Food Addiction – The Real Thing?



I joke about food addiction all the time, but it is a real thing. I didn’t realize how real until I read the latest issue of Experience Life Magazine, a publication put out by Lifetime Fitness, the gym where I donate $162 each month.


Dr. Mark Hyman’s article, “Beating Food Addiction” simplifies what can be a mystifying problem for many people. Food addiction must affect many, considering 70 percent of Americans are overweight. Why else do so many of us “eat foods that we know aren’t good for us, that aggravate chronic symptoms, and that make us feel sick, bloated, and guilty?”

The answer is tricky, but we are biologically programmed to eat sugar- and fat-laden foods and store the extra calories (as fat) to carry us through the times when food is scarce. But the food we are storing on the inside is never used, because we live in the 21st century and not in a cave. I do know some people that should live in a cave, but that’s not what this is about.

According to Dr. Hyman, it’s biology that’s getting the best of us. “What saved us as hunter-gatherers is killing us now,” he writes. Well-said, and pretty sad.

So how do you know if you have a food addiction and not just an unhealthy love of potato chips? You can take a look at Dr. Kelly Brownell’s nine points below – the more intensely or more frequently you experience these feelings and behaviors, the more addicted you are. (FYI: I am in some major trouble here.)

  1. You consume certain foods even if you are not hungry because of cravings.
  2. You worry about cutting down on certain foods.
  3. You feel sluggish or fatigued from overeating.
  4. You have health or social problems (affecting school or work) because of food
issues and yet keep eating the way you do despite negative consequences.
  5. You have spent time dealing with negative feelings from overeating certain foods instead of spending time in important activities with family, friends, work, or recreation.
  6. You have had withdrawal symptoms such as agitation and anxiety when you cut down on certain foods (not including caffeinated drinks such as coffee, tea, and energy drinks).
  7. Your behavior with respect to food and eating causes you significant distress.
  8. Issues related to food and eating decrease your ability to function effectively in your daily routine, at your job or school, and in social or family activities.
  9. You need more and more of the foods you crave to either experience any pleasure and/or reduce negative emotions.

So now what? Dr. Hyman recommends a comprehensive detox, not just eliminating a few trigger foods. A 10-day, cold turkey detox that eschews gluten, dairy, alcohol, caffeine, and sugar and celebrates lean protein, nuts, fruits, vegetables and water.

This is nothing new. We all know this and we don’t all do this and why? Because we’ve been drinking the Kool-Aid – literally – for years. We have been ingesting a drug in the form of something as innocent-looking as a vitamin water. It’s not our fault necessarily, but it is our problem.

Dr. Hyman’s book and supporting articles offer a bit of hope by simplifying the reason behind food issues, eliminating the guilt associated with them, and offering steps towards success.

Heidi Wachter tried Dr. Hyman’s detox and shared her daily insights. Reading about her experience was inspiring, until the part when she mentioned she’s been trying to “put on weight.” So then I hated her. But just for a second.

I originally wrote this post with a plan to post one of Dr. Hyman’s recipes, but if you are serious about attempting his plan, one little recipe is not going to help. So check out some of the resources he offers and fill us in on your success.

Epicurean has and always will offer a variety of foods and we never label things as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ for our guests since we are all different cavemen and cavewomen. But – writing this blog reminded me of the importance of enjoying good food in any situation, while also being true to yourself and your needs. That’s why we encourage our guests to speak up when they need or want something different on their plate or at their table. And we won’t send you back to your cave just for asking.

You Ate What?


I have a confession: I like my in-laws. I know, it’s soooo not the cool thing to do. In-law issues keep advice columnists and wine shops in business. But mine are energetic, kind, patient, funny people who love my children unconditionally, striving only to make my gaggle of four happy.

Sound too good to be true?


As dictated by the laws of grandparenting, my in-laws enjoy providing my tykes with what they call treats. Treats come in the form of sleepovers and movie marathons and board games and ice cream cones and that’s all fine and dandy. I can even sort of look past the gumball machine in their basement that spits out jelly beans for free.

Then, last week, they picked up three out of the four from school (the littlest was already with them) and – as usual – my kiddos expected a treat. Into McDonald’s they went for what? Oh – well –let me just tell you. Two double cheeseburgers, fries, “one of those new green smoothies” (according to Caroline, talking about the get-em-while-they-last Shamrock Shakes) and forty Chicken McNuggets. Yes. You read that right. Four-Zero. 40. Forty.

