“What can we do to help ourselves if we notice addictive behaviour in connection to certain foods, drinks or other substances?
The answer is two-fold. The first part is completely practical, the second part is about increasing awareness.
Firstly, on a practical level, there is obviously a strong desire within the body (and mind) for a particular substance. This we know. However, many people make a mistake here by focussing their attention upon this desire and attempt to get rid of it, battle with it or push it away. This approach is usually unsuccessful because we find ourselves engaged in a struggle.
So the secret is to remove the struggle completely, in a very practical way. How? We focus upon – and feed – a totally different, more natural desire that exists in the body. As we feed this other healthier desire any unhealthy desires will naturally become less compelling. Why? Because, firstly, they are not being fed by our attention, and secondly we are are increasing our desire for substances and feelings that nourishes us in the right way.
As we keep our focus on feeding this healthier desire, any unhealthy desires completely lose their influence upon us and are fully replaced by the stronger pull of this healthier, more natural desire. It is completely effortless and guaranteed to be successful. In fact, it is the only natural way to be free of unhealthy desires and addictions.
So what is this ‘healthier desire’ I am talking about? It is simply the desire to experience the completely sustainable ‘natural high’ that comes from good health. The desire to feel good in your body, to feel more bright, more alive, more positive and energised. It is the desire to be fully alive, to be fully conscious, and we feed this innate desire in the most effective way possible – nutritionally.
This classic little story perfectly illustrates what I am saying:
One evening, a native American brave was telling his grandson about the battle that goes on inside of people. He said:
“My son, there is a battle between two wolves inside us all. One wolf is evil. It is greed, anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority and superiority, lies, false pride and ego.
The other wolf is good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.”
The grandson thought about this for a minute and then asked his grandfather: “Which wolf wins?”
The old Cherokee simply replied: “The one you feed.”
We are always feeding a part of ourselves. Nutritionally, people feed the ‘bad wolf’ with foods like sugar, junk food: crisps, chocolate bars, biscuits, cakes, burgers, pizza, meat, deep fried foods, canned drinks, alcohol, coffee, cigarettes… any food or substance that is not wholesome and nourishing us in the right way. Even absorbing negative information (like reading or watching the news, or listening to aggressive or depressive music) feeds this negative part of us.
However, we feed the ‘good wolf’ with natural, simple and wholesome plant-based foods, like fresh organic fruits and vegetables, green foods, salads, juices, smoothies, raw or lightly cooked meals, non-animal proteins, seeds and nuts, pure water, fresh air, closeness with nature, harmonious, happy or peaceful music and so on.
The difference in how you feel, depending on what part of yourself you are feeding, is very clear and noticeable. Either you feel more energised, or more tired, more positive or more negative, more balanced or more more moody, more patient or more intolerant and short tempered, calm or restless, peaceful or agitated, and so on. These are the simple and observable consequences of how you choose to feed your self.
In terms of unhealthy addictions which may have a strong pull on you, you need to move toward the opposite end of the health spectrum. Addictions should be counteracted with deeply nourishing foods such as daily wheatgrass juices, vegetable juices and smoothies containing superfoods like spirulina. Green foods – juiced or eaten raw – are the best way to counteract imbalance and cravings for unhealthy substances. Eating green foods nourishes and balances the blood, which in turn nourishes and balances the entire body, producing feelings of calm, peace and groundedness. It is that feeling which encourages us to avoid the “ups-and-downs” of addictive substances.
We learn to enjoy the pleasurable (and essential) feeling of being grounded, balanced and satisfied. Avoiding overly sweet food is a big part of this, as is choosing mostly plant-based proteins which satisfy our body’s need for substance. There is a food called kefir, a wonderful homemade, probiotic cultured milk drink – made using cows or goats milk – which is well known for its nourishing and balancing effect on the body, as well as its ability to counteract sugar cravings, which many people struggle with. Choosing nourishing and satisfying proteins like kefir, spirulina (which is around 65% protein) and nuts and seeds is a simple way to establish the feeling of satisfaction and balance that diminishes the desire for addictive, “up and down” substances like coffee, chocolate, sugar, alcohol etc.
As we choose and consume our foods, it is important that we bring in more awareness of why we are doing so, and be aware of what certain foods are doing to us on different levels. Observe yourself – your mood and how your body feels – before, during and after ingesting the food. Is there a strong craving for it beforehand? This is a clear sign that it is not so much of a food, but more of a drug to you. As you eat it, there will likely be great pleasure and satisfaction, which of course is a good thing to have with food, but be aware whether there is a pull to eat more and more of it. You get this with sweet foods and salty foods (like cheese, dried fruit, roasted nuts, chocolate etc.) People call this ‘moorishness’, as the body is not being properly satiated and just wants more, usually because of the strong flavour in the mouth. This moorishness is not present in neutral foods like cucumber, green leaves, avocado etc.
