Food Habit or Food Addiction? Let’s Fix the Problem
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how to tell the difference between a habit and addiction specifically food addiction seafood addiction is a very difficult thing to deal with because quite often we never realized that it even exists because we’re consistently exposed to food so how do we determine if we’re actually addicted to it we have to be very self aware and quite honestly a lot of us are just too busy to be very self aware to understand that we’re addicted to something so we convince ourselves we just have a bad habit but there’s a big difference between habit and addiction you see having an addiction are words that are used kind of interchangeably but they’re done so incorrectly they’re not interchangeable at all they’re two very different things so I’m going to break down the difference between habit and addiction we’re specifically going to talk about addiction to food and even addiction to abstaining from food like fasting because honestly it’s a real thing we all need to be paying attention to it hey if you haven’t already make sure you subscribe to this channel this is the internet’s leading performance and nutrition channel new videos every single Tuesday Friday and Sunday at 7 a.m. Pacific time and a bunch of other videos in between you can also go to highly com to check out the premium performance apparel that I’m always wearing in my videos ok so we’re gonna start this video off talking about habit and then we’re gonna move into addiction okay because you’re gonna want to pay close attention to the whole food addiction portion of this video because it definitely could apply to you especially if you’re someone that follows a lot of my videos a lot of my concepts here but first off habit okay habit is a routine it’s a custom it’s a tradition it’s a pattern okay it’s the brains way of generating a shortcut now when I say shortcut it’s the body trying to become efficient the brain trying to become efficient so an example of a habit is literally getting into your vehicle turning it on and then maybe opening your glove box to put your purse or your wallet in the glove box okay how is that a habit well it’s something that’s just happening automatically or even autonomically basically the nervous system is just doing this process okay so I have it can be good it can be bad it can be someone in between in fact literally even walking just taking a step is an autonomic response it’s a habit okay the body has developed efficiency so over time the body creates these loops and it all comes down to something known as a habit loop and I’ve talked about this in other videos before but when you know the habit loop then you can understand the big difference between a habit and an addiction so a it starts with a Q or a trigger then it moves into an action then it moves into a reward so in the case of getting in your vehicle here’s what it looks like the actual trigger or the Q is getting in your vehicle you have an environmental cue of being in your vehicle the action is actually putting your purse or your wallet in the glove box something simple the reward is the simple sense of security that you got by knowing where your possessions are okay same kind of thing can be with your morning gym routine you set your gym bag out in the morning so you wake up and you see your gym bag that’s your visual cue then you take action you go and you worked out and your reward there’s more than likely the immediate response the endorphins you feel good okay so it’s very very simple now habits can obviously be bad too you can walk in the door and you can just mindlessly eat because it seems easy to do but by and large you can really train your body to develop good habits pretty easily now one of the things that we do have to look at is that some habits are harder to create simply because that reward is further away and again I’ve talked about this in other videos but let me give an example you’re trying to start a new routine and that routine is exercise if you’re not gonna see an immediate response from your exercise you might feel good but you’re not gonna see an immediate cosmetic response so your reward is delayed so you may have the cue or the trigger that tells you to go to the gym you may do the action but the reward is like way removed its delayed so then it makes it really hard to develop a proper habit loop now talk about that in another video but all in all that’s the whole idea of a habit so there’s an interesting study those published in the European Journal of Social Psychology that took a look at how long it truly takes to develop a new habit and they took 96 participants and over the course of 12 weeks they had them just decide on a new habit they wanted to start out with so some of them chose really simple habits like just having some water with their lunch some of them chose more difficult habits like going for a run before dinner now this is great because they wanted a diverse profile so what they looked at was how long on average it took them to develop a new habit well they found on average it took about two months 66 days to be exact to establish a new routine a new habit but what they did find by looking at other studies and other details is that it varied widely depending on environmental factors social factors stress levels all the way from eighteen days all the way 254 days to establish a new routine but what they did also find which was pretty cool was that missing an opportunity to establish that habit for a day or two did not affect the long-term impact or result of getting a new habit in place