Addictive foods will make you fat

It’s pretty easy to identify the foods that are addictive. They are the ones that people “can’t stop eating.” This is a circular definition. “Addictive” means that you can’t stop doing something. You can’t stop doing it even when you know that you want to stop it, or that it’s harming you.

But what makes addictive foods different from others? Why does a tub of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream or a Krispy Kreme hook you in a way that plain steak or steamed broccoli don’t?

Nobody “can’t stop eating” steak. Yes, you can eat a huge steak when you’re famished. Most people love the taste and enjoy eating steak. But once you feel full, you’re full. When you’re full you don’t feel a powerful urge to eat more and more steak. A lot of foods are like this – especially whole, natural foods. When was the last time you binged on plain, unsalted boiled potatoes or steamed whitefish?

What are the foods that people can’t resist? Chips, pizza, donuts, candy bars, ice cream, pastry, cake, etc. What are the common features of these foods?

  • They are energy dense. They are high in calories per gram or ounce.
  • They combine carbohydrates and fat in a single food. The carbs may be sugar or starch or both.
  • They are low in protein and fiber.
  • They contain concentrated energy: refined sugar, flour, and/or concentrated oils and fats.
  • They are sweet and/or salty. They have strong natural or artificial flavors that make them pleasurable to eat.

These traits make food addictive. The more of them a food has, the more habit-forming it is.

Food scientists and engineers understand this. They run scientific trials on foods to see which ones people like more. Look at a typical appetizer at a chain restaurant. For example, take the legendary “Bloomin’ Onion” from Outback Steakhouse. It’s breaded (carbs) and deep fried (fat). The onion on the inside and the creamy (fat) dipping sauce are sweet (sugar). The dish is salty and spicy, and the dipping sauce has a smoky flavor with spice as well. It’s a perfect storm of the addictive factors listed above.

This dish is hardly unique. Many, even most, restaurant appetizers combine the above factors. And why shouldn’t they? The restaurant is a business. The restaurant owners want to make customers happy with their meal. and return to spend more money.

High energy density makes foods desirable to the brain at an unconscious level. The starch and sugar digests right away. It provides a quick dopamine hit to the brain. The fat is pleasurable to eat and also signals to the brain that this is a “good” food. These traits make you want to keep eating the food to keep the pleasure flowing.

Low protein and fiber trick the digestive system and brain. They make the natural “stop eating, I’m full” signal take a long time to activate. That means that you can keep eating and never feel satisfied or full. As the potato chip ad says: “betcha can’t eat just one.”

Let’s look at the opposite case: foods that are satisfying but not addictive. Imagine a bodybuilder’s meal of plain grilled chicken breast and steamed broccoli. If you’re very hungry, this meal will taste good and fill you up. The protein in the chicken and the fiber in the broccoli guarantee that. Once you’ve eaten enough, you don’t feel an insatiable urge for more chicken and broccoli.

What are the common features of non-addictive foods? These features are the opposite to their counterparts above.

  • They are low-energy per gram or ounce (“low energy density”).
  • They are high in protein or fiber.
  • They are low in fat and digestible carbohydrates.
  • They are in or close to their natural state.

When you eat these foods, you get full. When you eat a reasonable serving of low-fat cottage cheese or steamed broccoli, you get full. You don’t crave more of the same. Even when you do overeat a bit, you notice it and stop.

For most of us, the best path to a healthy weight and body composition is whole, natural foods. This is true regardless of your diet pattern and habits. It doesn’t

Some people are able to moderate their consumption of addictive foods. These are the “naturally thin” folks who can enjoy a small taste of a dessert or a single square of dark chocolate.

For everyone else, the solution to addiction is simple: to quit.

A boring and uneventful covid memoir

Visualization of SARS-Cov-2 virus.

The whole story

After some minor cold symptoms and feeling run down, my wife Erika tested positive for covid on Tuesday, May 10, 2022. I am writing this three weeks later, on Tuesday, May 31, 2022. The main goal of writing all this down is to remember some of the small details that would otherwise be lost in time.

She was extremely tired and stayed in bed for the entire following day and night (Wednesday, May 11). She felt better and was able to resume normal household activities after about 24 hours in bed. However, she was still tired and feeling sick.

The “covid-negative” members of our family went to Chick-fil-A on Thursday evening for dinner. We intended to give Erika some space and peace and quiet as she continued to recover. That didn’t go as planned. Our youngest child threw up on me right when we got in the line to order food. I cleaned us both up as well as I could using the sink in the men’s room. After that, we got our food from the drive-thru instead. All the children tested positive that same evening (Thursday, May 12). I tested negative.

At work, I noticed some symptoms on Friday, May 13. I felt very tired and noticed minor muscle aches. I started to suspect that I might have covid. Or maybe it was just bad luck.

Is that two lines or just one? It’s kind of hard to tell.

The following day – Saturday, May 14 – I took a covid test and it was decisively positive. It had a very dark “T” (test) line that appeared almost immediately. It looked like somebody had written on the test window with a Sharpie. I didn’t need anything close to the full fifteen minutes to know it was a positive test. My own early symptoms were similar to those that our children also had. The symptoms were generally minor and limited to muscle ache and fatigue.

On the night of Sunday, May 15, I went to bed in our guest bedroom. I was under my usual 20 pound weighted blanket. I woke in the middle of the night feeling extremely cold. That is very strange for me. If I ever feel uncomfortable when I’m sleeping, it’s almost always because I feel too hot. After I added an extra blanket on top, I slept well. I woke up later than usual on Monday, May 16, and felt well-rested and comfortable in bed. The muscle aches felt like I had done a good but difficult workout a couple of days prior.

