A lot of people find it very hard to change their diet. They have been practicing the same eating patterns for most of their life and even though this is causing dysfunction in their body, they …
My name is Patrick McGilvray, and I’m an experienced marathoner, ultra runner, Sports Nutritionist, Master Life Coach, and weight loss coach for runners. I’ve dedicated my life to helping runners just like you properly fuel your body and your mind. So you can get leaner, get stronger, run faster, and run longer than you ever thought possible. This is Running Lean.
Hey there, and welcome to episode 150 of Running Lean. My name is Patrick McGilvray, the weight loss coach for runners and today, do you have an addictive personality? So a lot of people find it very hard to change their diet, okay, they’ve been practicing the same eating patterns for most of their life.
And even though this might be causing some dysfunction in their body, they can’t lose weight, they’re gaining weight, they can’t seem to change anything. Why do they do this? Why can’t they just change? And a lot of times they’ll say it’s because they have a quote unquote, addictive personality. What does this mean? What is an addictive personality? Is this even a real thing? Are some of us just wired to eat junk food, and there’s nothing we can do about it?
So today, I want to unpack this kind of delicate topic, and help you to understand whether or not you have an addictive personality and what you might be able to do about it. And I get it, changing habits is hard. Changing your eating habits is really hard. Trying to do this all on your own is the hardest.
That’s why I do what I do as the weight loss coach for runners, I encourage you to do hard things to do things you might not want to do, or things you find very difficult to do on your own, like changing your habits around food, so that you can become the healthy fit runner that you’ve always wanted to be.
I know that there’s a version of you that you have in your mind, this vision that you have for yourself. And what I want to do, what I do every day is to help you to become that person. I help you to get the outside you to match the inside you. I want the way you look on the outside to match the way you feel about yourself on the inside.
So if you’re ready to get started becoming that healthiest version of you, then you’re ready for the Running Lean coaching project. This is my unique weight loss coaching program for runners where the project is you. To learn more, just go to runningleancoaching.com/apply and get started.
Alright, so do you have an addictive personality? The reason I’m talking about this today is because I hear a lot of people say this, they say oh, I can’t really change my eating patterns, I can’t really stop eating sugar, I can’t stop eating carbs because I have an addictive personality. And they use this as a reason for their, you know, overeating or over drinking or whatever it is.
So they engage in patterns of behavior that might be detrimental to their health and their fitness. And they can’t stop doing that behavior. And they’ve heard this term we’ve all heard this term, oh, I just have an addictive personality in there kind of using that as a catch all as an excuse for these patterns of behavior, okay.
Now, something I want to say here is a little bit of a disclaimer for this episode. I’m going to be talking about addiction, addictive personality behaviors. If you’re somebody who actually truly struggles with a diagnosed addiction, like if you’ve been clinically diagnosed with a substance abuse problem, you know, some sort of addiction, alcoholism or eating disorder, please seek professional medical help, okay, I’m not a doctor and nothing I say here should be construed as medical advice, cool? Okay.
So, what is this thing about addictive personality? What is an addictive personality? Is this a real thing? The short answer is no. Addiction and addictive behaviors are complex issues, very, very complex issues. But there is not one personality type that will always develop an addiction.
Addiction can affect anyone regardless of your personality. Okay, so some people can drink or use recreational drugs or eat sugar in moderation. They can do these things on occasion and they never develop any kind of addiction to these substances. Other people can try these things once and immediately develop an intense craving or an intense desire to try them again and again and again. And so the truth is this: that experts generally agree that, you know, addiction is much more complicated. It’s not a personality issue. Okay.
So I want to make sure we understand that, you know, just saying, like, oh, I have an addictive personality, it’s not, it’s not a real thing. Okay, now, let’s break this down a little bit here. Okay, so what, what is addiction? And the definition of addiction that I’m using here is addictive behaviors, okay? So behaviors that can be that we can kind of grow addicted to, okay, there’s many varying definitions of addiction. And it can be confusing to know what it is and what it isn’t. But the difference between, let’s say, somebody who’s just enthusiastic about something, and someone who’s addicted to something, is this and here’s a pretty simplified definition. But I like this definition here. I think it’s helpful.
If you have a healthy enthusiasm for food or alcohol, or shopping or whatever. And when you engage in these activities they add to your life, then that’s good. That’s a healthy enthusiasm. That’s not addiction. But if when you engage in these behaviors, it takes away from your life, if the behavior leads to negative consequences, it’s most likely an addictive behavior.
If the behavior lacks the negative consequences, or actually provides some positive results in your life, then it’s probably not an addiction. Okay. Another key factor in recognizing addictive behavior like compulsive eating, binge eating, binge drinking, is a feeling of being out of control.
A lot of people who actually struggle with addiction will report that a lot of times they feel this overwhelming sensation of being out of control, like their behavior is automatic, they don’t even know they’re doing it sometimes. And they feel out of control because they might start drinking or start eating something and they can’t stop. And that’s a very out of control feeling. Okay?
