Food addiction: Is it real?

It’s 10 a.m. and you’re itching for a Diet Coke. Maybe you’re holding off, trying to make it until noon to crack open your first can. Maybe you’re on your second or third, or maybe you’re heading down to the convenience store to re-fill your 32-oz. cup you bought on the way to work this morning.

Sound familiar? You’re not alone.

I’ve written before about my love affair with soda, and even shared tips on beating the habit. But for many people, it’s not as simple as that.

Food addiction is a complicated issue. Many people doubt its existence, saving the word “addiction” for things like cigarettes and hard drugs. But the fact is, food addiction is real, just as real as any other physical addiction, and its consequences can be dire.

Lately I’ve been realizing that I may have more food hangups than I thought. I’m not jonesing for soda like I used to be, but in the past few weeks I’ve caught myself looking for a reason to get fast food. Years ago, hitting up the drive-thru on my way to work used to be a daily occurrence. Thankfully I’ve come a long way from those days, but when I realized I’ve been having the urge just as strongly, even though I haven’t been acting on it, I recognized the fact that this is more than a run-of-the-mill craving. But there’s one more thing that makes this really look like the problem it is: In contrast, even though I love chocolate, I could take it or leave it. Same with soda, potato chips, ice cream, or any other indulgent treat. But with French fries, I can’t stop thinking about them. I plan my son’s preschool drive around which fast food chain I want to go to. I calculate whether I have enough cash on hand to grab some while I’m out on my next errand so my husband won’t know I’ve hit up fast food again. And on and on.

This, my friends, is a problem.

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Thanksgiving for Body, Mind, and Soul

I did something shocking, unthinkable.

I put up our Christmas decorations before Thanksgiving.

It’s shameful, I know. The day after Thanksgiving has always been a sacred day, The Day We Deck The Halls And Put Up the Christmas Decorations. But it was out of necessity this year, as we are traveling for Thanksgiving and won’t be home until it’s nearly December. It would be shortening our celebration season, and I just wasn’t having that.

However, although I was eagerly looking forward to getting out the tree and hanging the stockings, something felt off. It was just weird, diving head-first into Christmas without Thanksgiving first. Which made me realize just how much I actually love the holiday itself, not just as a gateway to pass through before we kick off the most wonderful time of year. I fervently believe in the immense power of gratitude, in its ability to lift us out of darkness and give us the strength to walk a better path. Having a holiday that reminds us to reflect and be grateful is a blessing we too often pass over.

I’ll share more of my love of the power of gratitude at the end of this post, but fist, in honor of Thanksgiving I bring you a roundup of tips and inspiration to help you celebrate this oft-neglected holiday in full presence of body and mind.

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What your body needs this fall (besides pumpkin spice)

Has autumn weather found you yet?

If Instagram is any indication, the entire Western world is blissfully sipping on spiced apple cider while crunching through the leaves in cozy knitted cardigans and knee-high boots, basking in the still-warm-yet-crisp fall sunlight on their way to the farmer’s market or pumpkin patch or even a college football game.

It’s not just the dewy pictures of Instagram and Pinterest that are making me long for the idyllic traditions of fall. Autumn is a transitional season — a season of change, and not just for the natural world but for humans as well. Instinctively our bodies know this and prompt us to prepare for the coming cold months ahead.

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According to Ayurvedic tradition, fall is a time to change our daily routines and our diets to keep in harmony with the environmental changes all around us. Ayurveda is an ancient science based on elemental principles that pertain to life on earth, according to Balance & Bliss Ayurvedic Center in Tampa, Florida. “As the external environment changes during the vata (or fall) season, your internal environment can experience the same type of changes; dry leaves, dry skin; crackly leaves, crackly joints; shorter days, shorter attention span; colder days, colder extremities, windy days, windy bowels. … By observing the processes of Mother Nature, you can better understand the processes of your body, mind and spirit.”

To keep from being overcome by the negative effects of autumn, it’s important to strive for a sense of balance this time of year. This is done “by emphasizing lifestyle and food choices that are grounding, stabilizing, warming, moisturizing and softening,” according to Balance & Bliss. “You can stay calm and connected in this whirlwind season with a consistent practice that includes nourishing and protective measures.”

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How do you find “balance” in your life?

