Sunday, April 14, 2013

Could It Be Food Addiction?

When I did my experiment in abstinence form trigger foods last month, I enjoyed an amazing stretch of 14 days when I didn't overeat.  Even better, I would get into bed each night with a newfound feeling of peace, and I wold get up with a new enthusiasm in the morning.  Here is an interesting paradox that I discovered.  The feeling of well being I got from eliminating sugar and grains from my eating plan led to thoughts that I could handle sweets after all.  Then, whether because of holidays, or parties, or just because the treats were available, I would give myself permission to eat them.  Nine times out of ten, one slice or even one bite would lead to an out of control episode of eating my favorite fix of sugar and flour mixed with fat, salt, and preferably chocolate.

I have written before about my first white bread binge at age five, and now at nearly age 49 I'm still on that merry go round of abstaining, fooling myself into thinking I'm cured, and then going off on another food bender.  But wait, the news isn't all bad.  In the past, when I have brought up the subject of food addiction, most people I talked to would look at me as if the concept of being unable to stop eating sweets until the point of pain was completely foreign to them.  Now, thank goodness, there is serious research going into the theory that food addiction might be real.  Here is the abstract from a study on food addiction that appeared in the research journal "Appetite".


There is growing interest in conceptualizing obesity as a “food addiction.” The current study investigated the prevalence and correlates of “food addiction” (FA), as defined by the Yale Food Addiction Scale (YFAS) in 178 (133 F, 45 M) persons seeking weight loss treatment. Participants had a mean age of 51.2 ± 11.7 years and a body mass index of 36.1 ± 4.8 kg/m2. Fifteen percent of individuals met the YFAS proposed diagnostic criteria for FA. Those who met criteria for FA reported significantly greater depressive symptomatology. There were no differences in BMI, age, race, or gender between participants with and without FA. Among those not meeting criteria, 35% reported 3 or more symptoms in the absence of self-reported clinical distress or impairment. YFAS symptom count was also significantly correlated with depressive symptoms. These findings suggest that 15% of adults presenting for weight loss treatment meet YFAS criteria for FA. The clinical significance of this classification is unknown and needs to be validated in prospective studies.


  • Food addiction
  • Obesity
  • Depressive symptomatology

  • The study found that 15% of participants had food addiction as measured by the Yale Food Addiction Scale.  In addition, the study found a correlation between food addiction and depression.  Looking back at the past month, I realize that I usually reached for my "Fix Foods" when I was feeling angry or disappointed in myself.  This leads me to a theory that I have been developing for some time:

  • The combination of the unrealistic demands we put on ourselves, coupled with images of impossible slenderness, youth, and physical perfection from the photo-shopped media, lead to feelings of depression which 15% of us ease temporarily with excess food.

  • So what is the solution to the depression- food addiction cycle of sadness?  More researchers, doctors, and sufferers are realizing that it is helpful to get off of the sugar/flour/excess food merry go round for good.  In the past, the clinical position has been that healthy eating consists of being able to eat all foods in reasonable amounts.  That meant that abstinence couldn't be the goal.  If you never ate sugar than clearly your food issues weren't  resolved.  Now, the Yale Food Addiction Scale is becoming well known.  You can take a short form of the self-test at: 

    In two weeks I'll be attending my 30th High School Reunion.  I had hoped to be able to enjoy myself by eating a reasonable amount of whatever I wanted at that party.  Now I'm starting to think that letting go of sweets for good might result in a lot more peace and happiness that trying of eat just one slice or piece of anything.  Perhaps I am one of 15% of the population that has a food addiction, and the only reasonable amount of my fix foods is  none. I should note here that the "Appetite" study was among overweight individuals, so I should say 15% of the overweight population as determined by BMI.

    In the past I have told myself:
    "I should be able to eat treats."
    "I should be thinner."
    "I should have more willpower."
    "I should look like the women on TV"

    With a cruel voice in my head telling me lies like these, why wouldn't I feel depressed, and then eat sweets to momentarily quiet the voice?

    I predict that more and more, those of us who struggle with overeating will get the support we need to try eliminating trigger foods without judgement.  If we are only 15% of the population that struggles with their weight, that explains why so many people don't understand what were going through, but if we speak up about our experience we are more likely to foster understanding from the medical community and the public.

    I think it's about time.

    Friday, April 12, 2013

    Turbulence Training Before and After Photos

         As promised, I'm posting my latest before and afters, and frankly, I don't see that much of a difference.  What an eye opener.  I guess the whole point of losing the last five or ten pounds is not so much how it will make you look, but how it will make you feel about yourself.

         I do feel more confident, and I can do more close grip push-ups in a row than I could in January.  I think the greatest benefit I've received from the past four months of effort is more skill at teaching the Turbulence Training method.  It really is true that 30 minutes two or three times a week can bring real results, although I'm seeing them more in my students now than in my own figure.  It looks like it's time to move on from my overly intense focus on my physique, and pay more attention to passing on what I've learned.

         That brings me back to the question of how to lose the last ten pounds.  If there is anything that have hindered my progress over the past four months, it is the willingness to put aside my best eating behavior for the pleasure of the moment.  Sometimes it's not even a matter of pleasure, but of distraction or avoidance.  On the weekends when I don't have classes to teach, I turn to problem foods to fill up the empty spaces in the days or evenings.  What is the solution to ending this behavior?  It is learning to choose something besides food when I want to feel better.