And there are many, many things in this world that we can become addicted to. I’m not just talking about drugs here. So food, alcohol, drugs, shopping, porn, social media, people are addicted to social media, they get a dopamine hit, when they open up their Instagram account, and they see they got 10 more followers or something, right? People get addicted to work. You ever heard of a workaholic, people can even get addicted to things that seem positive like working out or running.
There are people who use running as an escape from their life, they use it in a way that is a numbing, like we use alcohol or food to numb out. And then if it creates some negative consequences in your life, that may be an addictive behavior, maybe something you want to stop, stop doing. Okay? So if when you start engaging in a behavior, and you can’t stop it, or when you engage in certain behaviors, they have negative consequences they take away from your life, instead of adding to your life.
This may be addictive, this may be an addictive behavior that you’re engaging in. Okay. So what we’re really talking about here is not is not your personality, right? It’s your behavior. Now, there are things like genetics that may play a role in addiction. And there have been many, many studies about this, there might be some genes that play a role in addictive behaviors that might predispose you to obesity or alcoholism.
But listen, if you don’t drink alcohol, you don’t become an alcoholic, you’re not an alcoholic. Just because you have a gene doesn’t mean that that gene gets expressed or it doesn’t mean you’re engaging in that behavior. So you might have a gene that predisposes you to obesity, but if you don’t overeat, then you stay away from junk food, you know, you don’t become obese, you’re not you’re not obese, okay?
It’s just, we don’t want to look at these things and just say, well, this is oh, it’s just I’m, I’m wired this way, it’s in my DNA. I have this addictive personality and there’s just nothing I can do about it. So I want to kind of remove that idea from the equation here. Okay.
Now, I used to think that I had an addictive personality. And I came up with this idea or heard about this idea. When I was in my teens, I started drinking alcohol. I started smoking cigarettes. I started doing recreational drugs, you know, and and every time I tried something new like the first time I smoked a cigarette, or the first time I got high or the first time I drank alcohol, that feeling that I got that, the sensation that I got the lighting up of my brain, the high that I got from that substance was something that I immediately wanted more and more of.
So I’d like drink alcohol or, you know, smoke some pot or something like that. And as soon as that high wore off, I just, I needed that, again, I wanted to get it back again. And I did this repeatedly for many, many years. And my idea, my conclusion was that I had an addictive personality. So there’s just nothing I could do about it, I was just, you know, engaging in these behaviors regularly.
I was drinking, you know, smoking weed, I was smoking cigarettes, whatever, there’s nothing I could do about it. Because I had this personality. I was doomed to just be an addict, in one way or another, my whole life. And I thought this for forever. You know, until really, until I was in my 40s. When I was 40 years old, I decided that I had had enough of drinking, and I quit. And I had quit smoking some years before that, but, and stopped doing drugs. So I want to make it very clear that I haven’t done any kind of recreational drugs in decades, right?
But you know, the last thing was really the alcohol, it took me until I was like 40, to decide that I wasn’t going to engage in this behavior anymore. So over time, I was able to break each of these addictions to break the patterns of addiction, right, some took longer than others, you know, food, food was actually probably the last one for me.
And for me, like, once I stopped drinking, I started eating more and you know, gained a lot of weight doing that I used food, kind of the similar way that I used alcohol. And really, the food was the last thing for me. And that was just about three years ago that I stopped using food in an obsessive-compulsive, addictive way. And so here’s what I found out. And this is what I’ve discovered, that was really what was really going on with me, okay, so it’s not my personality. I’m not just an addict, and I’m doomed.
You know, the reason I’m engaging in this addictive behavior is not because of genes or my heredity, heredity, or you know, my parents or whatever, all those things might play a role. It was just conditioning. It was just conditioning, I learned that certain things make my brain light up like a Christmas tree. When I drink alcohol, when I eat sugar, I get the rush of dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, endorphins. And my brain loves this feeling and feels so amazing.
And as soon as that effect wears off, I just wanted to give in. And so the desire within me grows, the cravings become more intense, and my brain wants that rush again, I want to feel good again. And so I just gave it what I wanted all the time. And I reinforced the feeling, I reinforced the desire with a reward.
Every time I had the desire, I rewarded that desire with the dopamine, the serotonin, all the you know, the chemicals that get released when eating sugar or drinking alcohol. And, and I wrote, I did this over and over and over again. And it was a cycle, right? So, you use food or alcohol to feel good, and then that effect wears off, the desire intensifies, and you seek the reward again, and that’s the cycle of addiction.
So the more I continued to reward myself with my quote, unquote, like drug of choice, the more I needed it, the more I needed it, the more I had to have it, and then blah, blah, blah, it was just unending. So this isn’t a personality disorder I’m describing here. This is not a personality disorder. This is a learned behavior. This is something that I practiced over and over and over again for decades, especially in the case of alcohol, especially with food.
And this behavior, for me, felt comfortable, familiar, and safe to my brain. My brain was like, This feels good. It’s like putting a warm blanket on, you know, in the winter, and putting on that soft, comfortable sweater. So your brain is always seeking pleasure and avoiding pain. Your brain just wants you to feel good.