Do you consider yourself a balanced person? Or is it an ideal you’re constantly chasing — or one you’ve abandoned all hope of achieving?

I think the answer depends on your definition of “balanced.”

I used to think that balance was all about finding the sweet spot and staying there. I thought that if I chose my convictions carefully then I could fearlessly hold to them, never caving or yielding too far to temptation, never shirking and slacking off so as to lose my footing. Balance, I believed, was also about cultivating a zen-like aura so that no matter how fiercely the winds of chaos beat about me, I could maintain my sense of calm and persevere through the storm.

What a load of crap.

Look, I’m not saying this isn’t possible; for all I know it is and I just wasn’t the kind of person who could achieve and maintain that definition of balance. But the more I get to know the world and the people in it, the more I realize I’m not alone in rejecting it. I don’t mean giving up and thinking I can’t achieve my dreams — I mean staring this ideal in the face and saying, “This is not the life I want. I choose a different path.”

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What do I have to offer?

I have this terrible feeling that I’m not good enough for you.

That I’m not enough of an expert. That I don’t provide enough detailed information, or that I provide information with so much detail that nobody will want to read what I write. That I don’t provide enough insight and tools to actually be helpful. That the message I spend my nights awake thinking about, pondering over, writing and re-writing and re-writing so as to uplift and inspire and change lives — that it actually doesn’t matter to anyone else but me.

Most of all I worry that I’m not thin enough. Or more to the point, I worry that the way I live my life isn’t inspirational enough to get anyone to take notice. Despite what I’ve said about being skinny, and despite really really meaning it, I worry that nobody will bother taking my advice on healthy eating if I’m not a perfectly toned size 2. Because isn’t the thin, sexy, smiling woman on the cookbook cover the reason we buy the book? Sure, we want to be healthy and eat well, but what we really want is to look like that. Because even though I’ve made great progress over the past 11 months, even to the point where I actually bought a bikini and wore it for the first time in public in years, I still am only a size 8-10 and can’t seem to get below 140 lbs.

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Left, July 2014. Right, July 2015.

I really worry about all this stuff because somewhere inside, I feel that if I look like this and not like Giada de Laurentiis — if the way I eat and live my life isn’t as enticing as that teeny little package — then that what I have to offer isn’t valuable. That I’m not good enough to do this thing that I’m so passionate about it makes me skip through the house with glee whenever my daily page views go above 100. Or even 50, if I’m being honest. Because if I can’t offer you that thing that every woman in America wants, what do I have to offer?

Well let me break through the fear and self-pity and tell you what I’m offering.

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How to know what you really want (and why it’s vitally important that you do)

What do you want?

We are confronted with this question daily. We’re asked overtly, by restaurant servers or coworkers or our spouses (if we’re lucky). But more often we’re asking ourselves this question silently, countless times a day.

What do I want? What do I really want?

Sometimes the answer is simple: I want a large French fry and a Coke. Done. But too often, the answers to the countless silent questions can sometimes evade us for a lifetime.

When you don’t know what you want, you are left with a deep longing. You go through your days unfulfilled with a vague yet persistent feeling of unfinished business, a yearning for something more, something undefinable. You know that what you seek is something real and tangible — or at least it could be if you could just figure out what’s missing.

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You have the power to change

Three days ago I read something that made all my hair stand up on end. It wasn’t creepy or unsettling; it was a cosmic sign from the universe. In that very moment I knew that a major shift had occurred, and my purpose in life was suddenly vibrantly clear.

I was working on the materials for my nutrition class, which I currently teach to private groups in Utah (visit my Classes & Parties page for more info). I was searching for a little more hard science to back this claim by Dr. Mark Hyman, a specialist in functional medicine:

“Food is information carrying detailed instructions for every gene and every cell in your body, helping them to renew, repair, and heal or to be harmed and debilitated, depending on what you eat. What if you could send messages and instructions to heal your cells and turn on healing genes? And what if, by some simple changes in your diet, you could get rid of most of your chronic symptoms and diseases in just one week (or maybe two!)? That is entirely possible.”

Even though I believe this wholeheartedly and have heard this sentiment echoed in nearly all of my food and diet research (and seen it at work in my own life), I wanted to be able to share it with others in a way that would leave no doubt in their minds that food is the key to solving our health and wellness problems.

What I ended up finding astounded me.

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