When it comes to food compulsions, it is important to remember that feeling guilty about what we eat is very detrimental for us. It increases feelings of negativity, which in turn encourage us towards eating more of the foods that comfort us. Guilt is a major factor in eating disorders such as obesity and bulimia. So when you are aware that you are reaching for a food which is not-so-nourishing, remember that you have choices.
The first and most liberating choice is to choose a different and more nourishing alternative, for example choosing a delicious piece of fruit over a chocolate bar, a handful of nuts instead of eating bread, or a fruity/spicy herb tea instead of coffee or alcohol. If you need to, give yourself permission to still choose the ‘not-so-nourishing’ food afterwards, if you feel like you still want it. But the likelihood is that you will not because you have already made a healthy choice, and healthy choices always lead to the desire to make more healthy choices. They simply encourage a feeling of health and wellness within us.
Conversely, unhealthy food choices usually encourage us to make further unhealthy choices. Why? Because ‘unhealthy’ foods usually have a very moorish quality and taste. They may stimulate the taste buds in very tantalising ways (like cake and chocolate for example) or satisfy and fill up our stomach (like pizza and pasta for example), yet they offer our body no significant nourishment and no tangible feeling of wellness, apart from a temporarily satisfied stomach. On the contrary, the foods mentioned above can often leave us feeling tired, irritable, slow, sleepy, congested and so on.
Many unhealthy foods give us an instant, but short-term positive change in mood (like sugar and chocolate) and we nearly always want to eat more of them when the feeling wears off. They have a mild drug-like effect upon us and therefore can be addictive. In fact, sugar is a highly addictive substance, in its various forms. I believe that sugar should be consumed as it is presented to us in nature – mostly in watery fruits, so that the water content of the fruit helps the sugar flow through our system properly.
Many unhealthy foods are simply moorish due to the strong flavours they possess (e.g. salty, sugary, spicy, vinegary). Be aware and notice these aspects within the foods you choose, and see if you are eating the foods for the above reasons. The primary and most common-sense reason to eat a food is because it makes you feel well, and contributes to a mood of positivity and enthusiasm within you. Obviously, the taste and texture of the food is also important because we must enjoy every aspect of eating.
We may not drink a green juice in the morning because it has a moorish taste, but this is a good thing. But if you want to make your green juices delicious, it is easy. Add a piece of fruit, or blend it with an avocado to make a juice smoothy. Carrot and wheatgrass juice, blended with a whole avocado, is absolutely delicious and deeply satisfying. If you can’t get or grow wheatgrass, just use kale, chard or something else green, even wheatgrass (or barleygrass) powder.
So let’s go back to that initial choice we have to make – for example, whether or not to eat that first square of chocolate; whether or not to have that first glass of alcohol etc. It is the most significant of all the choices because you are setting off a chain reaction of feelings, desires and chemical reactions in your body that create a momentum. Cravings begin with that very first taste, even if it is a small one.
It is the same with the first choices you make in your day; the first thing you do upon waking, the first food or drink you put in your body. Like if you start the day with a sugary cereal for example. You set the tone for your day, in subtle ways and in more obvious ways. The obvious consequence of eating and overly-sweet breakfast is that you are almost certain to be craving more sweet food an hour or two later as the sugar leaves your system, even if your breakfast consisted of dried fruits like figs or dates, sweeteners like honey or maple syrup, or starchy-sugary fruits like bananas. You are also much more likely to be short-tempered and reactive with others – another inevitable consequence of eating excessively sweet foods.
I believe the very best way to start your day is with a balancing green vegetable juice (especially with wheatgrass) or a balancing avocado smoothy with spirulina or other green superfoods. By doing this, you are nourishing your blood, calming your nervous system, and most importantly, not setting up a chain of bio-chemical cravings as happens when we consume sugary foods. If you do want a sweet breakfast, have it after your green drink and have it with kefir, or drink kefir afterwards. Kefir softens the impact of sugars on the nervous system, and helps us avoid the cravings and reactivity that sugars often create. Kefir is a protein drink due to the milk that we use to make it, therefore it has a grounding and calming effect upon us. It is also rich in tryptophan, which simply makes us feel happy. The word ‘kefir’ actually means ‘good feeling’.
