I found this unique strategy for weening oneself off of a fastfoot addiction, check it out over on lifehacker and feel free to leave your initial impression or comments below:
It all comes down to learning about eating things that will spike your blood sugar and things that will not. We are not addicted to junk food as much as we are addicted to what it does to send our blood sugar higher than a kite. The fast food industry has perfected the science of developing a menu that will do just that. All of the white bread, french fries, onion rings, sugary sodas, highly processed fried chicken like substances and the fatty mystery meats will spike your blood sugar higher than a bowl of candy bars. Of course, what goes up must come down. When it does, it comes down with a crash. That's why you feel so good when you have a fast food meal but feel tired and sleepy a few hours later. When your blood sugar goes below normal, your body becomes lethargic and slow. No sugar equals no energy. To compensate for that, your body starts kicking in some cortisol and adrenaline to get your sugars back up again. That's when you become a little shaky and you develop an overwhelming urge and craving for another high glycemic (blood sugar raising) meal and you start the cycle all over again.
People who are addicted to fast food will eat more food and suffer more cravings than those who don't. They are caught on a glycemic roller coaster that will eventually lead them to have a condition called "metabolic syndrome" or syndrome x. If they can't find a way to get off the roller coaster, it will eventually lead them to full blown diabetes and heart disease.
Cutting your fast food budget in half and storing the money in a ziploc bag is certainly a step in the right direction if it lowers the amount of junk that you eat. But isn't that like taking a habit of smoking 10 packs of cigarettes per week and cutting it down to five? You are still moving in the wrong direction. Addictions are powerful things. Sometimes it takes more than just will power. Here are a couple of short movies to watch that might shed some light on the issue.
Six McDonalds-munching Americans eat 100% vegan, organic, live, raw foods for a month in order to reverse diabetes naturally. In four days, they were off insulin and in 30 days, their diabetes was totally reversed. Medical results are fantastic. They
are challenged to give up meat, dairy, sugar, alcohol, nicotine,
caffeine, soda, junk food, fast food, processed food, packaged food,
and even cooked food - as well as go without their loved ones and many
of their creature comforts - for 30 days. Watch how tough it is for them to quit their addictions.
In this revealing 40 minute presentation, Dr. Neal Barnard MD discusses the science behind food additions. He is the founder of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM).
During the first few minutes of his presentation, he gets our attention
by telling us how sucrose (simple table sugar) releases opiate
chemicals in a babies brain, in turn releasing dopamine, explaining how
the mechanisms of food addictions work at the most basic level.
Quitting junk food restaurants did not completely cure my addiction to fast food. I had to learn how and what to eat that would give my body good carbs, good proteins and good fats. I had to learn how to plan ahead and fill my ziploc baggie with fresh fruit, vegetables, chicken, fish, nuts and yogurt. Imagine losing all your cravings for junk food and empty calories. I had to replace bad habits with good ones. Imagine having more energy than you had before and not feeling like taking a nap in the afternoon. Imagine losing weight without really trying hard at all. Imagine sleeping better and getting sick less often.
A smoker who cuts his cigarette consumption in half is still addicted. A junk food junkie who cuts their consumption in half is still an addict. Focusing on a bad habit will only keep you focused on it. If you cut your bad habit in half, you are still focusing on it and it has you in it's addictive grip. Making a clean break and developing new healthy habits in eating is what will set you free.
I respectfully disagree with the concept of "food addiction". People commomly confuse extreme hunger and the physiological drive to eat with "food addiction". Just as people are not addicted to air/breathing, they are not addicted to food/eating.
If you struggle with food, I invite you to look at your eating patterns. The chances are good you diet too hard (go for long spans of time before you eat) and create a deep hunger that requires a lot of food (binge) to resolve. Or, you deny yourself a certain food (let's say, chocolate) and then when given the opportunity, you overeat ("Last chance to eat chocolate, so I'd better eat it all now...")
