How to deal with food addiction over the holidays

By Flannery Dean
Woman debating between a cupcake and a salad Photo: Masterfile

At any given moment your brain is working overtime, focused on the delicious object of your desire. Distraction doesn’t work. Substitution helps but it’s no cure. Translated your thoughts are embarrassingly primitive.

Me. Want. Cupcake.

This relentless craving you have for red velvet cupcakes with buttercream icing, the persistent longing that takes a battering ram to what little remains of your flimsy willpower is much too hard to resist and so, most of the time, you don’t.

It’s so much more fun to give in. Temporarily that is. Except that along with the empty calories and the extra inches come the dwindling levels of self-respect.

Almost feels like an addiction. That’s because it is — at least according to Dr. Pam Peeke, professor of medicine at the University of Maryland and author of The Hunger Fix.

In a recent interview with The Washington Post MisFits columnist, Vicky Hallett, Peeke outlines her views that many of us are hooked on specific foods, and experience the same symptoms and exhibit some of the same kinds of behaviours as drug addicts.


Interestingly, human nature being what it is, no one reports feeling tormented by repetitive thoughts of turnips or feeling undone by a passion for spinach.

Peeke confirms what experience and common sense dictate — that the food that has us wrapped around its fleshy little finger is inevitably filled with sugar or fat or both…or it’s covered in salt.

There’s help, says Peeke, but first you need to take your food addiction seriously and then make efforts to control those cravings by changing your behaviour and in some cases, modifying your environment.

Stress is a killer — put a food addict in an emotionally vulnerable position and all bets are off. So try to minimize your exposure to upset, or, alternatively, develop better coping skills when stressful situations arise.

Exercise helps by training the brain to respond to a different set of rewards, so hop on that spinning bike. Sooner than you think your dreams will be dipped in low-fat cottage cheese instead of buttercream icing.


What's your biggest food weakness?


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