Giving Up Fatty Foods May Cause Withdrawal

You’ve tried giving up bacon double-cheeseburgers, but you keep backsliding within days. You might have something in common with people who struggle to quit smoking, stop drinking, or kick heroin: You could be going through withdrawal.

Keep The Flavor, Lose the Cholesterol

Of (Fat-Addicted) Mice and Men

Past studies in animals showed that a tasty, high-fat diet can cause chemical changes in the brain similar to those caused by addictive drugs. Now a new study has shown that giving mice fatty food and then taking it away can lead to behavior that looks an awful lot like drug withdrawal.

Researchers from the University of Montreal fed mice either a high-fat diet or a low-fat diet for six weeks. During this time, mice in the high-fat group not only gained weight, but also acted anxious, apathetic, and hypersensitive to stressful situations.

Then both groups of mice were switched to ordinary chow. In mice coming off the high-fat diet, withdrawal only magnified their vulnerability to stress.

Just like in people, this seemed to touch off a vicious cycle of poor eating. The mice going through withdrawal became super-motivated to get their paws on fatty, sugary food.

7 Foods to Calm Your Mind

Surviving Cheeseburger Withdrawal

Sound a lot like someone you know? The jury is still out on whether people can become physically addicted to high-fat foods. But if you’re planning to swear off fatty foods for the new year, it can’t hurt—and might help—to arm yourself with strategies for coping with withdrawal.

People quitting smoking do this, and you can borrow a page from their playbook. To manage anxiety caused by withdrawal from nicotine, the National Cancer Institute offers the following recommendations:

  • Do something physically active.
  • Limit caffeinated coffee, tea, and soda.
  • Set aside some quiet time every day.
  • Practice meditation or deep breathing.
  • Relax with a massage or hot bath.

Your brain and body might protest when you first take away those yummy, fatty treats. Remind yourself that this will pass. In the long run, your brain and body will thank you for it.

10 Simple Ways to Relieve Stress


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