I have a strong chapter on Dieting Gone Awry in my Sports Nutrition Guidebook
This book has helped many active people and athletes who claim to be "addicted to food" find peace with food.
Nancy Clark RD
Nancy Clark MS RD CSSD
Sports nutrition counselor and food/weight coach
Author, Nancy Clark's Sports Nutrition Guidebook
Nancy, I can agree with you that people are not addicted to food per se. It is what is in the food that we must watch out for. Alcoholics are not addicted to beer, wine or whiskey. They are addicted to the simple sugars that alcohol turns into. People are not addicted to coffee. They are addicted to the caffeine that it contains. People are not addicted to smoking. They are addicted to the nicotine in the tobacco.
Junk food contains plenty of addictive substances to spike your blood sugar and clog your arteries. Dr. David Jenkins and his colleagues discovered that there are foods that spike your blood sugar higher than others (around 1980). He used simple table sugar or white bread as a baseline to compare a variety of foods. From there, he developed what is called the the Glycemic Index(also glycaemic index, GI) is a ranking system for carbohydrates based on their immediate effect on blood glucose levels. For instance, glucose has a score of 100. White bread, white potatoes, white rice, corn flakes and candy have a high glycemic index of 70-99. Foods like beans, grainy breads and most fresh fruits and vegetables are in the low range (55 or less).
All carbohydrates are not the same. Simple chain carbs or high GI food causes a more rapid rise in blood glucose levels. Complex carbs tend to digest slower and a low GI food will release glucose more slowly and steadily. Endurance athletes such as ultra-marathoners and Ironman triathletes have become increasingly aware of the glycemic index of foods taken before and during training and competition. In the hours before a competition athletes may consume foods with a lower GI value so that energy is released more slowly.
High glycemic carbohydrates can spike the blood sugar into an unhealthy range resulting in hyperglycemia. As we all know, what goes up must come down. This is the glycemic roller coaster that goes from one extreme to another. When your blood sugar goes too low, this is called hypoglycemia. When this happens, your body responds by producing the stress hormone called cortisol. Along with adrenaline, this is your bodies attempt to bring your blood sugars back into a healthy range.
Symptoms of hypoglycemia include
nervousness and shakiness
dizziness or light-headedness
feeling anxious or weak
Three or four hours after a high glycemic meal of junk food, you go into this state of hypoglycemia and that is when you have this overwhelming craving for another high glycemic meal. This starts the process all over again and the addictive roller coaster continues on it's journey. This will not kill you overnight, but if you continue on this roller coaster, your arteries will age much faster than normal and you will gain fat around your middle that you will find hard to get rid of. Now you risk heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes. This is all a result of being addicted to the wrong kinds of carbohydrates. I work with the Healthy For Lifeprogram that helps athletes and regular people to get off this roller coaster. There is also a book with the same name.
Dr. Neal Barnard is the author of a book entitled, "Breaking The Food Seduction" where he offers seven steps to breaking your food cravings using low glycemic foods. Read more about this book and watch a 40 minute video by him as he discusses the science behind food addictions. He is the founder of the Physicians Commitee For Responsible Medicine. Here is the link to this information:
The glycemic index is a tool with questionable value because:
1. most people don't eat just bread or just potato -- they eat bread with peanut butter or potato with meat. Combining a carb with a protein alters the glycemic response.
2. each person responds very differently to a carbohydrate-based food. Active people get a far lower "spike" than unfit people, so the information doesn't really apply to athletic readers of active.com.
I have pasted below an article I wrote on this topic. It might put to rest some of the confusion. As for Dr. Neal Barnard and the Physicians for Responsible Nutrition, check out www.quackwatch.com.
THE ATHLETE'S KITCHEN
Copyright: Nancy Clark MS RD CSSD
Carbs: Quick, Slow or Confusing?