so basically if they just messed up and they skipped the gym one or two days it didn’t affect their ability to install a new habit so the long the short of it with habits is that they’re easy to manipulate okay they’re easy to create but when does it have it actually become an addiction because quite honestly it can’t happen that way so let’s talk about addiction for a second addictions are chemical okay addictions are chemical in the sense that it’s a neurotransmitter response it’s a dopamine issue its serotonin it’s it’s different it’s chemical in the brain and it’s making it so that to an extent whether it’s recognizable or not to yourself you’re requiring that addiction to function properly so in the sake of alcohol it’s very easy to recognize this you drink alcohol that wants to start feeling good or to relax and then next thing you know alcohol becomes something that you just need to feel normal you need to feel normal after a hard day of work works in extreme cases you need it to feel normal in general you just feel cruddy if you don’t have it okay that’s what ends up happening that’s the whole idea of of course a physical addiction you probably know that part already but when we use the same reference like drugs or alcohol those are external stimuli that we can live without now it may be difficult if you have an addiction but my point is that you don’t need it to ultimately survive in terms of your physiology with food addiction things get really tough and that’s where I said the lines get really blurred because alcohol we can remove it from the equation and you can start establishing new habits and fight addictions with food we consistently have it in front of us so we never really know when it’s an addiction or when it’s just eating or being healthy we can’t just get rid of food we need food we die so what do we do how do we combat this addiction see because we’re constantly trying to get a dopamine response from food we’re filling an emotional void and when we fill that emotional void even with a habit is when it becomes a true addiction now I have to be honest when you look at fasting when you look at any kind of dieting that can become an addiction to now a lot of people wonder why I talk about intermittent fasting I’m not a big fan of doing it every single day well quite truthfully if you get down to an emotional level I think it can be dangerous to fast every day because you can establish a habit that ends up becoming an addiction an addiction that ends up being where you’re addicted to just not eating a whole lot of food where you’re going to extreme cases you know sometimes people will fast and they’ll only eat four or 500 calories on a daily fast and then they start doing that every day next thing they know they’re only consuming a couple thousand calories over the course of a week and they developed ultimately an eating disorder or an addiction to the opposite of food so we can look at it in the same lens it’s the same kind of thing the same people that would be addicted to eating can be addicted to not eating and honestly as someone that used to weigh 280 pounds and suffers with an addictive personality I begin with I’m very careful with how often I fast and maybe I deflect that off to my viewers sometimes and try to make sure they don’t fall into the same traps that I’ve fallen into but the reality is addiction is a real thing with that what’s interesting is that we have a down regulation of dopamine okay what that means is dopamine is our reward system it’s our pleasure Center so whenever we’re doing a drug or whenever we’re drinking alcohol or whenever we are addicted to food or anything like that the moment that that substance whatever it is comes in it triggers the brain to feel good okay sometimes to the extreme of only feeling normal if that’s in place okay so this has downregulated your dopamine meaning that you need more and more and more and more to get that response the rain’ imagery has actually showed that when your dopamine levels are down regulated you have less of an ability to activate your prefrontal cortex the prefrontal cortex is what allows you to make smart sharp decisions so when you deactivate the prefrontal cortex or at least a limit blood flow there then you’re making it even harder to make a strong conscious decision to do the right thing you’re purely running on habit or instinct at that point and when food addiction becomes instinct it becomes dangerous because you’re trapped and you absolutely can’t avoid it so to answer the ultimate question that I posed here is when does a habit become an addiction a habit becomes an addiction when the body starts to think that that habit is a good thing where the brain is convinced that that habit is a good thing so by intermittent fasting too much or by eating too much of a healthy diet consistently you can start to brain yourself into thinking that you’re doing a good thing by abstaining from so many calories so next thing you know your brain thinks that’s a good thing and sending a positive reward even through an action this is where you have to be careful and this is exactly where I found that you have to have an interrupter okay what I consider an interrupter is something where as soon as you recognize any of these habit traits or these addictive traits coming in you have an interrupter and this interrupter should never be the same okay the interrupter might be picking up the phone and calling someone that you know and having a conversation and what that’s going to do is it’s gonna simply disrupt that pattern for a minute it’s going to give you a different dopamine high and one of