And engaging in addictive behavior, even though it comes with all the negative consequences. It’s very pleasurable to your brain. Your brain just wants to feel good right now, at any cost. Drug addicts will do horrible things to get their drug of choice and from the outside, you see this unconscionable behavior? And you think, how can they do that? How can they hurt themselves? How can they hurt others? How can they break the law? How can they do that to the people that love?
But the reality is that drug, that high, that thereafter is way more important than anything or anyone else. That’s how powerful your brain is. That’s how powerful the drug’s effect is on your brain. And it’s really not the drug itself, but it’s the effect that the drug has on the brain. You’re always seeking pleasure and avoiding pain.
Well, this is intense pleasure that they’re going after, and they crave that over everything else. Okay. Alright, so you might be thinking, saying, like, how does this relate to me, Patrick? I’m not some opioid addict stealing my grandmother’s pain medication to get high. But there’s liquor, let me bring this all home here, okay. There’s a way that this pertains to most of us, okay.
Food has a very, very similar effect, right? It’s probably not as intense as drugs, but it is very addictive. Sugar is highly addictive. Carbs are highly addictive. It’s all just sugar, right and varying degrees of concentration, carbohydrates, sugars, a carbohydrate. There’s just all carbs, right. And we are a nation of people who love our carbs.
And we love to numb ourselves. And we use cards to numb ourselves, we use food, and alcohol and drugs and everything else to numb ourselves, right food is probably the most prevalent thing that we use, though. We numb ourselves to the perceived pain that we see out there in the world. If we experience stress, or anger, or frustration, or sadness, or guilt or shame, we don’t want to feel any of that stuff. That’s all painful. We just want to feel good.
So we’ve conditioned ourselves to numb those feelings with, you know, a variety of substances and food being one of the most prevalent, okay, so we’re talking about, we’re not talking about numbing out with food, like asparagus and chicken like that’s, nobody does that, right? It’s the highly pleasurable foods that we use, like a drug because they light up our brain like a drug. Sugar lights up more areas of the brain and stimulates more pleasure areas of the brain than cocaine does. They’ve done studies that show this.
So it’s those highly pleasurable foods that were after sugar, refined carbs in all their various forms. And I call this stuff carbage. So if you find yourself using carbage, as a means of numbing yourself, it’s time to stop doing that. You have to break the cycle of addiction at some point in time, you’re going to have to stop numbing, and start feeling. Now this is easier said than done. I get that. Because you’ve conditioned yourself to not feel.
So feeling an emotion, especially what we call negative emotions, like you know, guilt, shame, anger, frustration, sadness, stress. This is something we’ve gotten really good at avoiding, we will do almost anything to not have to feel one of these negative emotions. No one wants to feel stress or sadness. So just go eat something and you don’t have to feel any of that stuff. Okay? But does this really work?
Maybe for a minute. But then there’s this insidious thing that happens. So it actually creates a counter effect, there is an opposite effect that happens. So you feel stress, you feel sadness, you know, whatever, you eat some sugar, it lights up your brain and you feel bliss, it feel good for a few minutes, until that effect wears off your blood sugar crashes, you begin to feel depressed, you feel even more stressed.
Now the sadness comes back even even more intensely. And now, it’s coupled with the fact that you binge out on on a bunch of Halloween candy or whatever. And so your stress levels become even more amplified, or those negative emotions become more amplified. So now what do you do? Now you’re feeling even worse. So yeah, you go back to the candy bowl, you go back to that big bowl of Halloween candy, you just start diving in, you just start eating more and more and more. And the cycle continues.
So the answer here is you have to break the cycle. You have to stop eating the carbage you have to stop numbing yourself. You have to start learning how to feel instead of you know, not feeling this is not easy to do. I’m not going to Candy Coat and say like, oh, this is so simple. It’s not easy. It’s a simple concept. Yep. It’s not easy, it takes time it takes practice.
But I promise you, this is one of the most powerful life skills that you can and should master. If you’re willing to experience any emotion, good or bad, negative or positive, there’s nothing you can do. You can achieve anything that you want for yourself. break the cycle of addiction, it’s not a personality problem.
You don’t have an addictive personality, you’ve just conditioned yourself to use food or whatever, to feel better. That’s it. So here’s your work. Here’s what you need to do. You need to look at what you’re currently doing. Start by looking at your current eating patterns. Really look honestly, at what you’re eating everything. What foods are you eating? When and what times of the day? How often? How much? When do you go for the carbage? And ask yourself, am I eating to numb out right now? What am I feeling right before I binge out on my kids’ Halloween candy?
And this is just the first step. This is like step one, but we’ve got to understand why you’re doing what you’re doing. And you have to understand, if you are using food to numb yourself. This is what I call radical self awareness. It’s a very, very important first step. It’s the first step to changing any kind of behavior, radical self awareness. Okay, this is your work. This is what I want you to focus on this week.
Okay. And like I said earlier, if you’re really struggling with addiction or substance abuse, you know, you need to seek out professional help. But if you want to break the cycle of emotional eating, you want to learn how to stop numbing yourself with food. I got you. Okay, that’s all I got for you today. Love you all. Keep on Running Lean, and I’ll talk to you soon.
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