Once upon a time, carbohydrates were referred to as simple or complex, sugars or starches. Today, the classification is more complicated; carbs are often ranked as quick or slow in a very complex system called the glycemic index. The glycemic index is theoretically based on how 50-grams of carbohydrates (not counting fiber) in a food will affect blood sugar levels. For example, white bread is a high glycemic index carb and supposedly causes a rapid spike in blood sugar, while beans are considered a low glycemic index carb and cause a more gradual increase in blood sugar levels.
The glycemic index was initially developed to help people with diabetes better regulate their blood glucose. But people with diabetes generally eat foods in combinations (for example, a sandwich with bread, turkey and tomato); this alters the glycemic index of the meal. Athletes, however, commonly eat foods solo (a banana, a bagel). Hence, exercise scientists became curious about the possibility that quick or slow carbs might impact exercise performance because they affect blood glucose in different ways. Could athletes use this ranking system to determine what to eat before, during, and after exercise?
Theory vs science
low glycemic index foods (apples, yogurt, lentils, beans) provide a slow release of glucose into the blood stream. Could they help endurance athletes by providing sustained energy during long bouts of exercise?
high glycemic index foods (sports drinks, jelly beans, bagel) quickly elevate blood sugar. Are they best to consume immediately after exercise to rapidly refuel the muscles and, thereby, enhance subsequent performance?
According to Kathy Beals PhD RD, associate professor of nutrition at the University of Utah, athletes can disregard all the hype about the glycemic index and simply enjoy fruits, vegetables and whole grains without fretting about their glycemic effect. Speaking at the yearly conference sponsored by SCAN, the Sports & Cardiovascular Nutrition Dietary Practice Group of the American Dietetic Association (www.SCANdpg.org), Beals claimed too many factors influence a foods glycemic effect, including where the food was grown (Canada, US?), the amount eaten (the glycemic index is based on 50-grams of available carbs (fiber is not digested, hence is not available); thats a whole bag of baby carrots, not just one serving), fiber content, added butter, the way the food is prepared (mashed, baked, boiled?), and if the food is eaten hot or cold.
To make the glycemic index even less meaningful, each of us has a differing daily glycemic response that can vary 43% on any given day. Among a group of subjects, the response can vary by18%. (1) Also keep in mind, well trained muscles can readily take up carbohydrates from the blood stream. Hence, athletes need less insulin than unfit people. This means athletes have a lower blood glucose response to what would otherwise create a high blood glucose response in an unfit person. Exercise is very important to manage blood sugarand help prevent Type II diabetes.
All things considered, you, as an athlete, have little need to concern yourself with a foods glycemic effect because you dont even know your personal response to the food. Plus, research of exercise scientists fails to clearly support the theories mentioned above. The research does indicate the best way to enhance endurance is to consume carbs before and during exercisetried-and-true choices that taste good, settle well, and digest easily. Hence, you need not choke down low glycemic index kidney beans thinking they will help you with sustained energy, when they actually might only create digestive distress! Simply plan to consume about 200 to 250 calories of carbs each hour of endurance exercise and youll enhance your performance.
For athletes who do double workouts or compete more than once a day, choosing a high glycemic index food for recovery might seem a smart choice. Theoretically, it provides glucose quickly, more rapidly refuels depleted glycogen stores, and enhances subsequent performance. But, research does not show performance benefits. According to Beals, the more important task is to eat enough carbs (or carbs+a little protein) as soon as tolerable post-exercise. Whats enough? 0.5 g carb per pound of body weightabout 300 calories for a150 lb person, in repeated doses every two hours.
Insulin and fattening carbs
What about the popular notion that high glycemic index foods are fattening because they create a rapid rise in blood sugar, stimulate the body to secrete more insulin, and thereby (supposedly) promote fat storage? Wrong. Excess calories are fattening, not excess insulin. Dieters who lose weight because they stop eating high glycemic index foods lose weight because they eat fewer calories. A year-long study with dieters who ate high or low glycemic index meals indicates no difference in weight loss. (2)
Sugar highs and lows
Some athletes claim to be sugar sensitive; that is, after they eat sugar they report an energy crash." If that sounds familiar, the trick is to combine carbs with protein or fat, such as breadpeanut butter, or apple(lowfat) cheese. This changes the glycemic index of the carb. By experimenting with different types of snacks, you might notice you perform better after having eaten 100 calories of yogurt (a low glycemic index food) as compared to 100 calories of high glycemic index rice cakes. Honor your personal response when choosing foods to support a winning edge for your body.