the things that I’ve done it’s very simple and I’ve talked about this again in other videos is counting to 3 literally that can be an interrupter stop 1 2 3 those interruptus disrupt that circuit for just a second so that habit loop doesn’t start becoming an addiction and those little interruptions done once or twice a day make a huge huge difference even if it just pauses you for a second now the last thing I want to end with here is if you’re biologically prone to addiction more than others well the thing is yes they found in studies that the children of parents that have suffered from any kind of addiction are eight times more likely to develop an addiction of their own has nothing to do with the particular substance so mom and dad could have had an addiction to alcohol son and daughter could have an addiction to food or they could have an addiction to fasting they could have an addiction to anti alcohol they could go the other route the fact is it’s just the neuro chemistry that could very well be genetic but by and large the master overall common denominator is the dopamine issues being more dopamine sensitive and that means that you’re more prone to get addicted to food you have less likelihood of actually finding natural stimulus and truly feeling good so at the end of the day you need to be honest with yourself about habits versus addiction recognize when something is functioning and I’m saying this video to be honest then you can recognize if you’re going down a route that isn’t good whether it’s a healthy route or an unhealthy route but also just wanted to clear up habit force addiction so as always make sure you comment below with any ideas for future videos especially strong in the world of food addiction how to overcome it because honestly it’s something that I’ve dealt with something that many of you have dealt with as always keep it locked in here in my channel I’ll see you in the next video
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Do You have a Food Habit or Food Addiction? Let’s Fix the Problem – Thomas DeLauer
Habits begin with a “loop” based on a reward system:
A cue or trigger tells the brain to go on autopilot while performing a routine – if the brain benefits from the routine, it will continue to do the action, and then receive a “reward”
In a study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, researchers decided to figure out just how long it actually takes to form a habit
The study examined the habits of 96 people over a 12-week period – each person chose one new habit for the 12 weeks and reported each day on whether or not they did the behavior and how automatic the behavior felt
Some people chose simple habits like “drinking a bottle of water with lunch,” others chose more difficult tasks like “running for 15 minutes before dinner”
At the end of the 12 weeks, the researchers analyzed the data to determine how long it took each person to go from starting a new behavior to automatically doing it.
Found that, on average, it takes more than 2 months before a new behavior becomes automatic – 66 days to be exact
And how long it takes a new habit to form can vary widely depending on the behavior, the person, and the circumstances
In the study, it took anywhere from 18 days to 254 days for people to form a new habit, but interestingly, the researchers also found that “missing one opportunity to perform the behavior did not materially affect the habit formation process”
Addiction occurs when you are no longer able to function properly without the pleasurable activity or substance
Certain pleasurable activities, such as eating trigger the reward center in your brain, making you want to engage in the activity again (aka dopamine, more on this later)
Substance abuse also excites the brain’s reward center; however, over time tolerance develops as the brain adapts to the continued presence of the substance
You end up needing more and more of the substance to achieve the same effects – before long, you don’t even experience the substance’s pleasurable effects anymore as your body has come to need the substance just to function and feel normal
What’s happening is that your body has become dependent on the substance, and it doesn’t take long before the signs become evident that a habit has become an addiction
*Addiction is a biopsychosocial disorder – it’s a combination of your genetics, your neurobiology and how that interacts with psychological and social factors*
The mutual mechanism (dopamine)
Though everyone’s path to addiction is different – whether he or she tries a drug or a behavior because it’s what that person’s parents or peers do, or just out of curiosity – what’s common across all substance and behavioral addictions is their ability to increase levels of dopamine
Dopamine is a molecule that carries messages across the brain’s reward center – it’s what gives people the feeling of pleasure and reinforces behaviors critical for survival, such as eating food and having
When someone uses a drug or engages in a pleasurable experience, the same natural reward circuitry is activated – the problem with drugs is that they do the job better than natural rewards
Different drugs tap into the dopamine reward system in different ways – for example, marijuana and heroin have a chemical structure similar to another neurotransmitter and can trick some brain cells into activating neurons that use dopamine
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8) Addiction history associates with the propensity to form habits. (n.d.). Retrieved from
9) The Role of Habits and Motivation in Human Drug Addiction: A Reflection. (n.d.). Retrieved from /