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Food addiction is a habit you can beat

A habit is a behaviour or what we do without putting in much mental effort. When we do something repeatedly, a pathway is created in the brain. This pathway becomes the default for that activity, and we simply operate in “autopilot” mode.  Psychology postulates that habits can pretty much become addictions, and can be used to explain the human struggle with food and consequently weight.

Food is necessary for growth, development and survival. Over the years, we learn feeding behaviours and practices. Some are good others are unhealthy, and before we know it, we are caught in a loop of habit; your body has an urge for a food, you eat it, you feel good, and the cycle repeats.  Before we know it, we are eating to satisfy our cravings. See most of these feel good foods (sweet, salty, fatty) that propagate the crave-reward cycle also risk our health. But they have such powerful cues that we end up with bags of chips, bars of chocolate, muffins, cookies and the list continues.

Mastering your brain can help you break this cycle so that you have control over what you eat, when you eat it. It can also help you to be more gentle and patient with yourself. See, when we develop new habits, we create new pathways. Even so, the old pathways do not go away. So on some random or stressful day, you will crave the creamy cake and all her cousins, skip the workout or completely go out of schedule.

Understanding the significance of the old pathways should ease the feelings of guilt and disappointment that normally follow the slip ups. Instead of beating yourself up, forgive yourself and get right back on it. You’d be surprised how much kindness and compassion to yourself can reinforce the positive habit.

Ultimately, it’s becomes a lifestyle and not just a diet.


Christine Nderitu

Licensed Nutritionist and Public Health Practitioner, Christine, helps people lead healthy lifestyles through health education and behaviour change practices that are simple and practical. She writes a weekly (Monday) nutrition column in the People Daily and is experienced in nutrition management, research, health education and promotion in; HIV/AIDS, Sexual and Reproductive Health, Maternal and Child Health and Non-Communicable Diseases. She has been engaged in these activities since 2011. Christine feels the world needs more stories that celebrate and normalize desired (good) behaviour. And humanity-we have many preventable and often manmade public health issues today.