As a society, our collective weight is increasing, and most of us don’t realise why this should be happening when we are controlling how many calories we are eating. But when I see clients who say they can’t stop eating at times throwing their dieting attempts out the window or are struggling to say no to certain foods, in effect, they tell me they have become food addicts who are at times out of control. More often than not their diet is moving in one or potentially both the following directions during their general day to day activities. Either they are not eating enough across the day and their blood glucose levels are dropping too far, and or they are eating a lot of processed foods with few nutrients and addictive elements in them.
We often have cravings stemming from the types of foods we were brought up within childhood, at that point, we ate what we were given, and what was eaten by everyone around us. Packaged ready-made foods on our shelves now seem the norm which only 40 years ago wouldn’t have been the case, the packaging and prepreparing by manufacturers of every meal is a modern-day phenomenon but it’s brought its associated issues.
The advertisers know that if they are able to get a child consuming their product it’s a winner for them and more importantly a long term buyer. Many of our children haven’t seen anything but these preprepared types of foods in their lifetime, on our TV’s food takeaways are heavily advertised, and it’s so cheap this makes these foods extremely accessible for those who are time-poor. Thankfully in the UK advertising to children is restricted, but the happy world of Haribo still gets me every time and I’m an adult. Children are taught to use these ready-made foods from birth, from the closest role models they have in their life. Breakfast bars on the way to school which are high in sugars, the follow on milk for babies have been found to be high in sugar, then vending machines that you grab a quick snack from whilst they are in football training and bizarrely are also in hospitals which are normalising junk food as a daily snack. We as adults know these foods are not good for us, but we continue to eat them but do our children really know that they are leading themselves down a path to be potentially addicted to foods in adulthood which are designed to be that way, and which are leading them to an obesity issue.
Why wouldn’t a child that has been weaned on infant formula high in sugar, then moved onto cereals high in sugar, because they’rreeeee greatttttt, to finding that when they go out for a treat of their favourite meal it comes with a little toy from their favourite junk food clown producer. TV advertising, think it’s not addictive or influential? Well to this day I can still sing ‘will it be chips or jacket spuds will it be salad or frozen peas, will it be mushrooms fried onion rings, you’ll have to wait and see… I hope it’s chips it’s chips’!
Birds Eye potato waffles they’re waffly versatile, grill ’em, bake ’em, fry ’em, eat them!
For mash get Smash.
And for my final song, let’s not forget that Great British household favourite Beanz Meanz Heinz, yes at one stage I watched a lot of TV like a lot of children and young adults.
Heavy advertising of foods back in the 80’s started to emphasise the change from real foods made in your kitchen at home to fast foods you could just buy in. Harvard research shows that those kids shown commercials 5 times would then choose those products. Grill em, bake em….are we being programmed from birth to eat fast, or addictive foods perhaps?
From getting pocket money once a week that seemed the norm when I grew up that we would spend on sweets, most households now have sweets, biscuits, cakes, sugary cereals and processed foods which have sugar in them in their cupboards all the time. In fact, it is the norm to have these foods as part of the weekly shop that so many children and young adults are brought up with, why would people think it’s odd to not surround themselves with food like this in later life? Why would we, therefore, be expecting them to control their weight easily under these circumstances? When you are brought up with this being normal how would these children know it could be wrong or detrimental to their long term health, the role models in their lives are using or should I say eating these foods daily themselves what can be so wrong in them doing the same?
Children become adults who then think they are eating well with the food choices they are making, and they think they are making their foods themselves, when more often than not, they aren’t, this isn’t a criticism this is an observation. When I take a case history and look at the foods being eaten with my clients, I have to look at who prepared them now, because it’s less often the individual and more often a manufacturer and all they are doing is heating the meal or elements of it up. This heating up of food isn’t cooking, it isn’t preparing it yourself, it’s convenience preprepared foods, that sit on shelves for long periods of time, losing their goodness, enzymes, and nutrients that are all needed for the body. But they were brought up with these ‘foods’ therefore it’s normal for them to eat like this.
Are processed foods actually addictive? Well, we know this has to be the case because people yo-yo backward and forwards on them all the time. People need their fix each day of caffeine, they have their cheeky biscuit or bun each afternoon, and I’ve got clients who have no control when faced with certain foods, such as sweets. Whilst we are counting calories of the packaged foods, we are continuing the cycle of being addicted to food-like substances that are within them, that are ultimately detrimental to our bodies. Don’t wonder why you can’t give them up, they are designed to not be given up and we’ve been potentially addicted since childhood and that makes losing weight and staying at a stable weight even harder.
