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The Truth About Food Addiction - Dr. Pam Peeke and Michelle King Robson

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EmpowHER Founder, Michelle King Robson, and world famous health expert, Dr. Pam Peeke discuss the truth behind food addiction and how the principles found in Dr. Peeke's new book, "The Hunger Fix" can help women battle food addiction. Click the video below to watch!

Michelle King Robson: Hi, I am Michelle King Robson and I am here today with Dr. Pamela Peeke and she has got her new book out called “The Hunger Fix”. Welcome Dr. Peeke.

This is me, this is me, the cupcake.

Dr. Pam Peeke: What do you mean it to you? What happens when you have a cupcake?

MKR: I am addicted. I mean I am totally addicted. I am addicted to cookie dough, I am addicted to cupcakes.

PP: Can I ask you a question?

MKR: Sure.

PP: When you have a cupcake or the cookie dough, do you feel out of control?

MKR: I feel out of control, but I also have this sensation of feeling like, ah I have just done the most decadent thing.

PP: But also you want to do more.

MKR: Right.

PP: It’s just not a little bit of cookie dough. Okay, are you really going to eat this? I mean seriously?

MKR: Well, after the conversation we just had.

PP: It just stirred it all up. Didn’t it?

MKR: Yeah, It makes me want to eat it.

PP: Okay, I understand that. You know why? Because right now your reward system remembers the last time you did like twelve of those in a row and hello, how do I know that, and it just wants more and more. It’s been hijacked and what I am saying is I am ready to do battle. Right? Instead of you know having that, how do you feel when you eat that afterwards.

MKR: Well I feel awful.

PP: What do you mean by awful.

MKR: Well I just feel like I have let myself down.

PP: Okay, so if you feel down, you feel guilty, shame, blame, I keep going would you get the picture.

MKR: Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes to all above.

PP: Wow let me sign up for that. I like feeling rotten after I eat something. Come on! You know seriously, who needs that, who needs that? I mean see its calling to you, but I am to do battle with you.

MKR: Okay.

PP: All right? So instead of a false fix, which isn’t working for you, this may work for some people and you are three left on the planet may be, but this may work for some people. But for a lot of people been super exposed to this, eh not so much. So instead, how about something a little different. How would you feel when you are having fresh berries, you know with some wonderful flavoured yogurt. This is vanilla yogurt on top. What you feel like when you have that?

MKR: Well that just looks better to me.

PP: It does? It looks better to you.

MKR: It does.

PP: Okay how do you feel after you eat it? You have eaten blue berries.

MKR: I feel better, There is no question. I mean just there is no question and I feel good.

PP: Okay. So when your brain was looking at disco I really want this back and forth. You are doing a battle up here. The prefrontal cortex was saying wow, rain it in girlfriend. All right? Meanwhile your old memories were coming back saying oh forget that noise and get rid of Peeke, I want to eat the cupcake because I want it now.

MKR: I had a hard time giving you that.

PP: I know.

MKR: But this is lighter. This even feels lighter. All of me feels lighter. Just by holding this in my hand, not alone the fact that I am now going to eat that instead of that.

PP: Exactly. You know it’s just not about a cupcake, it could be anything. I mean honestly this could be some chips and you know or some guacamole, or whatever it is where you feel out of control. You know there are many people who can have one of these, not feel out of control or have a half or one or whatever. Okay? And they are fine, they walk away, they don’t feel out of control. The key is do you feel out of control. When you eat that, you don’t. When you eat this, you do. It’s pretty simple which one you are going to have to go with.

MKR: Right.

PP: That’s exactly what happens in food addiction. Believe it or not food addiction is real. Now you and I and in fact every woman on this planet has probably figured this out by now saying its about time, the science is kind of swung with the program here, but it took us a while to get the science. This all emanates from the National Institute of Health and at least 70 world class scientists now all of whom agree. Food addiction is real. Meaning that for some people like you when you have that one particular food product, in this case it is a cupcake, you not only feel out of control but your reward system in your brain which secretes that wonderful pleasure neurotransmitter called dopamine.

MKR: Yes.

PP: Yeah man, we like that one. Okay what ends up happening is It gets hijacked by the huge amount of fat and refined sugar that’s in that particular food product and when then happens by definition you lose control. This hijacking then also puts you in a binge mood and this is this horrible feeling that you just can’t have one serving of fill in the blank.