         To lose the last ten pounds you will need to pick something besides eating when you want a pick me up.  Two of the things I enjoy are drawing and playing music.  For the next two weeks I am making myself the promise that when I'm tempted to ease boredom or any other uncomfortable feeling, I'll sit down at the piano or grab my sketch pad instead.  If you're going after the last ten pounds, I'd like to encourage you to pick two things you'd rather be doing than eating, and try doing them when the nagging little cravings hit.

    Wednesday, April 10, 2013

    How to Lose the Last Ten Pounds: Step One

    Make Your Goal Desirable and Achievable

         How many of you have gone on a fat loss program only to stop short of your goal, go back to your old eating and activity habits, and regain the weight you lost?  I know I've done it, and I know from personal experience and observation what one of the most powerful drivers of this behavior is.

    You Don't Want Your Ideal Figure As Much as You Want To Eat And Relax Like Everybody Else.

         After a certain amount of time diet and exercise fatigue sets in, and all you want to do is eat, drink, and hang out like so many of your friends do.  They seem to be having such a good time too, and you've been depriving yourself, and working so hard for so long.  It's just not fair, it's not worth it, and screw it all, you're just going to eat whatever you want.

         Now the odd thing is that yes, you can think like this every once in a while, kick your powerful fat release plan to the curb- briefly, and still get back on track to reach your goal.  Once again I've done it and seen it many many times, but in most cases the major overeating slip causes dieters to abandon their  weight loss goals until the next popular diet solution comes along.

         So what makes one person get back on the horse so to speak, and what makes another walk away?  Everyone that I have worked with who goes through and maintains a figure transformation wants a great body more than excess party food.  What do I mean by party food?  That's food that is all about having a good time, as opposed to food that delivers good nutrition and satisfaction.

       In order to release the last ten pounds you've got to want your ideal body more, and in order to develop that strong desire you have to develop a deep understanding of what you want it for.  

         I will put it as simply as I can.

         Your ideal figure is the one that gives you the freedom to fulfill your life purpose.

         By freedom I mean the physical ability and the confidence  to do what you love to do in the time that you have on the planet.  Everything else is vanity.  Because I am a personal trainer and choreographer, I want a high level of energy, strength, flexibility, and agility in order to do my life's work, so yes I do want to be lean.  I want to inspire my clients, demonstrate movement clearly to the dancers I work with, and quite frankly, I do want to be a success in my business so yes, I want to look fit- even fabulously fit.

         What do you want to be and experience that would be made possible by vibrant fitness?

          Here is how you use your powerfully desirable goal to release the last ten pounds.

         Establish your best eating and exercise strategy.  Understand that you will need to be faithful to that strategy 95% of the time.  Then, when you are tempted away from your chosen strategy, remind yourself of your life goal and stand firm.  The individuals who get all the way to goal and stay there go through a transformation of character.  They become the kind of people who don't change their chosen behavior in the face of opposition in the form of temptation and social pressure.  You must stand firm and stand up for your goal.

         Tomorrow, I will write about the second quality that your goal must have:  Achievability within the bounds of good health and good sense.  Also, on Friday, I will post after pictures from my latest round of Turbulence Training fitness sessions.  Yes, the work is worth it.

    Tuesday, April 9, 2013

    How to Lose the Last Ten Pounds

         I did it.  Over the past 30 days I got below my wedding weight and I've managed to stay there through Easter celebrations, and my son's birthday sleepover.  Wow, talk about a nutritional danger zone: pizza, chips, candy, and one insanely huge chocolate cake with raspberry filling. Gah!

         Did I eat some?  Um, yeah- I got angry about something, or annoyed, I can't even really put my finger on it...  party stress?  So I got into the cake.  Thank goodness it's been divided up, given away, or well hidden, but it's gone.  Yesterday, I got right back on the wagon eating vegetables, eggs, organic meat, and healthy fats.  This morning the scale still read 125.  Thank goodness I didn't blow all the progress I've made recently.  On Friday, I established my goal weight at Weight Watchers, and I've got less than ten pounds to go.

         So is there any difference between the last ten pounds and the first ten pounds of fat release?  I actually think they're very similar.  To start releasing fat we have to change our behavior enough to get the ball rolling.  Honestly, I am still up in the air about the whole "A Calorie Is A Calorie" question, but the fact is that when I get off of sugar and grains I seem to eat less.  It's like this:

         By changing what I eat, I am able to change how much I eat.

         This realization is probably one of the most helpful I can offer.  Please take a moment and think about what it means for you.

         What are the foods that nourish and satisfy you without over stimulating your appetite?

         For the past three years, I've been observing the behavior that leads to fat release in myself, my clients, my friends, and my family, and success comes with finding foods that satisfy in sensible amounts.  How does this apply to releasing the last five or ten ponds of fat?  I've come to realize that the the closer you get to your goal, the more closely you have to stick to your personal power foods.  The 80/20 rule of eating right (for you)  eighty percent of the time needs to switch to 90/10- or even 95/5.  The cheat monster has to be overcome to reach the prize of your goal.  Between now and 117, I will be sharing the steps I'm taking to stay true to my goal.  I will also be writing about how I came to that number and why it's important.

         The truth is that body weight, especially for women, is a loaded subject.  I justify my journey by saying, "I'm a Personal Trainer, I need to be lean."  The question is, "How lean, and why?"