This food addiction recovery plan has been inspired Dr Jen Unwin and many others including Dr Gabor Maté, Dr Jordan Peterson and Dr Tim Noakes, and appreciation is given for their wisdom.
“Food addiction is not a choice that anybody makes”
A. Identification and Understanding
F. Helpful Thoughts
H. Food to eat, limit or avoid
A. Identification and Understanding
“I started by promising myself I’d only have three biscuits and before I knew it I had eaten the whole bag.”
- If you have addiction to processed food, mild, moderate or severe, it is time to take action.
- Your course of action may depend on the severity of addiction, though even mild addiction will require some action.
- You will only be able to take the appropriate actions if you recognize the problem.
2. Understand that Food Addiction is:
- not a choice that anybody makes
- not a moral failure
- not a weakness of character
- not a failure of will, which is a common view
- nor a genetic brain disease, a view of some in the medical community
- but it is a response to our own human ignorance and suffering
- Addiction to processed food is not your fault, but it is your problem.
“Before attempting to cure someone, first ask if they’re willing to give up what made them sick”
“Many health outcomes depend on recovery from processed food addiction.”
- Is your goal to recover from food addiction?
Yes or No
What is your health goal?
- Improved physical health e.g. reversing type 2 diabetes, weight loss
- Improved mental health, e.g. depression. anxiety
- or both
- You need to contemplate not only the consequences of not changing, but also the benefits that will come your way – the difference between just surviving and going further downhill, or improving and thriving.
- Which is more frightening, action or inaction?
- Do not make the mistake that inaction has no price; the cost of inaction can be high, physically, emotionally and maybe also financially.
- Consider the potential consequences of action or inaction on those close to you, your family, your children, and also on the health system and health providers.
- But if you answer No and carry on doing what you are doing, keep a much closer watch on potential health issues.
“We cannot change what we are not aware of, but once we are aware, we cannot help but change”
- You have decided you need to take action to recover from processed food cravings and addiction.
- Discuss with your family or other household members what you need to do and your reasons for doing it. Their support and understanding can be the difference between success and failure for you. Let them help you make your plan. Maybe they are in the same boat as you. Maybe they will join you.
- Set a start date, the sooner the better.
- Make your list of foods to eat, the green list, and a list of foods to avoid, the red list. The green list will include real foods generally low in carbohydrates; the red list will include mostly processed foods. A brief list has been included in Section H and also links to recipe websites in Section F. It is important that you include the foods that you like on your green list.
- Get rid of all processed food in your house, in your kitchen cupboards, fridge, freezer, office desk drawers etc. Donate it to the food bank or bin it.
- Only buy food that is on your green list.
- Where possible do not have food in your house that will cause cravings. If others in your household are not following your plan, ask them to keep addictive foods out of sight, and not to eat them in front of you. Have your own cupboard, fridge or freezer section.
- Plan your eating, particularly at first. Don’t run out of real food (on your green list) and then order a pizza or a hamburger and chips.
D. Putting the Plan into Action to Achieve Your Goal
“It’s not the weight, it’s the nutrition. If you get the nutrition right, the weight takes care of itself.”
- Have two or three good meals a day, based on quality protein and good natural fats with vegetables or salads.
- Eat breakfast only when you are hungry and not out of habit. Breakfast can often be the most difficult meal to transition from say a bowl of cereal with toast and fruit juice to a real food nutritious meal with adequate protein. Some find it easier to give up breakfast and have their first meal at lunchtime. Breakfast is not the most important meal of the day. A high carb breakfast will set you up, but only for an energy crash later and eating snacks.
- Don’t snack, but if you have to, choose something with no sugar, sweeteners, seed oils, or refined grains.
- Don’t eat or snack late at night. Allow 3 to 4 hours between your last meal and eating event before going to bed.
- Ensure you drink enough water and get enough salt. Cutting out processed food will significantly reduce salt intake. You will need to add salt to your diet, especially in the first few days or weeks of change.
- Recovery comes when we abstain from foods that trigger cravings and overeating.
- Think of someone trying to give up alcohol or cigarettes, should they try just a small drink or half a cigarette. You don’t have to smoke or drink alcohol, but you do have to eat. However, you don’t have to eat processed food.
- Willpower will not be enough to overcome hunger and cravings. Keeping temptation away is the best course of action.
- Hunger can be overcome by ensuring meals fulfil your nutritional needs, especially with protein. Don’t skimp on this.
- Avoid sweeteners as they have the effect of prolonging cravings and addiction. You will get used to no sugar in your tea or coffee.
- IMPORTANT – Those on medication particularly for diabetes or blood pressure should check with their doctor as medication doses may need to change.
“I control my food; the food does not control me”
- Each person must find a food plan that works for them. What works for one person may not work for someone else, though the basic rule of abstinence from their addictive processed food will apply to everyone.
- After nutrition, regular exercise is the best medicine. The best exercise for you is the one that you can do and enjoy the most.
- Pay attention to stress levels and do all you can to get sufficient sleep.
- There will be pitfalls and relapses. This is part of recovery and an opportunity to learn. Figure out what caused the relapse. Don’t wait till Monday to get back on track. You haven’t failed until you stop trying.
- Traumatic events such as illness both with yourself and family and friends can set you back. You may need to start over, but now it will be with better knowledge about yourself and food addiction.
F. Helpful Thoughts
“Changing lifestyle can be hard; you know what you are leaving behind but you don’t know your eventual destination. You can only take the journey if you trust that your destination will be healthier and is worth the sacrifice.”
- This is not a diet; it is a complete change of lifestyle.
- No-one says it is going to be easy. Trust in your ability to reach your recovery goal.
- The cornerstone of recovery is developing and sustaining new habits of nutrition that balance your brain chemistry over time.
- Be patient and be honest. It is a process of learning about yourself. What are your trigger foods? What foods have a bad reaction with you?
- There will be unexpected improvements in both physical and mental health that will surprise you and make it worthwhile. Once you see and feel these benefits, there will be no going back.
- Keep a record, a diary of successes and disappointments. Seeing what helped or hindered in the past can be very useful.
- You need understanding and support from family and friends, not questions and actions which undermine your need to change.
- Addiction to certain foods probably began in childhood or even in the womb. It will take time for your brain to reset and to really embed a new way of living so that it is natural and becomes a way of life; a habit.
“We are allowing our children to become food addicts, which is exactly what the processed food and drink companies want. Think how many advertisements for sugar laden food are targeted at children. Our actions or inactions to recover from processed food addiction will strongly influence our children’s eating habits.”
“If your plan isn’t working, change your plan not your goal”
Fork In The Road, by Dr Jen Unwin is available on Amazon in paperback for the cost of a processed meal delivered to your house. Well worth it!
This site provides links under its resources page. Examples are:
- Support websites
Bitten Jonsson is one of the best-known clinicians in sugar addiction and she trains professionals to assess and treat the condition. Her Facebook group ‘Sugarbomb in your brain’ is an excellent source of support and good information.
The Sugar Demons: An Addict’s Guide to Conquering Sugar Addiction. Jonathon Cranford
- H. What to Eat, What to Limit and What to Avoid