Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Are food cravings just happy thoughts?

Definition of junk food: Food that has low nutritional value, typically produced in the form of packaged snacks needing little or no preparation. 

How much is to much? Indulging in good foods, can it be bad?

I first should start out by saying "junk food" is considered junk because society tries to differentiate the good foods vs bad foods. I spoke about this briefly in my first article, “TheFast Approach”. As I said before, good vs bad is what you make of it. Meaning, pizza isn’t necessarily a "dirty" or "bad" food (in my opinion). What makes food “bad” is when you over consume it. This could be ANY food...good or bad, clean or dirty. When you over consume food, you over consume calories. This leads to unnecessary weight gain, which is not what you want! 

Food addiction is a serious health problem that has many definitions, one being from the American Society of Addiction Medicine:
“Addiction is a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry. Dysfunction in these circuits leads to characteristic biological, psychological, social and spiritual manifestations. This is reflected in the individual pursuing reward and/or relief by substance use and other behaviors.
The addiction is characterized by impairment in behavioral control, craving, inability to consistently abstain, and diminished recognition of significant problems with one’s behaviors and interpersonal relationships. Like other chronic diseases, addiction can involve cycles of relapse and remission. Without treatment or engagement in recovery activities, addiction is progressive and can result in disability or premature death.”

YUM, does this trigger any happy thoughts?

I define cravings as when your brain starts calling for certain foods despite knowing they aren't good for you. Cravings would not be so bad if we all had self-control. Let me not bash everyone, because some people don't have this problem. The feelings you have while over eating or binging, can be compared to the same feelings as a drug addict. It comes down to the reward system. Learning more about this reward system, such as the neurotransmitter dopamine, will give you the knowledge of why it's released in our brains. It gives us that satisfying feeling, and when we don't get our fix we start to withdrawal. 

If you learn how to eat properly for your individual needs, there is a better chance at not living the “yo-yo diet” lifestyle (I’ve been there). The key to well-balanced eating habits is realizing that any food is okay in moderation. For example, oreos aren’t bad…unless you eat the entire box! When starting a nutrition program, I suggest eating “clean” for 2-4 weeks and allow yourself to withdraw from the junk foods before you start incorporating it. This way you'll be one step closer to ending your addiction. 
The next step is to learn how to give yourself rewards.  For example, Saturday nights are my nights to enjoy myself.  Of course if I decide I want to eat out on Friday or have an event, then I'll skip Saturday and save my free meal for when it suits my needs. If you know you can have those "dirty" foods certain days, that's less restriction and makes your "clean" eating lifestyle easier. As you can see, I put quotation marks on clean because this is a term people are obsessed with (especially since bodybuilders, who probably started that clean trend due to their "cutting" phase for competitions).

How does your cabinet at home look like? How much processed foods do you purchase?

Looking at the people around me and thinking back to my own addictions made me want to write an article on junk food. Honestly, who isn't addicted to junk food? We all need it! It’s a necessity to survive (not really, but we act like it is).  Do we really need to eat a whole big mac, with fries on the side and a large milk shake? Oh and let’s not forget, two apple pies please? No we don't, but we do it. There may have been a time where you just let your hair down and said F my diet (if no hair, then skip the hair down part). Or if you're a bodybuilder, maybe you’re thinking about that refeed that you need. By the way, a refeed doesn't need to be strictly "junk", people! It only took me 3 years to finally admit that to myself. I guess those biscuits,  cookies, ice-cream, cakes and any comfort food pretty much got to me. People will get warnings from their body when they eat certain foods, known as junk food. Your body starts to get sick and gives you signs such as increased weight, poor sleep, and fatigue.

Ok, you might be wondering what my point is. My point is that there is something deep in how food triggers emotions. These emotions and the "feel good hormones” can cause you to eat a whole pint of haggen-daz ice-cream before you know it. Then you will most likely feel like crap afterwards.  If you don't get negative reactions from binging, that’s great. If you don't gain weight from over consuming calories, then we probably will hate on you. Good for you though! There are a few people out there who won't suffer from this because they are genetically gifted. I am not one of those and unfortunately I LOVE FOOD! 

