Addiction: It is a complex brain condition characterised by a compulsive engagement in rewarding stimuli, despite the adverse consequences. People with addiction have an intense focus on using a certain substance. Most often people begin to take substances due to a variety of reasons. These reasons include to feel good, to feel better and out of curiosity. When we talk about addiction we always relate it to drug or alcohol abuse.
More than just willpower
Have you ever wondered that we can get addicted to certain type of food? If you’re a hardcore non vegetarian and someone asks you to give up eating meat, would you be able to do it? What is your response going to be like? I tried going vegetarian at least thrice and I couldn’t go on for more than a week. I would always turn back to eating shawarma and chicken kebabs. Meat consumption is related to heart diseases, obesity and other health issues. Then what is it that gets us so addicted to animal flesh and their secretions?
The reason why most of us cannot give up eating meat is not just a lack of willpower. Chocolate, cheese, meat and sugar release opiate like substances. This results in a chemical release in our brain called dopamine which makes us feel so good. These foods that we eat have drug like effect in our brain. The effect is not as strong as cocaine or heroin, but it does have a mild effect. Let’s dig deeper into some of these foods.
I’m very addicted to chocolate, I start with one piece and the next moment I know, I’ve finished an entire bar. It constitutes of compounds like theobromine, caffeine, anandamide and phenylethyline. Theobromine acts as a mild stimulant in humans which can be fatal to dogs(That’s why don’t feed your dogs chocolate). Anandemide is the compound in the brain that is affected by THC (active ingredient in marijuana). So anandemide is turned on by that and hence chocolate lets this effect to persist. Chocolate is essentially filled with drug like compounds that get us hooked on to it.
Let’s be honest. Cheese smells kind of weird. Then why is it that we still want cheese in almost everything we eat. There’s a substance in dairy products called caso-morphines. Milk has a protein called casein. This protein does not break down in our digestive tract like other proteins and it displays opiate like activities. This suggests that it has a mild narcotic effect. Not a strong one but somewhere around 1/10th of a narcotic drug. One of the side effects is constipation. One of the main trigger for my migraine was definitely dairy. The day I stopped it, my migraine was miraculously cured. There might be other triggers for migraine but dairy is one of them.
We very well know that a person can thrive on a complete vegetarian diet. So meat consumption has a lot to do with habit and the desire for the taste. Some of us may have tried giving up eating non vegetarian food but we eventually give in. Why? I remember feeling tired and fatigued just because I gave up eating meat. Withdrawal symptoms huh? The chemical compound hypoxanthine is to be blamed. Just like the above mentioned chemical compounds in food, this chemical compound acts like a stimulant too. Along with this substance, meat also contains gualynic and inosinic acid that get us hooked on to meat like ”crack”.
No wonder we turn to some cheesy greasy burgers, chocolates, pastries and cakes when we are tired, sad, and lonely or had a tough day at work.
So what’s next?
Food definitely plays a huge role when it comes to elevating our moods. But that’s just temporary. What we have to look forward to is to incorporate a healthy lifestyle.
Sit back and think about your dietary choices. It’s not just causing unnecessary animal deaths and environmental damage but it is also affecting your own health.
Go all in, give up dairy and meat, show some determination. Challenge yourself to follow a plant based diet for a month. Include grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables in your diet. Eat breakfast which is high in fibre. And before you start with this diet, experiment with some dishes.
You can also check out this blog post to know about what I eat in a day.
Don’t wait to eat till you’re very hungry. I’ve noticed that we crave for junk food even more when we are very hungry. If you stick with this, you will adapt to healthy eating.
Do it for the animals, the environment, your loved ones and most importantly for yourself.
If not now, when?