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Cheese Lovers’ Alarm: Study Says Cheese Is As Addictive As Cocaine

Cheese Lovers’ Alarm: Study Says Cheese Is As Addictive As Cocaine

I have bad news and good news.

The bad news is scientists have finally proven that cheese is addictive. My favorite food can now be labeled a drug. The good news is I now have a legitimate excuse for why I consume such copious amounts of cheese.

According to a study by the University of Michigan, not all foods are created equal when it comes to food addiction. A sample of 500 university students completed the Yale Food Addiction Scale which measures the rate of food addiction in people’s lives and also studies the types of foods they crave. The number one most addictive food turned out to be pizza. I mean, who isn’t addicted to that cheesy, tomatoey, carb-filled goodness?

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But it turns out, it’s not simply just taste that causes people to keep their favorite pizza joint on speed dial. Apparently, there is a protein in milk products called ‘casein’. Dr. Neal Barnard explains that casein “breaks apart digestion to release a whole host of opiates called casomorphins.” Casomorphins play with dopamine receptors and trigger the reward reflex in our brains.

Cheese is chocked full of these proteins that trigger our brains into the reward/craving cycle. Some researchers go as far as to call cheese “dairy crack.”

Another finding of the study on food addiction, was the presence of fat in food and its influence. Not shockingly, people seem less inclined to be addicted to lower fat foods. Unprocessed foods like brown rice or fresh fruits and vegetables do not trigger the same eating patterns in people that highly processed foods do. The study concludes that highly processed foods may share characteristics with drugs of abuse (e.g. high doses and rapid rate of absorption) and appear to be associated with “food addiction.”

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Food addiction is associated with highly emotional behavior, but the findings of this study reveal that emotions aren’t the only force prompting this sort of behavior. These highly processed, rich in fat foods, trigger chemical reactions in our brains that rewire our neurotransmitters to desire more and more of that food. Case in point: I have found myself standing in the bleak light of the open refrigerator, mindlessly shoving cheddar cheese into my mouth for no particular reason.

“I must be in a darker place than I realized,” I would think as I came out of my cheese stupor. Now I know my brain is simply chasing that dopamine high that tiny cheese cubes at graduation parties have provided for years and years.

Understanding the chemical processes involved in triggering food addiction can help break the stereotype that people who overeat are simply undisciplined. Claiming that people who struggle with food addiction are lazy, or indulgent, or lack self-control is the same as accusing an alcoholic who struggles not to get drunk in a bar of being undisciplined. Our culture is saturated in cheap highly processed food. Take a look at what the average American school lunch consists of, and the rates of childhood obesity in this country will make more sense.

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In light of these scientific findings, discussions about food addiction, availability of unprocessed food and food production regulations are needed.

I now know why I find myself shoveling pizza into my mouth like there’s no tomorrow, but that doesn’t mean I should just blame it on brain chemistry and continue dialing Papa Johns. Cheese addiction may be rampant, but it’s not a fate we must be resigned to!

Knowledge is the birthplace of power, so let’s start taking our health back. I’m not advocating for the eradication of cheese. I’m not sure that’s a world I want to live in. But understanding what is happening in your brain might help you put that fourth piece of pizza down and eat a salad.

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Featured photo credit: Robert Couse-Baker via flickr.com

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Emily Myrin

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Last Updated on December 2, 2018

How to Flow Your Way to a More Productive Life

How to Flow Your Way to a More Productive Life

Ebb and flow. Contraction and expansion. Highs and lows. It’s all about the cycles of life.

The entire course of our life follows this up and down pattern of more and then less. Our days flow this way, each following a pattern of more energy, then less energy, more creativity and periods of greater focus bookended by moments of low energy when we cringe at the thought of one more meeting, one more call, one more sentence.

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The key is in understanding how to use the cycles of ebb and flow to our advantage. The ability to harness these fluctuations, understand how they affect our productivity and mood and then apply that knowledge as a tool to improve our lives is a valuable strategy that few individuals or corporations have mastered.

Here are a few simple steps to start using this strategy today:

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Review Your Past Flow

Take just a few minutes to look back at how your days and weeks have been unfolding. What time of the day are you the most focused? Do you prefer to be more social at certain times of the day? Do you have difficulty concentrating after lunch or are you energized? Are there days when you can’t seem to sit still at your desk and others when you could work on the same project for hours?

Do you see a pattern starting to emerge? Eventually you will discover a sort of map or schedule that charts your individual productivity levels during a given day or week.  That’s the first step. You’ll use this information to plan your days going forward.

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Schedule According to Your Flow Pattern

Look at the types of things you do each day…each week. What can you move around so that it’s a better fit for you? Can you suggest to your team that you schedule meetings for late morning if you can’t stand to be social first thing? Can you schedule detailed project work or highly creative tasks, like writing or designing when you are best able to focus? How about making sales calls or client meetings on days when you are the most social and leaving billing or reports until another time when you are able to close your door and do repetitive tasks.

Keep in mind that everyone is different and some things are out of our control. Do what you can. You might be surprised at just how flexible clients and managers can be when they understand that improving your productivity will result in better outcomes for them.

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Account for Big Picture Fluctuations

Look at the bigger picture. Consider what happens during different months or times during the year. Think about what is going on in the other parts of your life. When is the best time for you to take on a new project, role or responsibility? Take into account other commitments that zap your energy. Do you have a sick parent, a spouse who travels all the time or young children who demand all of your available time and energy?

We all know people who ignore all of this advice and yet seem to prosper and achieve wonderful success anyway, but they are usually the exception, not the rule. For most of us, this habitual tendency to force our bodies and our brains into patterns of working that undermine our productivity result in achieving less than desired results and adding more stress to our already overburdened lives.

Why not follow the ebb and flow of your life instead of fighting against it?

    Featured photo credit: Nathan Dumlao via unsplash.com

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