Therefore I don’t think my clients have a dieting problem when they yo-yo backward and forwards and can’t control their intake, instead I believe for some of them it’s a processed food addiction issue. That Mar’s a day helps you work, rest and play, apparently, but when you are introduced to a sweet item every day now as a child, whose palates naturally search out those sweeter foods because they are safe to eat generally, that is going to carry on into adulthood where we tend to be more sedentary.
I find that people who are struggling to maintain weight loss or dietary changes are incorporating processed foods daily in their diet. Our foods are now highly industrialised, and there is great profit in the mass making of foods because we have moved our time from cooking and preparing to other things. The big slimming clubs include processed preprepared meals and desserts in their plans and in some cases manufacture their own so their members can count the calories and stay addicted to the sugar in them whilst supposedly losing weight!
Think about the foods that once we pop we just can’t stop, that fix of a drink each day which one branded coffee maker states is their way of loving you back. These foods teach you to crave them, they trigger specific neural pathways for serotonin, dopamine, opiates, the food industry is designing foods to be addictive and I know from my client’s reports that they get such a strong craving that they just can’t say no anymore. This means that we are effectively self harming on food like substances every day and for some people at every meal. Are we surprised that we are no longer able to control our weight when we are consuming food-like substances which are able to override the will power to fill us with calories which we can count all day long, but which don’t give our bodies the nutrients that we actually need to function on?
I rarely see carrots and broccoli advertised but I’m seeing so called ‘healthy’ foods advertised that people rarely question, Weetabix is processed and highly refined and has dextrose in it, why? Whey protein often comes with glucose and dextrose as well, protein or breakfast bars which advertise that they should be part of a balanced breakfast, make out they are a bowl of porridge on the go, they are nearly 50% sugars in a variety of forms in some cases. Sugars in its many forms are insidious in the diet and if you start to add it up in your diet you may well be surprised.
Years ago we only ate at our dinner tables, we took the time to sit down and eat, but eating on the go is now the norm because we are surrounded with food why wouldn’t we eat it? How can we actually resist? But this then makes food just something to grab and go, it places little significance on how important it actually is to the body. If you fill up your cupboards with these foodstuffs or grab them on the way to school or work, you get into a habit of using them to make up your dietary needs. The more of these you are using, the more difficult it’s shown to be to give up these foods, and we are self-medicating with foods because these foods are designed to make us feel good, well at least temporarily. When you are surrounding yourself with foods that are easily accessible you are more likely to eat them, particularly when you are tired or stressed. The ability to turn them down will be at it’s lowest at this point. When do most cravings happen? My clients tell me after work, at the end of the day, when they are tired, when they are sat in front of the TV when their will power is at it’s lowest.
The supermarkets know that we can’t say no to certain foods, we are hardwired to eat. Often we go out shopping with the best of intentions, Michael recently went out to get the ingredients for dinner for the evening and came back with a trifle, nothing else, just the trifle, he had forgotten what he had gone out for completely. Why did this happen? Because advertising and placement of foods in supermarkets and shops are enticing and designed to draw you into buying things you know you shouldn’t have but can’t resist. He couldn’t resist the sign for trifle and the fridge full of them he had to pass, distraction factors work, and it’s not the first time it’s happened! Those neural pathways of addiction from sugar are hard-wired from years of eating those foods, we love the feeling, you know what it feels like, tastes like and you just can’t say no because just the thought of those foods make us feel good. Over 60% of purchases in the supermarket are unplanned, impulse buys and they know this and it’s designed to be that way. It triggered a craving for the food. I laughed when he came back because there are very good reasons why you shouldn’t go shopping when you are tired and your blood glucose levels are low!
Nowadays mostly we have cravings from addiction to foodstuffs rather than actual hunger and we no longer eat to resolve our hunger but instead eat to feed our addiction often to sugar and fats. Sugar is highly addictive, and it’s now in most foods that are processed and as I’ve highlighted in foods from childhood. It takes 7 days of eating sugar to change the neuron firing in a rats brain, that’s pretty quick. Why are we not up in arms about what is happening with our food in general, is it because we have become addicted to them and in reality, the thought of letting them go isn’t something we can think about!
If you are craving foods, you need to address many areas of your food choices to stop this from happening and this happens over time, not in a day. Changing not only your food habits but also your mindset to these foods is ultimately the key to making this work, many of these habits will have been created over many years, but fast food is a fast track to a shorter lifespan, poorer health, and chronic disease. When we eat balanced meals that are not preprepared but from fresh ingredients, we can create a brand new addiction to that feeling of health which so few of us experience now. This food increases performance, mental stability, helps your energy levels, balances your hormones, gives you the nutrients that you need, and most important of all helps with stopping the yoyoing once and for all.