Special Circumstances of Obesity – Craving/Addictive

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Special Circumstances of Obesity – Craving/Addictive

As opposed to the habitual pattern of eating, craving implies an almost obsessive aspect to the desire for certain types of food. The stimulus for eating emanates from a neurochemical trigger that has very little to do with sustenance. This is not your body needing calories, protein or nutrients. This is your brain wanting something that food provides beyond nutritional replenishment. As such, this type of eating takes on more of an addictive component.

You never know when it’s going to happen. The day can seem to be going fine. Nothing has gone particularly bad, things seem pretty good in the moment. Maybe you even just completed a satisfying meal. Then suddenly it appears in your brain like a dandelion on a green lawn, seemingly out of nowhere- The thought of food, or more specifically a particular food, or a certain type of food. The two most common types of cravings are salt and sugar-based. There can also be cravings based more on the texture of food that its content as happens with chocolate cravings. Whatever their origin, they insert themselves into your thoughts without provocation. Eventually it can grow and come to dominate your brain in such a manner that it can be hard to perform any other function. In severe cases it can interfere with your work routine to the point that it can stop productivity. One way to deal with this is to simply satisfy the craving, go ahead and eat the food that your brain is calling for. If you’re born with a high metabolism and a predisposition toward being lean, these cravings are nothing more than an amusing personal attribute. “There goes Dave, attacking the chocolate bowl again. He must have a hollow leg.” Whether or not to interrupt them is a matter of personal choice if satisfying them by consuming food derives little health or bodyweight consequence.

However, for those of you reading this, food cravings are a destructive pattern of eating that compromises your health, your appearance, and your self-esteem. Because they seem to come out of nowhere, they leave you feeling helpless to defend yourself against them. In some cases, cravings can represent a medical condition. Start by having a good physical with your family doctor. In other cases, cravings can be connected to early life traumas. In this case, your best pathway is to combine the methods recommended in this book by working with a good counselor.

If you recognize a craving pattern to your eating, do not underestimate the power of this opponent. Fighting this neurochemical riptide with your puny perception of willpower is a certain recipe for failure. Get help immediately. Do not bring a knife to a gunfight. Make sure you have some allies. You are up against a daunting foe. Success can only be achieved by recognizing the magnitude of the problem and marshaling the proper resources.

Cravings and addictions represent part of the same spectrum, the difference is in the magnitude of the condition. While a craving can be an intermittent annoyance, an addiction can start to dominate your life. In the case of addiction, you may start your day subconsciously planning to feed your need for certain foods. Patients afflicted with this tendency will sometimes hide money in order to have it available for purchase of their desired substance. It will sometimes consume large quantities of food in their car or in a private placement home and destroy the evidence such as wrappers and bags. The addictive pattern is more durable and destructive than the intermittent craving pattern. By yourself in the situation, counseling is imperative. A 12-step program such as overeaters anonymous can also be supportive. These two approaches will help with your peace of mind and mental health, but by themselves will typically not have an effect on your body weight.

As always, success in the face of these adversaries requires prior planning, using premeditated discipline skills to prepare for your next wave of cravings. Much like rehearsing a fire drill, being prepared for the sudden crisis of a craving is one of your best defenses. If you have trusted friends that can be relied upon, recruiting them into your support network may be helpful. Ask them if you can call upon them in moments of weakness to help “talk you through it.” Remember, the craving will subside if you don’t partake of the food, you just have to outlast it. When you first pursue a change in behavior it could instigate increasing frequency and intensity of cravings. This pattern will not continue if you persevere. The frequency and intensity will fade. This process can take weeks.

Physical exertion can also interrupt the craving. Something as simple as a quick set of push-ups or a brisk walk outside may help the craving fade. You’ll notice that your resilience to fight the impulses, as well as the frequency of the cravings themselves, will diminish if you adhere to healthy living patterns. Keep yourself well rested, well fed, and well exercised. These will strengthen your brain. Try not to let unresolved conflicts fester. Try not to let open ended anxieties linger in your brain. Having prepackaged, low glycemic comfort foods available can be part of your strategy. Just don’t include simple carbohydrates for junk food. Some supplements that can be calming to the brain may be helpful in this setting. Black cohosh, Ashwagandha and GABA are some to consider.

Certain prescription medicines have value in this setting as well. I have found that bupropion, low dose fluoxetine, naltrexone – usually in combination with one of the other two -can all be very effective.

Some women have a tendency toward hormonally induced cravings that may occur at a predictable time in their menstrual cycle. In such settings any of the calming herbs mentioned above can be used on an as needed basis. They can also be used on a regular basis in anticipation of a predictable time of cravings. The prescription medication Aldactone can have a unique benefit to women suffering hormonal food cravings by blocking the hormonal trigger. All of his agents can safely be used in combination with other supplements and prescriptions if you find that you have multiple subtypes of obesity.

The craving/addictive subtype can be one of the most challenging. Do not feel shy or inhibited to reach out to all forms of help that are necessary for you to succeed. The greater the challenge, the greater the sense of satisfaction when you succeed.

Dr. Stephen Petteruti is board-certified in medical weight loss and family practice. He runs a Functional Medicine Center and has been practicing Medical Weight Loss for over 15 years. For more information about his center and weight loss program, please visit: https://www.im-120.com/Intellectual Medicine 120 is in Warwick, RI.

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