In my last two blog posts I wrote about the role of Dopamine and food addiction and posted a quiz to see if you might have a food addiction. If you took the quiz and scored high or think that you might have an addiction to carbs, sweets or some other type of food what should you do?
Every year at CrossFit Albuquerque we do a Whole30, which is the Whole9’s challenge for strict paleo for 30 days. During those 30 days you have to cut out sugar, grains, dairy, beans, and your diet consists of meat, vegetables, fruit, seeds, nuts, and healthy oils. Throughout the year at the gym you might here different people talking about doing the strict 30 days to clean up their diet and all of the positive benefits they have from cutting out certain foods. If you have never taken a look at the Whole9 site or the Whole30 program, here is a link to the website: whole9life.com
While 30 days of strict paleo can definitely clean up your diet, change many bad dietary habits, and leave you feeling amazing throughout the day and in your workouts, if you have a true food addiction, it is likely not long enough to actually help you overcome your food addiction. Many people plan out their first cheat meal after the 30 days are over, and if you have a food addiction you can totally sabotage yourself by allowing this cheat meal. To reiterate the points from the first blog post I wrote on this topic, dopamine is what is signaling your desire for that cheat meal (seeking a reward). A food addiction (let’s use sugar for an example) can take over this reward system just as a drug like cocaine would do for a drug addict. When someone has a food addiction to sugar, they have a down regulation of dopamine receptors, and a greater amount of the sugar is needed to elicit satisfaction. If you have a food addiction 30 days is just not long enough to actually reset your system back to normal. This is also the same reason that allowing yourself a cheat meal or cheat day on the weekend can also sabotage your gains, because every time you eat that sugary treat, you start the cycle of the dopamine response again.
If you find yourself still having a serious craving for sweets or salty fatty snacks after your Whole30, the worst thing you can do is allow that cheat meal. The best way to overcome your food addiction is to continue to refrain from whatever food it is that you may be addicted to for an additional 30 to 60 more days. Once you start losing the desire to eat those foods, your body is essentially done “detoxing” from that food and it is more likely that you have normalized the dopamine response system. You may realize that you can’t allow yourself to cheat with a certain food on the weekend because it will make you crave it more.
As hard as it may be to change these habits, you may learn that the benefits far outweigh that cheat meal on Saturday night. If anyone feels they have a food addiction and tries cutting it out for 60-90 days please let us know about your experience! I know I will be cutting sugar for 60, possibly 90 days, starting on January 2nd, if anyone else is down for the challenge!