Nancy Clark, MS, RD CSSD (Board Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics) counsels casual and competitive athletes in her private practice at Healthworks (617-383-6100), the premier fitness center in Chestnut Hill MA. Her popular Sports Nutrition Guidebook, new 2007 Food Guide for Marathoners and Cyclists Food Guide are available at www.nancyclarkrd.com. Also see www.sportsnutritionworkshop.com for information about her online workshop.
1. Vega-Lopez S, Ausman LM, Griffith JL and Lichtenstein AH. Inter-individual reproducibility of glycemic index values for commercial white bread. Diabetes Care March 23, 2007
2. Das SK et al. Long-term effects of 2 energy-restricted diets differing in glycemic load on dietary adherence, body composition, and metabolism in CALERIE: a 1-y randomized controlled trial. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007; 85:1023-1030.
Nancy Clark MS RD CSSD
Sports nutrition counselor and food/weight coach
Author, Nancy Clark's Sports Nutrition Guidebook
It seems to me that Active.com is a place for everyone and not just for elite athletes. The fact is that I have run accross women that are 5'2" and 215 pounds. I have run accross people who are diabetic (type1&2). Not everyone here runs marathons and iron man competitions. Some are weekend athletes that are trying to get in shape but still struggle with weight. This is not a one-size-fits-all type of site. What works for one person may not work for another. Just as there is a diversity of people here, there is also a diversity of opinion. Let's celebrate that! I'm excited to have Nancy on this forum and I look forward to learning from her and increasing my own knowledge. She has much to offer and a wealth of experience to glean from. I can agree with much she has to say but I differ from her opinion on this one topic.
It's true that the glycemic index is a controversial subject. Maybe that's because it is so new and it flies in the face of all we have been taught about calories and weight reduction. In the early 1500's, Copernicus came up with the novel idea that the earth is not the center of the universe (heliocentrism). This was a new idea that met with much opposition and even anger. Over a hundred years later, the debate was still raging. Galileo was imprisoned for the rest of his life because
he believed in the Copernican doctrine. He would have been the number one person on the list at Quackwatch.com. in the 1600's. In a recent survey, 18% of all Americans still believe that the sun revolves around the earth. The debate continues today.
Here are three Registered Dietitians that DO
believe the glycemic index IS a valuable tool (not the only tool) and
use it quite often in their practice:
is a Registered Dietitian (R.D.) with a Master's degree in Adult Education from St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia. She is actively involved in health promotion through the media and writes a weekly newspaper column along with numerous radio and television appearances. She is the founder of Shop Smart Tours Inc. - the
largest supermarket nutrition education program offered Canada.
Athletes that value low glycemic eating while they train and perform include Olympic and Pro athletes like:
The list goes on.
A study published in the November 2003 Journal of Pediatrics
showed that children who ate low-GI, high-fiber breakfasts were less hungry and ate less for lunch
than kids eating a breakfast of refined sugary cereals. This is the first study to observe such an effect in a group of normal and overweight children and adds to the growing body of evidence that low-GI foods may have an important role in weight control and obesity management.
A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition concluded that people who eat refined grains stripped of fiber are more likely to gain weight and be overweight compared to people eating high-fiber whole grains.
