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Fight food addiction

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How processed foods cause overeating

Have you noticed that some foods are almost impossible to resist?

The large amount of fat, sugar, and salt in processed foods changes your brain's chemistry to make you crave those foods. In fact, sugar and fat release the same chemicals in your brain involved in drug, alcohol, and gambling addiction.

Hard to resist

You might want to eat more fatty, sugary, and salty foods even when you aren't hungry. You might not be able to stop even after you're full. Just thinking about or seeing an image of a food high in fat, sugar, or salt can cause you to want to eat it. This addiction response is called "conditioned hypereating."

What you can do

Sometimes common challenges like stress and sleepless nights can cause overeating. Other times it's a smell or advertisement that makes you crave certain foods. Once you know what jumpstarts your craving, you'll be able to more easily stop it in its tracks.

Try these ideas to help prevent cravings:

  • Ask your friends, family, co-workers, or doctors for their support. Let people know what you need and how they can help you.
  • Avoid the things and places that trigger cravings such as TV ads, vending machines, or driving by fast food restaurants.
  • Keep foods you crave — and overeat — most often out of your home or office, and eat them only as an occasional treat.
  • Think about how overeating will make you feel the next day. When you know you'll feel sick, overfull, or angry with yourself, you might not give in to that craving.

Learn 5 tips to stop cravings when they happen.

Source: The End of Overeating (Rodale, 2009) by David Kessler, MD

Reviewed by: Keith Bachman, MD and Trina Histon, PhD, August 2013
Additional Kaiser Permanente reviewers

©2013 Kaiser Permanente

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