, you can’t rely on moderation. You need to understand what is
causing you to consume foods in a manner you do not want to. The average American ingests up to 150 pounds of sugar each year. We eat foodlike substances full of sugar and wheat, packaged in colorful, enticing boxes and bags. These so-called foods are frequently inexpensive, as well as quick and easy to prepare. We fill that immediate craving without thinking of its long-term consequences.
Even before you take the first bite, if you desire the food item, dopamine secretes in the brain. Scientists proved this through MRI imaging of the brains of addicts. Therefore, when you feel the temptation to eat refined carbohydrates, recognize it. If you understand what is going on in your brain, you can more effectively fight the temptation. You can release dopamine by taking a walk, petting your dog, or hugging a child or partner.
Have you ever thought, I’ll take one bite and that will satisfy my sugar craving? If so, you understand that logic never works. You can’t take only one bite, because dopamine releases in the brain and causes a physiological response that your self-control cannot manage. You become hyper-focused to consume the desire of choice.
Candida is the next potential physical component to a compulsion to overeat. If you crave sugar, alcohol, and processed foods, you might have an imbalance in the flora of your gut. An imbalance means the beneficial microorganisms (probiotics) have been killed off by antibiotics, steroids, and pesticides in foods. The destruction of these beneficial microbes allows the harmful bacterium, Candida, to multiply quickly, taking over your digestive tract.
Candida Albicans, a type of yeast common in the gut, can grow roots into the lining of your gastrointestinal system. The fungal overgrowth creates openings in the bowel walls, which is known as leaky gut. These holes allow harmful microorganisms to enter the bloodstream. Our bodies don’t recognize these particles, so our immune system creates antibodies that cause food allergies and autoimmune diseases to develop.
When Candida spreads out of control, it acts as a parasite sucking the life and energy out of you. Candida feeds on carbs, which is why you crave them. It is like a monster growing inside of you, craving sugar, and it is hard to fight its never-ending appetite. I had an overgrowth of Candida in my colon, so I know how hard it is to fight this culprit. Yet I wanted my health back, so I ate a non-Candida diet and took an anti-Candida cleanse. It took eight months to regain my health, but with determination, I succeeded.
#4 Emotional Connection
Food and emotions are intrinsically related for most of us, so we need to do an emotional check. How do you look at food? Are you using food to comfort and meet an emotional need, or do you think of food as a necessity to keep your body functioning? Do you turn to food to help you deal with the challenges of life?
As we engage in emotional eating, we turn to food to appease ourselves. If we feel abandoned, food can be our friend. We can swallow our angry feelings with food, instead of feeling the emotions we don’t want to deal with. Food can provide an emotional escape from negative feelings. Instead, recognize dysfunctional eating behaviors stemming from emotions and confront tough issues.
Stress also causes us to turn to food. We live in a fast-paced world where we eat on the run. We no longer have traditional meals prepared from scratch at home. Unfortunately, food industries are cooking our food for us today.
How do you cope with stress? Do you tend to deal with it through undesirable eating habits? If so, recognize this and choose to do something about your stress level. Determine the stressors (things that cause you to stress) in your life. Evaluate each one and brainstorm on how to minimize them.
Some stress-relieving activities include exercising, enjoying a massage, and calling a friend. Exercising, a positive coping strategy for dealing with stress burns off adrenaline and improves sleep. Relaxation techniques such as yoga or meditation calm the mind and body. I created several yoga products including DVDs, books, and card decks available at Christianyoga.com.
Over 100 million Americans suffer from chronic, painful, expensive, and often debilitating diseases. One of the dominant causes of chronic diseases in the United States is the poor quality of food consumed. When we eat processed food, we do not provide our bodies with nutrient-filled foods.
Food industries entice consumers to eat more of their products not to improve people’s health but to improve the corporations’ pocketbooks. These industries put sugar in products to lure us into buying more because they understand its addictive quality. Educate yourself to fight back against the food industries’ tactics.
Doctors treat the symptoms of these chronic diseases with drugs, but they usually do not address the underlying cause. Nutritious foods prevent and even reverse conditions better than expensive medications. Understanding yourself and what your inner voice tells you about food is instrumental in determining the root cause of dysfunctional food habits. Figure out what drives you to eat poorly? Is it food addiction, emotional issues with food, stress, candida infection, or lack of understanding about which foods negatively impact your health?