When I was in college, I swam 6-10 miles per day as I prepared for NCAA's. I ate all the potatoes, white bread and rice that I wanted and never got fat. At 6'2", I never intended to go down to 147 pounds. I decided I had to do something about this as I looked in the mirror and saw my ribs popping out. I started stuffing myself
with 4-7 plates of food per meal. It was a meal but there were a lot of high glycemic and fatty foods on my plate. Having a mixed meal with high glycemic foods, lettuce, tomato and some protein would lower the overall glycemic index of the meal. That is true, but it would not lower the glycemic load of the meal if there are the same amount of simple carbs present. You need to look at the glycemic index and the glycemic load of any particular meal in order to make a sound judgement. So it really doesn't make a difference if your meal is mixed with protein and fat,as you will still have a high insulin response. The amount of carbohydrate consumed affects blood glucose levels and insulin responses. My weight started coming back but I noticed that I would experience a "crash" about 3 hours after a meal like this. I could not keep my eyes open and would often fall asleep in the library. Since I had not not tipped over into the state of Metabolic Syndrome or "Syndrome X," I was not affected by weight gain (yet) but I could sense the effects of spiking my blood sugar. Since then, there have been several studies published in respected health journals that show other problems associated with eating high glycemic foods and spiking your blood sugar over a long period of time. The literature seems to generally support low glycemic eating as a healthy lifestyle.
Dietary glycemic index, an indicator of the ability of the carbohydrate to raise blood glucose levels, and glycemic load, the product of glycemic index and carbohydrate intake, have been positively related to risk of coronary heart disease
. Arch Intern Med.2001;161:572-576.
Diets based on carbohydrate foods that are more slowly digested and absorbed (ie, low glycemic index diets) have been independently linked to reduced risk of _*type 2
diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and some types of cancer. Although ongoing research is needed, the current findings, together with the fact that there are no demonstrated negative effects of a low glycemic index diet, suggest that*the glycemic index should be an important consideration in the dietary management and prevention of obesity and chronic disease.
American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, Vol. 2, No. 2, 142-150 (2008)
Low-GI and/or low-GL diets are independently associated with a reduced risk of certain chronic diseases. In diabetes and heart disease, the protection is comparable
with that seen for whole grain and high fiber intakes. The findings support the hypothesis that *higherpostprandial glycemia is a universal mechanism for disease
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol.87, No. 3, 627-637, March 2008
Low GI diet may prevent type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Care 30:2811-2813, 2007
Lowering the glycemic Index of your diet may provide a means of diminishing the risk of macular degeneration (eye health).
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 86, No. 1, 180-188, July2007
Emerging evidence indicates that hyperglycemia and hyperinsulinemia may be implicated in the development of pancreatic cancer. Frequent consumption of sugar and high-sugar foods may increase the risk of pancreatic cancer by inducing frequent postprandial hyperglycemia, increasing insulin demand, and decreasing insulin sensitivity. High consumption of sugar and high-sugar foods may be associated with a greater risk of pancreatic cancer.
AmericanJournal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 84, No. 5, 1171-1176, November2006
Results of this study suggest that there is a complex and predominantly unfavorable effect of increased intake of highly processed carbohydrate on lipid profile, which may have implications for metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and coronary heart disease. Further studies in the form of randomized controlled trials are required to investigate these associations and determine the implications for lipid management.
Journal of the American College of Nutrition, Vol. 25, No. 2, 155-163 (2006)
Nurses health study findings suggest a modest positive association between the consumption of potatoes and the risk of type 2 diabetes in women. This association was more pronounced when potatoes were substituted or whole grains .
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 83, No. 2, 284-290, February 2006
Dramatic increases in fast food consumption over the past 30 years have occurred in parallel with the twin epidemics of obesity and insulin resistance. Some of the properties of fast food, including its high glycemic index and its fatty acid composition, induce hyperinsulinemia and the development of insulin resistance, both peripherally (increasing energy deposition into fat), and centrally. Of course, fast food is merely the most extreme example of what has become the typical Western diet, so this phenomenon has implications for all patients with weight gain. Hyperinsulinemia is the primary initiator of CNS insulin resistance, which may in part be responsible for leptin resistance. This promotes reduced energy expenditureand continued food consumption in an attempt to make up for what the brain sees as an inadequate leptin level. Furthermore, CNS insulin resistance interferes with meal-associated insulin effects on dopamine reuptake and the extinguishing of the hedonic or reward system at the nucleus accumbens, which continues to promote food intake. Through failure of these two central mechanisms, fast food’s promotion of CNS insulin resistance revises a negative feedback mechanism into a dysfunctional feed-forward system to promote continued energy intake (Figure 3 ). Therefore, it is our contention that fast food, based on all its inherent properties discussed, must not be viewed as a marker, but rather as a primary etiologic agent in the genesis of the current obesity epidemic.