Um, what?

As many of you know, I do have a sugar addiction that I am working through with some self-help books and a package of Girl Scout cookies, but in general I am pretty particular about the food and drink in my house. That’s why I love working and writing for Epicurean. They whip up the most delectable dishes but never fall back on the fake stuff. It’s good food that just tastes way, way better than when I make it.

My in-laws internally roll their eyes at my endeavors to keep my kids and my kitchen healthy. My father-in-law is not a fan, refusing to eat turkey burgers or sunflower butter. But, the food at our house is usually organic and real (and expensive – but I will save that for another blog). Sodas are scarce, as are Doritos, (mostly because GOD what a mess, and don’t get me started on the breath) juice boxes filled with high-fructose corn syrup and any cereal with a tiger or a captain on the front.

So when I heard that my kids had inhaled a week’s worth of fat and sugar in one sitting not because they were hungry, but because they had their grandparents wrapped around their little fingers, I was a little sick. And angry. Not angry at my in-laws, but at my children. They know better! It was as if they saw their chance and took it thinking: How many Chicken McNuggets will it take before I either vomit or someone makes me stop? Let’s just see….

But if you can’t beat them, join them, right? The treats aren’t going away. Nor should they. My own mother spoils my children just as much, but with excessive amounts of  shoes. And then dresses. And then some hair bows. And books. And pajamas. This is because she never eats, so feeding them junk wouldn’t even occur to her, as she’s too busy organizing (and re-organizing) their closets. And mine (and the neighbor’s.) We all have our issues.

This got me thinking: What is the best worst thing you can eat? Well, first let’s talk about the five WORST things to eat: donuts, soda, French fries, potato chips and processed meat top the list. No surprise there. And while we all know that choosing a salad at the drive-thru is a much better choice than, say, anything with the word ‘deluxe’ in the title, it’s probably not going to fly as a ‘treat.’ Nor is the baked potato at Wendy’s or the Subway sandwich. Let’s get serious:

The Shamrock Shake at McDonald’s has a whopping 530 calories, 15 grams of fat and 86 (yep) grams of carbs.

The McDonald’s Fruit N’ Yogurt Parfait weighs in at 150 calories, 2 grams of fat and 30 grams of carbs. Not so bad when you want to be bad, but not too bad.

The Wendy’s Jr. Frosty Original? 200 calories, 5 grams of fat, and 32 grams of carbs. Doable, not deathly.

TCBY Yogurt, due to the variety, lists nutritional value for all their concoctions separately, but 4oz of the chocolate flavor is 110 calories, 1.5 grams of fat, and 23 grams of carbs. Reasonable, yes, just watch out for those toppings (damn you toppings!).

After finding this information, I was feeling slightly less sick and a little more hopeful. Then I boldly checked on Burger King’s chocolate chip cookies, which was a mistake. At 440 calories and a staggering 16 grams of fat, I can only think “what a waste!” I’d rather have four frozen yogurts for that, plus I have the aforementioned Girl Scout Cookies to resist at home.

The good news is that this is America and we have choices. The bad news is that this is America and we might have too many choices. I’d rather see my children eating an ice cream cone from a local confectionary than watch them eat a handful of Skittles. When it comes to real versus fake real always wins, except in beauty contests and reality shows. At least ice cream comes from milk and sugar instead of wherever Skittles come from (where do they come from?)

At the end of the day, I am all for a treat – within reason. Forty Chicken McNuggets is not reasonable. Nor is the Shamrock Shake and double cheeseburger that accompanied them. Cold treats, like the yogurt sundaes and mini Frosty seem the smartest, least frightening of the bunch. The author of Eat This, Not That is a quasi-genius, helping the average Joe swap out an unhealthy choice for something less scary. Take a look at his list here, and in the meantime, forget about that Shamrock Shake – it will be back next year. I promise.

Nuts for Coconut Oil – Yes, It’s That Good.


I just bought a tub of coconut oil and my obsession with it can only be compared with purchasing a golden Labrador puppy. I wake up thinking about the coconut oil. I manage to work the coconut oil into most conversations. I ooh and ahh over the coconut oil. I am smitten, to say the least.

