"I can resist anything but temptation," a client once told me. “I understand,” I said, nodding my head. Never before has there been so much variety in food, that is really hard to resist. To add to this, ours is a culture that glorifies food. Most of us live to eat. This has led to a sort of food addiction, which is health threatening, simply because it is the least noticed and most common form of addiction.
The best thing about addictions to cigarettes, alcohol, coffee etc is that people are aware of their harm. Addiction to food can go unnoticed till it becomes a threat to health. A child who is addicted to food (read junk) may become overweight and develop problems like bronchitis, asthma, knee pain, backache, lethargy, depression and may even become an introvert.
An adult who is addicted to food and eats out three to four times a week may become overweight and develop type II diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol with high triglycerides and low HDL, chronic fatigue, inability to concentrate, knee joint pain etc. Eating junk is like committing slow suicide. Addiction to food is dangerous simply because it is socially acceptable and does not attract attention, unlike addiction to alcohol, drugs, smoking etc.
Health tips for compulsive eaters
If you are addicted to ice cream, try freezing watermelon cubes or papaya cubes and eat them slowly whenever you have an urge for something cold and sweet.
Throw all junk food out of the house so that it does not tempt you. Stock up on low fat snacks, fruits and vegetables.
Eat smaller portions throughout the day and do not skip meals.
Have a bowl of vegetable soup first while eating out to stave off hunger.
Drink 10-12 glasses of water every day to get rid of the toxins (by-products of overeating).
Remember, you need to drink 1.5 litres of water for every 1,000 calories consumed. If you stick to this rule, you may not need to overeat, as the water will make you feel full.
Before you start eating your favourite food, drink a glass of water. It will make your stomach full and you will naturally eat less.
Include simple exercises like walking for 30 minutes. It naturally suppresses your appetite.
Add a source of protein in meals and snacks like paneer, fish, eggs, soya milk and nuts. Consume healthy fat options like olive oil in salads. This will keep you full for a longer duration.
Consume lots of vegetables. These provide fibre and have high water content, so they make good low fat fillers. Include them as a snack in between the meals and not just at lunch or dinner.
Avoid long intervals in between meals. Carry handy snacks like roasted chana, assorted nuts or fruits like apple or pear.
Remember, it takes your body just three weeks to get over your favourite foods. The three weeks may be hard but you will get rid of that cola addiction or that chocolate addiction for life!
Dr Anjali Mukerjee is a nutritionist and founder of Health Total, a nutrition counselling centre.