(Arteriosclerosis,Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology. 2005;25:2451.)© 2005 American Heart Association, Inc.
Because a babies birth weight may be a predictor of chronic diseases later in life, a low-GI diet may favorably influence long-term outcomes. Pregnant women in the study found the Low Glyceimic Index diet easier to follow.
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 84, No. 4, 807-812, October 2006
To date, 15epidemiological studies have examined the relationshipbetween GL and chronic diseases. GL is associated with several cardiovascular disease risk factors, includinglow HDL cholesterol, high triglycerides and elevated C-reactive protein. GL appears to be an independent riskfactor for myocardial infarction, type 2 diabetes and cancer in many but not all analyses. Several recent reviews have explored the physiological mechanisms that might link GL to disease processes.
J. Nutr. 133:2695-2696, September 2003
Lower insulin response and higher circulating leptin levels suggest that low-glycemic meals promote a post-meal environment that is favorable for reduced food consumption; this may be advantageous in the control of obesity and related disorders including insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.
Ann Nutr Metab 2007 Dec 10;51(6):512-518
A recent study reporting plasma glucose responses to mixed meals containing fat and protein concluded that the results were totally disparate from what would have been expected from published GI values of the foods fed. However, this conclusion was based upon an inappropriate assessment of the data using absolute rather than incremental blood glucose response areas. The present report demonstrates how data may be analyzed to make use of the GI values of individual foods to predict the GI of mixed meals(r ı 0.987; p < 0.02). It is concluded that the GI concept applies well to mixed meals containingfatand protein. Am J Clin Nutr l986;43: 167-172.
The use of the GI has been endorsed by the FAO/WHO and numerous other international health-related organizations.
If you go to Amazon.com and enter the search words, "Glycemic Index" or "Glycemic Load", you will find over 2000 books on the subject. Check it out sometime.
Dr. Christine Northrup, a carbohydrate addict herself, told Oprah that about 75 percent of all Americans are carbohydrate addicts.
Whether you consider yourself a carbohydrate addict or not, you should click on and read
in order to quit or avoid becoming a carbohydrate addict.
Is "addictive" even the right word? Is there an actual chemical addiction happening here or is it all in your head? Some people don't think there is a true addiction going on here. They believe it is all mental conditioning and letting yourself get too hungry. This implies that it is more of a psychological problem than a physical one. This ignores the physiological side of junk food addiction. It turns a blind eye to what is happening in the chemistry of the brain.
It does come down to personal responsibility and personal choices. No one is holding a gun to your head and forcing you to make poor dietary choices. It is a matter of choice. On the other hand, which would be easier? To run a marathon holding five pound barbells in your hand or to run unimpeded and unincumbered? Having a junk food addiction is the extra weight you don't need. You can run the race with it, but it would be so much easier to run without it.
The mind is like a parachute. It only works when it is open. Here are a few videos that talk about the chemical effects behind food addictions. Before you make up your mind, take an honest look at the evidence for the power of addiction. The first one talks mainly about the addictive power of fast food.
This second video talks about the chemistry behind our addictions to food
This third video features Dr. Vincent Bellonzi as he talks about how junk food and fast food has an adverse effect on your health.
Here are a few articles to read concerning the chemically addictive qualities of junk food.
Notice how chapter four in the above book is about the role of addiction in obesity