‘I lost 12st 4lb by swapping out key foods in my diet and walking 30 minutes a day’

Given the prevalence of sugar and salt in the Western diet, it’s a surprise food addiction isn’t yet widely recognised in medical settings.Over the past year, Google search data has revealed a significantly increased interest in food addiction in the UK, highlighting a growing public health concern.Sarah-Jane Clark, 53, is baffled that the condition continues to go largely unrecognised at general practices.Having defeated the disorder herself, Sarah now works with clients to support their eating habits and help them gain confidence through exercise and diet. The slimmer transformed her health and fitness after reaching 21 stone in weight. Now out of the woods, she has shared her pearls of wisdom with GB News readers. What causes food addiction?Palatable foods trigger feel-good chemicals in the brain, including dopamine, which leads some individuals to compulsive eating behaviours.Just like other addictive substances, foods high in sugar, fat and salt release hormones in the brain that encourage us to repeat behaviours that help us survive.Rachel Goldberg, a therapist who specialises in eating disorders, explained: “Dopamine is a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and reward, akin to the chemicals involved in other addictive behaviours.”Studies show that these parts of the brain become activated after intake of highly palatable foods rich in sugar, fat and salt.“Consequently, these foods can contribute to overeating beyond the point of fullness or consuming more than necessary from a nutritional standpoint,” noted Goldberg.In other words, the more of these hormones are released, the more likely we are to repeat these behaviours.Sarah-Jane lost weight after defeating her food addictionSarah-Jane ClarkProfessor Franklin Joseph, chief medical office at Dr Frank’s Weight Loss Clinic, adds that in some individuals, the condition develops stems from a genetic predisposition.“There is often a genetic predisposition but the environmental impact of highly palatable foods along with emotional factors like stress, trauma, or using food as a reward results in the cycle of craving when not physically hungry,” he said.Sarah-Jane was oblivious to these chemical reactions in the brain and with little help from her doctors, she was left dealing with great shame and embarrassment about the control food had over her.She said: “I had low self-esteem and every time I walked out there, I felt sad, angry and suppressed, I would never voice my opinion.“I would go home and eat vast amounts of food very quickly, and that was my food addiction. I still classify myself as a food addict now.“You’re trying to fill that internal void with something external, and my substance of choice was food.“When you’re using food to numb your emotions, make yourself feel better, or feel loved or fill that empty void of not feeling good enough.”To her surprise, Sarah-Jane discovered that increasing her fat intake supported an increase in the speed at which she lost weight by helping improve her energy levels. “I remember with one diet, I could eat as many Müllerlight yoghurts as I wanted, they were like water, I could literally pour them down the plughole,” Sarah-Jane explained. Swapping these types of snacks for full-fat Greek yoghurt proved instrumental, as did bringing in other foods like cottage cheese.“These [ingredients] are just denser. They keep me full for ages, whereas I was brought up in the era when low-fat was all you ate.”First steps in Sarah’s weight loss journeyHaving watched her physical and mental health decline over many years, Sarah-Jane decided it was time to take matters into her own hands. “The first thing I did was go out walking for half an hour daily,” she declared. “I went out walking religiously at night for about 30 minutes and after about 10 days I started to feel good.“I started noticing improvements quickly and instead of reaching the top of the stairs and being out of breath, I would think ‘I got to to the top of the stairs and I’m not out of breath’ and that gives me motivation.“I then introduced more water and stopped drinking sugar. I realised that sugar is very, very highly addictive and as addictive as drugs.“I also did healthy swaps like jacket potatoes instead of chips, it was really about taking one little step at a time and not everything all at once.”One element Sarah-Jane emphasised in her diet was the elimination of processed ingredients, which allowed her to continue eating sweet treats as long as they were made from scratch.“I would eat something made from store-cupboard ingredients, like homemade cake, I find I can eat that,” she said. “I knew my stomach would register that it was full and that I didn’t need anymore, whereas when I went and bought a packet of chocolate hobnobs, I could literally inhale those and would still be starving.LATEST DEVELOPMENTS Sarah’-Jane’s story is a testament to the power of healthy eating habits Sarah-Jane Clark sticks to a regular strength training programme“I could eat so much, I was never full. I could eat a carrier bag of sugar, you know, packets of doughnuts, chocolate biscuits, cakes, all processed and never be full.”Goldberg endorses this nutritional approach, as there is substantial evidence that incorporating whole, nutrient-dense foods such as fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains can help reduce cravings for highly processed foods.“These nutrient-dense foods assist in signalling to the brain that the body is full and satiated,” explained the expert.Additionally, incorporating mindfulness and intuitive eating practices can help individuals become more attuned to their body’s hunger and fullness cues, reducing the urge to engage in compulsive eating behaviours, according to Professor Joseph.“Mindfulness […] helps individuals become more aware of their eating habits and emotional triggers, focusing on the sensory experience of eating, and paying attention to taste, texture and satiety cues,” he explained. “This can help reduce overeating.”All these tools have helped Sarah-Jane get in better shape than ever as she prepares for her 53rd birthday.Her story serves as an inspiration to anyone grappling with their own fitness journey, regardless of age.

https://www.gbnews.com/lifestyle/diet/britain-weight-loss-success-stories-food-addiction

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