My main symptoms, minor as they were, persisted for about 3-4 days.

After that, I had a persistent cough for several days. My symptoms in the middle or lower respiratory system did not really start until around day 4 or 5. I continued coughing up a lot of mucus for about a week after the cessation of initial symptoms. My feelings of fatigue and low energy persisted for around the same length of time.

Medications and at-home treatment

Since early on in the pandemic, I had augmented my daily vitamins and dietary supplements to include several supplements that had good anecdotal results for covid prevention and/or treatment. Prior to covid entering our house I was already taking the following:

  • Multivitamin
  • Vitamin D3/K2 (10000 IU D3, 180 micrograms K2)
  • Zinc (30 mg blended – acetate, orotate, picolinate)
  • NAC (N-acetyl-L-cysteine)
  • Quercetin

I had been taking the multivitamin, D3/K2, and zinc for many years prior to covid. After the start of the pandemic, I added in the NAC and quercetin based on a few things I had read.

After Erika tested positive on May 10, I started these additional treatments for prophylaxis:

  • Ivermectin (30 mg / day, taken with a high-fat meal to increase absorption)
  • L-Arginine (2000 mg / day, taken on an empty stomach in the morning and evening)

After I tested positive for covid four days later, I increased my ivermectin dosage from 30 mg/day to 45 mg/day, with no change to the method of administration (15 instead of 10 standard 3 mg tablets, still taken with lunch, my main high-fat meal of the day). I left the L-arginine dosage unchanged, although I was not very consistent about this supplement.

I also tried the so-called “vitamin D hammer” a couple of times. This simple DIY treatment is a single large dose of vitamin D3. I used 100000 IU which is ten times greater than my usual daily dose and over 150 times greater than the (dangerously low) RDA. Some reports suggest that this treatment is effective against common respiratory infections like colds and flu. Because of this, people also speculate that it might be effective against covid as well. In any case, a substantial and growing body of research points out the strength of the correlation between vitamin D deficiency and adverse covid outcomes.

That said, it’s hard to know on the scale of an individual patient (me) whether a given intervention actually made a difference. You can’t rerun the experiment with a different timeline to see if would have unfolded differently. The vast majority of patients have minor cases and make a full recovery. Because of this, you need very large sample sizes to give studies enough power to resolve the effectiveness of interventions. Because most people get better with little or no intervention, you need a big population group to demonstrate tangible benefit against severe disease and death.

Summary

So what did I learn from the past two weeks? Well, if I hadn’t known that covid existed, or if we had gone through this situation in 2019, I would have assumed we had all contracted some sort of strange, late-spring cold or flu. The symptoms were minor for all of us.

We showed no issues with blood oxygenation that might have indicated serious risk to the cardiopulmonary system. None of us had any difficulty breathing or other serious symptoms. It wasn’t very much fun (so it’s not like we want to repeat the experience) but it was certainly very different from what most of us were imagining in the middle of 2020.

We are grateful that we had age and general good health on our side. Being in very low risk groups, the chance of a bad outcome was also low. As everybody knows, this was not true for all, and many people have suffered badly and even died from their covid experience.


Date and timeDosage
2022-05-10 163030 mg ivermectin
2022-05-10 203010 mg melatonin, 1500 mg L-arginine
2022-05-11 08001500 mg L-arginine
2022-05-11 130030 mg ivermectin
2022-05-11 213010 mg melatonin, 1500 mg L-arginine
2022-05-12 08001500 mg L-arginine
2022-05-12 130030 mg ivermectin
2022-05-12 210010 mg melatonin, 1500 mg L-arginine
2022-05-13 07201500 mg L-arginine
2022-05-13 1240 30 mg ivermectin
2022-05-13 15001000 mg acetaminophen
2022-05-13 210010 mg melatonin, 1500 mg L-arginine, 1000 mg acetaminophen
2022-05-14 10303000 mg L-arginine, 1000 mg acetaminophen
2022-05-14 1200POSITIVE TEST
2022-05-14 1230 45 mg ivermectin
2022-05-14 14301000 mg acetaminophen
2022-05-14 210010 mg melatonin, 3000 mg L-arginine, 1000 mg acetaminophen
2022-05-15 07302000 mg L-arginine
2022-05-15 0830sinus med (650 mg acetaminophen, 400 mg guaifenesin, 10 mg phenylephrine)
2022-05-15 113045 mg ivermectin
2022-05-15 203010 mg melatonin, 2000 mg L-arginine, 1000 mg acetaminophen
2022-05-16 07302000 mg L-arginine
2022-05-16 124545 mg ivermectin, 1000 mg acetaminophen
2022-05-16 213010 mg melatonin, 2000 mg L-arginine, 1000 mg acetaminophen
2022-05-17 05002000 mg L-arginine
2022-05-17 124545 mg ivermectin, 100000 IU vitamin D
2022-05-17 213010 mg melatonin, 2000 mg L-arginine, 1000 mg acetaminophen
2022-05-18 07002000 mg L-arginine, 1000 mg acetaminophen
2022-05-18 133045 mg ivermectin
2022-05-18 210010 mg melatonin, 2000 mg L-arginine, 1000 mg acetaminophen
2022-05-19 06002000 mg L-arginine
2022-05-19 143045 mg ivermectin, 100000 IU vitamin D
Table 1. Medicine and supplement log