Friday, July 17, 2009

Food Addiction and Sensory Issues

After I wrote yesterday's blog I started thinking about my strong preferences for spicy food and strong aversion to green peppers (not to mention raw carrots and celery.) I remember a few years back there was some buzz in the dieting community about controlling weight through scents or little drops of flavoring. Can't remember which it was but a drop was either tasted or sniffed and that was supposed to satisfy cravings.

I suspect that method backfired and sent many testees with food addiction racing to the nearest grocery store. The product never made it to the diet shelves, but I think that there may be some merit to the idea that food addicts have more sensitive taste buds.

I wondered if the fact that I crave certain tastes, smells, and textures was somehow related to being ADHD. ADHD can be closely related to sensory integration issues in people. People with sensory issues often find some things too overwhelming for their senses while craving sensory input in other areas. Their senses aren't balanced. When they crave sensory input they may try parachuting or some other highly stimulating and risky behavior. Other times they may find the presense of a lot of people and commotion overwhelming and need to get totally away from it.

I can relate to both sides of that. I love singing on praise teams, acting in skits and am quite comfortable talking with a mike in front of large groups of people. Something in me turns on. I like to hold people's attention and it's partly what makes me an effective teacher. Being on stage stimulates me, but being in a big crowd of people (unless I'm outdoors) can overwhelm me. I start feeling claustrophobic and need to get out of there. I'll go home after talking all day and listening to kids talk and then I go home and don't even want my poor husband to talk to me. I'm in recovery mode.

So it does not surprise me that I'm full of strong likes and dislikes when it comes to food. I now enjoy fish but the smell used to make me avoid it. I don't like the texture of larger shrimp, but I now eat baby shrimp. I have recently started liking nutty whole grain breads, so my tastes are changing or my sensory needs are diminishing.

I don't think you'll ever see me substituting carrots or celery for crunchy snacks. I'd rather just do without the crunchy snacks. In fact, you won't hardly every see me eating raw vegetables. I much prefer them cooked. And if you're going to cook them, cook them long enough to be able to get a fork in them. I hate it when my fork bounces off the cooked vegetables. I mean, why did anyone bother turning on the stove?

I'm watching the salt now because of my blood pressure but I think dieticians absolutely have it wrong when they say cook it without salt and add the salt later. If you don't cook with the salt the flavor doesn't get into the food and you end up adding more and more salt to try to get it there.

So where am I going with this? I think it could be that people with strong food cravings may be seeking sensory input. They may eat the things they know they're supposed to eat but then they go looking for the food they really were craving and don't stop eating it until that sensory issue is met. Diets fail because diet food doesn't provide the sensory input food addicts crave, and they frequently try to force food addicts to eat food they abhor just because its "good for them"

I'm glad I've got the band because if I get carried away be a craving, the band will tell me when I've satisfied the craving and give my brain time to catch up and acknowledge it. I believe it takes the brain 20 minutes to recognize satiety which is why people can continue eating even after being full. My band won't let me do that, especiallly if I'm filling it with protein first.

So what do I do about the sensory issues? I think excersize can be a big part of meeting those needs. Currently my arthitis is limiting me to walking, but at least its summer and I can walk outside and get the extra stimulation provided by the elements of sun, fresh air, green plants and trees, flowers, and nice scenery.

Playing games on Facebook at night, checking the lapbandtalk website, and blogging give me mental stimulation and keep my hands busy. I may have to invest in a Wii. I think I could get into that.

With our economic situation I'm pretty much reduced to what I can do at home or visiting grandchildren, but, as grandma, I don't have to clean their house or cook their food or do their laundry. I can go out and sit in the sandbox and build sand castles or take them for a walk to the park or to visit the "neigh-neighs" (horses.) I can wade in the pool with them and get into water fights. I can help them blow bubbles. I can get all the hugs and kisses I want. Talk about sensory input.

And let's not forget singing and dancing before the Lord. I can always do more of that.