I am learning that coconut oil can be used for basically everything. I think it might even get the government shut-down reversed. If I really did have a puppy, I’d put coconut oil in his food. I’ve considered getting one of those old-school fanny packs to keep my newfound love close by, considering running up and down the stairs every time I need it is exhausting, but really good for the quads. But don’t worry about me; I can use coconut oil for sore muscles!!! It’s a miracle. I just learned that you can use coconut oil to condition guitar strings??!! I am so getting a guitar.

The thing is, I work for Epicurean Culinary Group and this is a catering blog and my passion (besides coconut oil) is food. Alas, I do not have a puppy. And I am not a personal trainer. So while you can use this lovely oil for pets and pecs, I am sharing some simple uses for coconut oil in the kitchen. Here goes:

Eat It:

Need a boost of energy?  Down a couple of spoonfuls of coconut oil and voila. Plus, it satisfies a sweet tooth. Not as much a Snickers Bar, but … still.

Bake It:                

Use coconut oil instead of butter. It’s that simple.

Sauté It:

Coconut oil performs well under pressure. Really. Coconut oil handles high temperatures well, making it ideal for sautéing fish, meats, vegetables and eggs.

Dress It:

Use coconut oil instead of other oils. Just make sure your dressing is kept above 76 F degrees so that the oil does not solidify.

Spread It:

Spread coconut oil on toast, add a sprinkle of cinnamon and enjoy. This makes a great after-school snack for the short set. I have proof.

Blend It:

Add coconut oil to smoothies and shakes. Sweet and healthy. Here’s a favorite recipe:

Peanut Butter Cup Smoothie

Prep time: 5 minutes | Serves: 1

  • 1 cup chocolate milk (we use chocolate-flavored almond milk)
  • 2 Tb natural peanut butter
  • 1/4 of a medium avocado
  • 1 Tb honey or agave
  • 1 tsp coconut oil
  • 1/2 frozen banana
  • Blend all ingredients with a handful of ice and enjoy

Let us know how you incorporated coconut oil into your life by posting on Facebook. I am currently admiring my mega-moisturized hands while typing this blog. This is what love at first sight feels like.

I’m off to recondition my outdoor teak table with…well, you know.

Shake It Up This Valentine’s Day

Want to start your Valentine’s Day off with something sweet? This berry breakfast shake is delicious and nutritious; and who doesn’t love that? Plus, wouldn’t you rather kick-off the holiday with this heart-healthy concoction rather than a handful of stale candy hearts and a box of chocolates? On second thought, don’t answer that. But make the shake – and drop the candy.

SweetHeart Shake for Two
Prep time: 2 minutes | Blend time: 2 minutes | Serves: 2

  • 4 large kale leaves
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 1 cup frozen or fresh strawberries
  • 1 cup frozen or fresh blackberries or blueberries
  • 1 cup fat-free plain yogurt
  • 1 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
  • 1 tbs cinnamon
  • 1 tbs honey
  • Blend washed kale and coconut milk in a blender until finely ground
  • Add berries, yogurt, orange juice, cinnamon and honey and blend well until all ingredients are combined
  • Sip your heart out

Why So Whiney?


There are some ideas that you just SO wish you had thought of-the light bulb, the wheel, fire, the iPad. I was recently helping a friend plan her summer nuptials and looking for some fresh ideas. When I read the phrase “wine smoothie” on a wedding website I was, needless to say, totally on board. With less of an alcoholic punch than cocktails made with rum and tequila, the wine smoothie is hip enough for your, well, hip guests and safe enough for your I’m-so-old-I-might-break-a-hip family members. I’m not naming names but…

Due to my high-profile job as Epicurean‘s blogger, I took it upon myself to concoct a few of these treats. Here’s a recipe that’s cool, literally, in oh so many ways:

  • One bottle Rosé or Chardonnay of your choice
  • Two mangos, peeled and sliced
  • One small jar of crushed pineapple with the juice
  • Ice

Blend all ingredients until desired consistency, place contents in freezer until slushy. Don’t worry, the smoothie won’t freeze due to the alcohol content. But now I’m thinking about wine popsicles. Stay Tuned.

Stephanie Blackford
Communications Director, Epicurean Culinary Group