Value based eating is an important factor in over coming food addiction, particularly those associated with sugar. Sugar addiction develops when we associate positive feelings – such as comfort, security, or love – with eating sugar (cookies, ice cream, pastries, soda, wine, etc). Such feelings are often established because of pleasant experiences you accumulate when consuming sugary foods or beverages, which increase dopamine production in the brain. In fact, sugar is one of the only foods which illicit consistently high dopamine secretion, even after excessive consumption. This dopamine secretion acts as a natural form of positive reinforcement, instinctively driving the brain and body to crave more and more. Thus, foods high in sugar and / or carbohydrates can easily become your main form of positive reassurance. However, high glycemic foods compromise your body and your brain/mind. For years, writer Michael Pollan has told us that our food choices say a lot about our beliefs. Your ego will continue to make excuses for addictive eating. The ego will tell you that you are in control, that you deserve to eat what you want, and that what you eat does not matter as long as you do not consume too many calories. It does matter! It matters to the emotional regulation centers of your brain. It does not matter how many “points” are in that candy bar or in that can of beer. Your brain and body don’t give a damn about points. It is only concerned about the QUALITY of your calories and choices.
There are many ways through which you can convince yourself that what you are doing is of no consequence. You may have great relationships, you may be very successful, and you may seem to have it all together, when in fact you are continuing to destroy your body and your brain. When this happens, your ego employs deceptive self-talk to fulfill unmet needs and justify self – sabotaging behaviors. In DBT such thoughts are called irrational beliefs. For example, you may tell yourself that “you deserve a treat”; that “you have worked hard”; that “sugar addiction isn’t real”; that “you love yourself”; or that “it won’t matter this one time” when in fact you are sabotaging yourself with your own irrational thinking. Regardless of what irrational beliefs you may have, now is the time to separate such feelings from the act of eating low value foods that poison your body, and no longer serve you.
An emotional or physical sugar addiction (yes you can be physically addicted) should be worked through with the help of a qualified professional. Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) is often very successful in this regard. DBT raises your emotional threshold to tolerate distress, thereby affording you a broader range of emotional responses and increasing emotion regulation. DBT therapy is the only therapy that addresses your emotions and your irrational beliefs simultaneously, teaching you skills that allow you to achieve emotional regulation and control over your choices.