MKR: I can’t, I can’t get enough. I mean just to end then, its just this windfall. I am sure there are so many women who experience this.

PP: Oh my god, absolutely and you know Michelle, I have been listening to this for years. All of my colleagues and I, who are experts in the field, have been saying you know this has to be true. Well, guess what. The work of Dr. Nora Volkow, who is the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse of the NIH has shown that if you use special brain scans, MRIs, and PET scans and you compare what happens. Just on a cue of knowing something was going to be eaten, like here comes a cupcake, its coming around the corner, but it is not even in front of you. The cue is so powerful that when we do those brain scans the reward system lights up precisely the same way as a drug addict, as an alcoholic, as somebody who is addicted to smoking, all of the typical addictions.

MKR: So it’s all the same.

PP: It’s all the same. You cannot tell the difference and the other thing that happens is well of course my reward system would light up with a cupcake, but the difference with the addiction is two things. One is, when I have you know my reward system lights up because I am doing something or eating something that is very pleasurable, but I am not addicted to I just simply eat it and I don’t feel out of control. It’s the out of control thing, number one. Number two, there are receptors in the brain that after repeated exposure to what we call the hyper-palatable foods. The food industry knows this very well. These are the sugary, starchy, fatty, salty combos that always nail us. Okay. Whenever we are exposed to that then the total number of receptors in our brain for this dopamine, neurotransmitter, decrease and it’s absolutely a signature piece of what addiction looks like. That does not happen when I am having reward by looking at a beautiful sunset. It sure that happens with cupcakes.

MKR: Exactly and/or cookie dough. So what do I do? I mean what do people do who have this which we know there is a huge incidence of obesity in our country.

PP: I know and I will wager to guess that the grand majority of people who have a weight issue have some level of food addiction. They have to. I mean and you know that as well as I do. I mean people are sitting around going wow I have an apple, I need 75 more. No, that just doesn’t work. No, it’s more like what I call the science fair projects. It’s the refined sugar, it’s the processed foods. It’s generally the genetics that kind of stuff. Alright, so what do you do?

MKR: Yeah so what do I do.

PP: But what do you do for addiction in general. It’s a detox recovery. You have to sit back and say to yourself, Oh gosh what are my what I call my crack items. You know what’s my crack? So let’s just say for a grin it is cupcake, it could be pizza, it could be warm bread with butter, I mean something loves disappearing from the pantry.

MKR: That sounds pretty good too.

PP: Yeah, we can keep going if you like and suddenly you just have to identify those items that you feel really out of control with. I mean lets just tell our true truth. You know woman to woman. Alright, if it is not working for you come. Come on.


Put it aside and in my book what I have done is I have offered you instead foods that are out of this world, that will help you reclaim your brain, but these foods are prepared in ways that are so tasty and rewarding that you kind of forget about the other guy in no time at all.

MKR: So what kind of foods. Can you give me an example?

PP: Natural, fabulous, wonderful foods. These are all whole foods and the way they are prepared are with healthy fats and healthy carbohydrates, and healthy protein, but oh my gosh, the preparation and the way we deal with the ingredients and the spices and the way we sweeten without having to use refined sugar. You know after a while it will be like you know who needs that stuff. We are going to go into what we call healthy fixes. You know you have to identify your trigger foods which are false fixes, right and be honest about it. Now after the period of detox, we go into two more stages. This is the three stage approach. Detox, beginner recovery, and master recovery. Beginner recovery means practice it. Now let me tell you what is going on at your very gene level. That’s right. It is called epigenetics, a brand new science. It is so exciting it not just tell you Michelle about food addiction, but also a brand new science to help you neutralize it. Epigenetics means simply this, you are all born with you know a certain number of genes, you cannot change those, but you can change how they talk to the rest of the body. So that gene if I have for instance an apple that gene is going to be one happy gene and girlfriend eat the apple, this is looking good. So we are going to have healthy fibre, wonderful phytoplant nutrients, vitamin C, lots of water, natural, and natural sugar, body loves it, right, and it’s a reward system turned on versus if you had some nasty thing you know some big refined sugar, whatever, big glop of something, sounds like your cookie dough.

MKR: Cookie dough.

