I thought I’d knock out part two while the book is still fresh in my mind. If you missed part one of my review of David Kessler’s The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the American Appetite, definitely read it before you read this post!
Anyway, back to this book:
Now we know the combo of salt, fat, and sugar is addicting (frighteningly so) and leads to conditioned hypereating. But what can we do about it? What should we do if we’re already addicted, as I suspect so many of us are? Here’s what Kessler says:
- Learn new habits that are rewarding enough to keep you from engaging in the old ones. Try competing behaviors and visualize them before you encounter a problematic situation. For example, visualize yourself getting home from work and doing something other than going straight to the fridge (taking a walk, folding your laundry, whatever).
- Plan your response when you encounter foods that aren’t really a part of your diet (or foods you don’t want to be a part of your diet). These types of planned responses (“rules,” but I hate that word) will help you develop a context for your new behaviors, rather than just depending on “willpower” (hate that word too).
- The more you do it, the easier it will become. That’s because your brain is creating new neuropathways.
- Understand why you don’t want to eat certain foods. Create a script with things like, “This is what will happen if I eat X…”
- Create a way of eating that’s simple enough to fit with your busy life, but specific enough to remove uncertainty from the food equation.
- Practice “just-right” eating. Figure out exactly how much food you need to be satisfied (not full). Consider taking a break after you’re halfway done with your meal to truly assess whether you’re still hungry. Do this again when you’ve eaten 3/4 of the meal.
- Choose satisfying, real foods — and foods you actually enjoy.
- Make a decision quickly! The longer you spend debating “should I or shouldn’t I?” when it comes to food, the more time your brain is occupied thinking about food. Kessler says you’ve lost the battle as soon as you start debating.
And here are a few things I’d add:
- Make a list of foods that you don’t hate, but that aren’t ever as good as you expect them to be. A good litmus test is, “Am I happy I ate this?” (from an enjoyment standpoint, not a caloric or health standpoint). I did this exercise the other day, and it was so eye-opening! Who knew I didn’t really like flour tortillas or juice? If you’re drawn to something on this list, you need to remind yourself that you really don’t love it! Sticking to the goal of only eating things you truly enjoy, you’d probably be able to refrain from eating it. More on this in another post!
- Similarly, make a list of foods you LOVE, always. Meaning, you’re always glad you ate them afterward. Use this list to decide when it makes sense to indulge.
- Practice intuitive eating by getting in touch with your body. I think foods high in that lethal combo of fat, sugar, and salt numb your body’s ability to tell you when it’s full. Eliminating as many of those from your diet as you can will help you get back in touch with your body. Somewhere, deep down, your body knows when it’s satisfied, even if YOU don’t.
- Get professional support if you need it. Never underestimate the power of having someone to be accountable to. That’s the main premise of YNC.
Kessler points out again and again that it’s HARD to break the addiction from salt, sugar, and fat — I agree! Don’t beat yourself up when things don’t go perfectly (definitely don’t slash all your tires). Be patient with yourself and give yourself credit for trying to break an addiction that has so many people in its grips.
Theoretically, I think junk food and chain restaurant food is gross. But give me a bag of Doritos and I’ll be singing a different tune. Those puppies are FINE-TUNED to be addicting, I’m telling you. Just knowing that fact will probably help me turn down a neon orange chip in the future. I feel like it’s just a trick; the food industry’s little game they’re playing with people’s tastebuds and health. Not that Doritos are the enemy — food definitely ISN’T the enemy. It’s the food industry and your own addicted body that are to blame.
So remember that the food industry is trying to get you hooked, and that the chemicals in their food are designed to make you want to eat more. Hopefully it will help you reach for whole foods and foods you truly enjoy in the future!