November 11, 2009

EVERYthing in Moderation?

Eating junk food for a while could leave your brain’s response to food “permanently altered”? How. Nice.

That would be the punchline of an article I can’t get out of my head. Good thing dinner looked like this:


(Roasted salad made with last night’s leftovers: massaged kale salad, raw babaganoush, baby carrots, tomatoes, turnips and oat groat bread)

But I’m hardly immune to the siren call of pizza, ice cream, cookies…the usual suspects, you know? My blog is not intended to be misleading—sure, only the clean eats make it into a post, but this never was and never will be a daily food journal. I would hope no one is appalled to discover that I’m a human being! And that means allowing myself to enjoy “lesser” foods without guilt if/when I’m moved to do so. Those foods are in the minority among my more regular eats, but banishing them entirely does not work for me, nor do I care to try.

Besides, meals like these tend to keep me more than happy on a daily basis:


Still, I couldn’t help but be disturbed to the core after reading this passage in aforementioned article:

After just five days on the junk food diet, rats showed “profound reductions” in the sensitivity of their brains’ pleasure centers, suggesting that the animals quickly became habituated to the food. As a result, the rats ate more food to get the same amount of pleasure. Just as heroin addicts require more and more of the drug to feel good, rats needed more and more of the junk food. “They lose control,” Kenny says. “This is the hallmark of addiction.”

As if to shove the point down my throat (literally), tonight I had a rather telling encounter with the leftover rice pudding from the Diwali party Saturday. I’d actually all but forgotten about it, but after dinner I spied it in the fridge and, remembering how good it was, tasted a small spoonful. I immediately wanted to plunge my head into the vat of pudding-y goodness and not come up for air until I’d licked the tub clean. But having read this article comparing junk food to heroin addiction, I settled for another spoonful and replaced the lid. A couple pieces of dried fruit and a mug of peppermint tea later, I’ve all but forgotten about the rice pudding again.

Sure, this article takes a rather alarmist tone and highlights only one small study (on rats, for that matter, but that’s another discussion). I’m well aware that I’ll likely drive myself crazy if I let myself think of every bite of “junk food” as a hit that’s “damaging the response of [my] pleasure centers.” I do, however, think that this study serves as
a(nother) reminder of how important it is for us to nourish ourselves with clean, whole foods as often as possible. And the beauty of clean eating is that the more you do it, the more you want to do it and the less appealing the junk food becomes. That’s hard to believe when you have a mouth full of Oreos (trust me, I’ve been there—recently!), but if time and persistence have taught me anything, it’s that love vegetables conquer all. You just have to give them a chance. Moderation need not apply.

The article in question is quite short, if you care to have a look. How does it make YOU feel?


GF Gidget said...

It's sad but true. You have to "detox" your body from junk food. Then, the cravings disappear. Your cravings turn into cravings for fruit and veggies! Interesting... the same thing happened for me with gluten containing foods. Once my body detoxed, the cravings stopped. In fact, I now find myself slightly sickened at the thought of gluten containing foods!

Gina said...

Wow, what a crazy article!! Do you think you could send me the link to that article? I would love to read it.

I crave sweets and salt, but I'm lucky that in gernal, I usually crave fruits, veggies, and other health foods!

Lizzy said...

i just skimmed the article. i feel after indulging in some good eats aka junk i feel that my body really craves veggies and fruits. my body feels better when i put the more wholesome things in it, but i for sure do still enjoy cookies and desserts as well!

katherine said...

Great article! So trust that you really do have to snap yourself out of the addiction. It's not easy though!

Anonymous said...

such a great article..that salad looks amazing!! my body craves healthy tummy is happier with fruits and veggies rather than greasy things!

Averie (LoveVeggiesAndYoga) said...

Havent read the article but in a nutshell things like ice cream and dairy are truly addictive, I have blogged bout it before. They contain casomorphins. = milk protein + opiod/morphine like chemicals rendering the eater literally physically addicted to dairy's grasp. I am sure the same goes for junk food and what GF Gidget said bout detoxing from junk and cravings disppaear, i totally agree! Nice post, D!

Devan Geselle. N said...

that is scary. So sad.
I would much rather indulge in broccoli than sour patch kids anyday.

fitforfree said...

Excellent post! My only consolation is that, as with junk food, eating veggies just makes you want to eat more and more :-)

chrystad72 said...

Very interesting article. I actually for some reason don't really crave junk foods all that much. So I think I lucked out. Dont get me wrong, i do enjoy a great piece of cake or some onion rings or something but I always try to reach for a healthier version of these foods and always just once in awhile. I actually crave veggies and oatmeal of all things!

Its a really cool interesting article though. Its so interesting how certain chemicals and products cause us to react. Thanks for posting that!

Anonymous said...

That is sooo true! If I have salads often, then I begin to crave them......but if I've had lots of Indian food, or sweets for a couple days...I'll find myself craving them the next day if I havent been eating well! I agree with GF Gidget ! It really IS about detoxing your body!!

Jessica said...

Great article, thanks for posting! I actually just finished reading Kessler's "The End of Overeating". It is a fantastic and eye-opening read. He explains how junk food is just as addictive as drugs, but also how these foods are scientifically designed to get you hooked! It's not just coincidence, people are actually designing these foods to trip your biology and make you lose control, from the marketing to the first bite, to the swallow and aftertaste...disgusting.

Editor, Food Blog News said...

"Just as heroin addicts require more and more of the drug to feel good, rats needed more and more of the junk food."

So true.

I must be a rat.

Marissa said...

Yeah, the bite of cookie my boyfriend forced into my mouth last weekend didn't end up on my blog either ;-)

There is no need to feel like one must admit to every thing one eats on their blog. Are people actually keeping tabs? Sheesh!