PP: I know, we are kind of go into that place again. Okay, suddenly, body is saying wait a minute. What is she putting in mouth? What is she doing here and now all of a sudden, there is another whole host of speech writing that goes onto the rest of the body and it says whoa you know big load of fat and refined sugar coming your way, suddenly your blood sugars are not looking so good and suddenly you know you are not boosting your immune system the way you should. You are not getting any vitamins, minerals, or plant nutrients from it. You just can not and so then it affects you that way. Now how we take care of the addiction. What you do is you just keep practicing, practicing, practicing mental techniques, nutritional techniques, and physical activity techniques that will gradually over time change the entire messaging to the rest of the body. Epi means around, genetic means you know the genes or around the gene, you are going to now be changing the entire speech writing and you could do that with every thought you have with special foods that we eat. These are for instance leafy greens. They can either turn on or turn off. A gene, who knew? And this is amazing. This can then alter your entire destiny. So you through your own free will and through your own choices are allowing yourself now to get through this addiction and get past it. You will always be there. You will always be vigilant, but you will be able to go on and live a very wonderful rich wonderful life. The other piece to this is the way to do battle with what is going on in your brain highjacked by these hyper-palatable foods is to beef up that one part of the brain. You are going to be hearing a lot more about this Michelle, not just from me as a scientist, but from a whole host of other scientists over the course of the next several years. That area of the brain is called the prefrontal cortex, that’s right here.

MKR: There, ya.

PP: You got it and its job is to rein in impulsivity and we want to do that very quickly, you have done that so well, right, now here and here and I have done it, everyone has done it and if you say you have not done it, your nose is getting longer.

MKR: Pinocchio.

PP: Come on, yeah a little Pinocchio moment. So what you end up doing is you beef it up by doing certain physical activity that nutritional thing again and guess what in the mental part of it, its meditation. We found out meditation by looking again at brain scans, is able to actually increase the size of that brain through something we call neurogenesis. You build more brain cells. Same thing happens every time you take a walk, more brain cells and at the same time, you build new circuits in your brain that allow you now to really cement the good practices of lifestyle that you have been practicing in stage 2, beginner recovery. Then once you have achieved specific goals during that time, and I don’t care how long it takes, just keep practicing. Then you reach master recovery and in the book, you will be hearing the voices of men and women who are masters. They have reached a level now where they practice it long enough. The brain is so strong that when that temptation comes up, they are like when they are done that, know the drill.

MKR: So there are just flat can say no to it.

PP: That’s right. Because if they can control that craving, well when you crave, you cave and they remember that.

MKR: That’s me.

PP: Well, it’s me too and it’s anyone else as a human being out there when you are exposed to these hyper-palatable foods some of which I call science fair projects because they are processed in whatever and they are on every single street corner. So how can you get around this. It is so hard. So instead you have got to have the most powerful brain so one of the best mottos of the book is Big Brain, Small Waist. Because when you have that nice strong brain, you will make the right kinds of choices.

MKR: Well this is what I want. Big Brain, Small Waist.

PP: That’s right.

MKR: That’s what you know is no that what we are all striving for and if we can do that through meditation, I would imaging yoga would be another.

PP: Oh my god, it’s huge in this. Absolutely, but there is a reason why I called this book, “The Hunger Fix”. Right? The reason why is I want women to really think about this. What you really hungry for? Aren’t you really hungry for a long, wonderful, high quality life? Isn’t that what we really hungry for. How about hungry for that running that first 5 K, how about hungry for that first job promotion because dammit you deserve it. How about hungry for the thing you feel like you deserve in life or are you really hungry for this processed piece of glop.

MKR: So are we trading, are we trading something?

PP: So I am saying take that false fix as a lie. It’s like come on just right now, just a little bit, watch that word, “just”. “It’s just a cupcake”, right, and just trash that and instead substitute it with a healthy fix and that is not just food, it also how about that walk outdoors where it is beautiful. Don’t you hunger for how good it feels? Don’t you hunger for a really great relationship with someone where you don’t have to be so ashamed of who you are or feel guilty or beat up? Come on, women make a second career out of doing this with themselves.

MKR: We sure do.

PP: Enough, so the Hunger Fix is finding what you are really hungry for in life and tossing out these addicted things.

MKR: Now I am hungry, for the Hunger Fix. Thank you so much. This is going to be such an amazing book for so many people. I can’t believe that this is a first of its kind and I am sure there is more to come.

PP: Absolutely, thanks Michelle.

MKR: Thank you!

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