The main reason I wanted to write an article on junk food is because we need to come to an understanding of how to eat. Especially since the U.S. is known for its unhealthy ways and obesity seems to be the highest. People can actually build a very negative relationship with food and develop an eating disorder. Some people will deny they have a problem.  But before you can recover from an eating disorder, you have to have a very good understanding of it as well as improve your relationship with food. Furthermore, seek help. Food is a necessity and you have to fuel your body whether you workout or not! This is the main reason I recommend for everyone to track their food consumption, at least for a short amount of time.  Once you know your needs and follow the breakdown, your energy will increase. You won’t only look better, but feel better. As well with this approach, if you're just maintaining weight, I recommend the IIFYM approach.  That pretty much allows you to eat your cookie or a serving of ice-cream daily as long as you meet your caloric needs. Again, I only recommend the IIFYM life style for maintenance. Using it for weight loss is indeed possible, but it wouldn't be my approach unless your body fat is high and are still addicted to "junk" food.

Be able to compare you're good/bad intake of foods and learn to incorporate more goods.

That brings me back to my original point. The problem starts with these processed foods. They are filled with sugar and fats as well overly loaded with sodium. Again, these are comfort foods. They taste so yummy and it takes you back to good memories. Seems like you’re a junkie to me! Might as well compare it to cocaine addicts. Yes, I think that’s how serious junk food is. 

These comfort foods were my crack for 4 weeks post my last competition. I was told to shock my system and I definitely did! I went crazy on my refeeds. Although I hated the aftermath, I loved tasting foods I haven’t indulged in for years! So 4-5 weeks post comp, what you think happened?  Well from 137lbs comp weight, I sky rocketed to 163lbs. Finally admitting to myself that this couldn't be right! I woke up right away but realized I was sugar crazy! I needed my fix of sugar at least for a week, which I put into my macros. Then 4 weeks later was back on my diet without it. Finally 6 weeks in I was back down to 145lbs (which for me, during off season isn’t bad). I definitely have a good amount of lean body mass, so it works for me. This experience showed me how bad and addictive sugar is. Not that you shouldn't have it, but when it’s not controlled… you'll be a big hippo for sure! (Unless you’re part of that small group of lucky ones….still hate you, by the way).

Over stuffing food can cause so much damage to your body internally and externally. As well those around you, will start over feeding you too, because they see it as your normal lifestyle.

For me, one week was enough to get me going and back on track. But for others, it can take longer.  Really analyze where your foods comes from, especially if you need to lose weight. Why pick up a piece of cheesecake or a cupcake?  Do you really need it? Find alternatives; make sure your protein intake is where it should be. Love yourself enough not to yo-yo around. Make your happy thoughts to be fit and healthy. Again I'll repeat, since people take only what they like into consideration. THIS DOES NOT MEAN YOU CAN’T HAVE FOODS THAT YOU LOVE. It means you need to figure out balance with your macronutrient intake.  Set your protein and adjust your carbs and fats with remaining calories. Adjust your needs to your lifestyle.  Really seek guidance to start you on the right path. It makes it easier, a lot more fun, makes you extra determined to achieve your goals, and teaches you how to fight off your food addiction.

This list is basic and to the point! Why should you trade in some of your "happy thoughts" with comfort foods? Because you will benefit much more and be over all healthy!

I recommend:
  • Two weeks minimum tracking.
  • 2-4 weeks withdrawal from "junk" food.
  • Pick a treat day that you don’t feel deprived.
  • Build a relationship with food, don't fear it!
  • Eat protein before you eat the "junk " food.
  • Look for guidance! Doing it alone might be harder than you think, especially if you’re binging.
  • Learn what your body needs. 

Really try to be positive. Figure why you are craving the foods before binging on it. Is there something else you can have? Or figure a way to make it part of a healthier meal.

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