Starting the day with a green drink means setting yourself up in the best way to experience a day of greater balance, equilibrium, tolerance, patience and calm. Green juices and smoothies also energise us in a very balanced way, especially when they contain wheatgrass juice. So when you have a choice of food, especially when it is the first choice of your day, always see if you can satisfy your tastes and energy needs with a healthier option. Do the same when you notice a desire for what you recognise as an addictive substance arises. Choose something that nourishes you first (especially a green juice or smoothy) and see if you still desire the addictive substance afterwards.
If you find that after doing this you still desire the comfort food or the addictive substance, do not chastise yourself. You are human, a complex bio-chemical creature that is influenced by everything, and compelled to respond to these influences. Usually food cravings are simply a matter of body chemistry, so there is no need to make yourself feel bad about it. Give yourself permission. Tell yourself that you are allowed to have this food or substance you are craving, if you really want to. And when you ingest it, do it with awareness so that you can find out, “Is this really what I want? Is this really nourishing me in the way I want to be nourished?”
Be aware of how you feel different having eaten this food. This will give you a good idea as to the real reason you eat it. Does it make you feel happy? Does it stimulate and energise you (like coffee or chocolate, for example)? Does it make you feel full inside? Remind yourself that you can always feel the way that you wish to feel in a more sustainable and healthy way. For example, if you want to feel more energised on a long term basis, simply eat lighter food and drink vegetable juices daily. Make it a new habit. An increase in your energy will then become a more sustained experience, part of how you live, rather than stimulated ‘high’. And we only choose such highs because we feel low.
The body is always seeking balance. For example, if you over-stimulate yourself with sugar, coffee or chocolate, soon enough the body will strongly crave something at the other extreme – something grounding or heavy to counteract the high level of stimulation. For many people it is bread – an instant way to bring down your energy and make you feel more stabilised and grounded after over-stimulation. Proteins – especially cheese – will also be craved for because they also ground and soothe us. The milk in the cheese is a very soothing antidote to the ‘jangly’ feeling that sugar or caffeine creates in our body. This is why kefir can be a very useful food, because it is very soothing on the nervous system, which is what sugar, caffeine and chocolate overstimulate. It is also far more digestible than milk or cheese as the kefir culture feeds on and transforms the lactose, which the human body can struggle to digest. It is also very delicious and satisfying.
Personally, I used to eat a lot of dark chocolate, mostly for the taste, but also as an energetic pick-me-up after eating a heavy, cooked meal. Now I do not eat any at all, but instead I include more vegetable juices into my predominantly raw diet. For the sense of satisfaction that chocolate used to give me, I find kefir infinitely more nourishing, and unlike chocolate, very stabilising.
Remember that the body simply seeks to experience balance. I once knew a person who made raw chocolate professionally. Not surprisingly, he also consumed large quantities of raw chocolate, and not a lot else, believing cacao to be one of the healthiest foods on the planet. It is certainly one of the most uplifting ones! Interestingly, the last time i saw him, he was regularly buying huge quantities of raw goats cheese and feasting on this when he had had enough of eating raw chocolate. His body was simply seeking balance, and telling him to eat a certain food to create it. The body is deeply intelligent. The more of an extreme you take it to, the more it will desire and seek the opposite extreme. You could call this the ‘chocolate and cheese’ rule!
The antidote, of course, is to choose the middle way. Nutritionally, this means eating more greens: leafy salads, broccoli, cucumber, avocados (which are very nourishing and stabilising), green juices with wheatgrass, smoothies with spirulina and so on. Quite simply, green means balance, and finding balance will bring freedom from craving.
Addictive cravings will easily disappear from our lives as we feed the more natural desire of good health and well-being. We do this primarily with our dietary choices, and also by increasing the time we spend in nature. The energy of nature is deeply harmonising and nourishing for our entire being, and it never fails to uplift us. You cannot feel low, therefore you will not feel compelled to create a high for yourself, or to create comfort for yourself. This is the most natural, simple and enjoyable way a person can free themselves from addictive tendencies.
Many people do not consider the compulsive or addictive aspect of the foods they eat, or they do not take food addictions very seriously. They believe that it is ‘only food’ and that it can’t do any harm. However, addictive cycles do harm us. They prevent us from being free. They keep us in dependancy and they keep us in upward/downward cycles of mood and emotion. We cannot experience peace in a sustained way while we are under the influence of addictive cycles, no matter what the addictive tendency may be. Creating balance in ourselves is the way to be free of addiction, and the way to greater peace.”