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Junkie Rats and How to Break Our Food Addictions

So finally the science is catching up to what our gut reaction (pun intended) has been telling us all along — that certain foods are addictive, causing us to crave more and more, even at the expense of our well-being. According to a report of research presented at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience, not only did rats fed a high-fat, high-calorie diet compulsively overeat, they would even suffer a slight shock to get at the food.
What’s more, after 40 days of junk foods, the rats became literal junkies — refusing to eat nutritious food even though they were starving. Sigh. We (and too many of our kids) really have become like our rat junkie friends.
The good news is that, unlike caged lab rodents, we can control what goes into our mouths, however difficult it may be to begin. How? First, throw out what doesn’t work: general messages to “eat less, move more.” Why? Because fat begins at home. Everyone (not just the addicts), can wake up and recognize they have a role in creating a healthier (junkie-free) world.
We need better education all around, which is why we were so encouraged to read in the Wall Street Journal that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is giving grants to cities and towns for “community-based obesity prevention.” Rather than “normalize” much of today’s destructive eating patterns (you know, scenes of happy soft-drinkers and snackers), we should be showing all eaters what’s really going on and teaching them how to resist the pushers. We can wake up and learn enjoy eating out of the cage.