Mar 11 2011

Christine Avanti explains food addiction and how you can get help

Celebrity Chef and nutritionist, Christine Avanti was our guest today and explained food to recognize the signs in yourself or someone you know and how you can get help.

Are you addicted to food?  


Dr. Nora Volkow’s research on drug and food addiction may shed some light on this complex subject.  


According to Volkow, with drug addition, the addict’s dopamine receptors in the brain which give off “reward” signals also known as a “high” are triggered by food and drugs.  When an individual takes drugs often enough the dopamine receptors can decrease in number or become less sensitive to dopamine.  At this point the brain needs more of the “drug” in order to produce that same feeling of “reward.”  This is how the addition grows and Dr. Volkow has noticed it with people who are addicted to food as well and drugs.  


In regards to food addiction Volkow says, “as a person eats a gallon of ice cream, they are not even realizing the taste of the food any longer, the behavior is automatic because the drive to have more and more is fueled by dopamine.”  It’s almost like becoming a robot.  


Volkow also noted in her research that obese people have fewer dopamine receptors need more food to produce the same “reward” response as a thinner person eating the same thing.  She says many drug addicts have the same low amount of dopamine receptors- also associated with low self control parts of the brain.  


Breaking the curse

Dr. Volkow says that fifty percent of food addiction vulnerability is related to genetics and the rest is environment.  If you feel like you have a food addition, you must keep your environment free of trigger foods and eat a balanced diet.  Here are a few tips on how to get your food addiction under control.


*anticipate moments of weakness

*keep your meals simple with only a few ingredients

*ban eating in the car or on the couch

*get enough sleep

*distress- keep your cool


For information on weight loss and healthy recipes check out



Yale University has created a Yale Food Addiction Scale to determine whether some is really addicted to food.  




Got a question about food for Christine? Maybe a recipe you love that you want her to "swap out" and make healthy? Feel free to share it here or email us at

If you missed Christine's visit this week, you can listen here.


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Comments (2) -

3/12/2011 9:37:34 AM
Heather Bell United States
Heather Bell
I was listening to Christine's show on being addicted to food.  I thought I was addicted to carbs.  Especially pasta and sugar.  

After speaking with a couple of psychologists that I work with, I went to see a psychiatrist because I was concerned about my dopamine levels being low because I suffer from chronic pain and pain depletes dopamine.  I was diagnosed bi-polar, which includes depleted levels (and damaged receptors) for both depamine and serotonin.  Add in my diabetes, and my body is literally screaming for carbs because 1) diabetes prohibits the body from using carbs efficiently and 2) carbs MAKE dopamine and serotonin in the body.  

My point of this is don't necessarily think that your craving is from bad habits or lack of will power.  You may have a biological REASON for craving that needs to be addressed medically and pharmaceutically.
3/16/2011 1:31:07 PM
Bonnie United States
I have recently read your book, Skinny Chicks Don't Eat Salads and I am currently following your food plans. I am on my second week. How do I know when I can eat a fruit and a healthy carb with my meals or snacks? The food menus lists them sometimes together and sometimes it's just a healthy carb. Also, when I have to get food out, say at subway, how am I to know what to have. Can I each all of the 6" sandwich and 10 baked chips or just the sandwich? I noticed at Panarea that it says 1/2 sandwich and a fruit cup. Can you please explain how I can figure out when to add fruit?
Thanks so much. I feel so much better already, although I am still hungry at times after eating my meal/snack. I am sharing your book with everyone I know.
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