Get the lowdown on the ketogenic diet, eating grains, and what to look for in a good dietitian in my interview with David Wolfe from Trigger Free Nutrition. David is based in Boston, US, and is one of the few registered dietitians specialised in helping people with food addiction.

What sparked your interest in food addiction?

Actually, my first interest in food addiction was ignited in my childhood. My mother has always considered herself a compulsive overeater and later came to realise that she was a food addict. This had a very large impact on my childhood. I have always loved food and have loved the gift of feeding others, but at the same time I love helping people and love a challenge. Food addiction work gives me the opportunity to combine all of these aspects. The reward of being able to help someone to achieve or strengthen their recovery, health, and wellbeing is a true gift.

Tell me about the kinds of food plans you would recommend for someone who is eating addictively?

I wish there was a simple answer and solution; however, the truth is, all of us are triggered by different foods, people, and/or situations. All of these factors have to be taken into account when creating a food plan. There are certainly some general principles I follow, but each person’s success depends upon looking at the individual’s needs and not relying on a standardised plan. The other very important thing to mention is my priority in encouraging the client to participate fully, not only as an active member of their own care and recovery but in the development of their plan.

What is your process in setting up a food plan for a client?

My process is very individualised and highly depends upon the client I have sitting in front of me. In reality, I believe the client plays just as an important and active role in this process as I do. I think willingness is one of the main frameworks on which a food plan must be built. Without the client’s willingness to move forward with the plan, even for a short period of time, e.g. 30 days, there will be very little chance of success.

Do you advocate a weighed and measured food plan; a common practice in food addiction recovery?

I hate to answer this way, but it really depends. For the most part, I feel it is important for individuals to know they are getting what they need, not less than they need and not more than they need. I feel that weighing and measuring is a great way for us black and white thinkers to know if we are meeting that goal. I have had some clients achieve great success without weighing and measuring, but I have to admit they are far fewer than those that have success using a digital food scale. I meet everyone where they are in their process. So, during an evaluation, I propose two questions, in the following order:

  1. Are you willing to weigh your food? If the answer is ‘yes,’ then they do. If the answer is ‘no,’ I follow it with question two.
  2. Are you willing to weigh your food for a short period of time, a week or two, or perhaps 30 days?

But what is most important is that my clients are active participants in developing their own food/care plans. Their responses strongly influence my decision.

What are ketones and what is ketosis?

To keep it as simple as possible, ketones are a form of energy that are the byproduct of the breakdown of fat. They are a fuel source that have been coming up a lot lately in the news and in the medical/health research, though we have known about them for a very long time. Ketosis is the process of the body using fat for energy, as opposed to carbohydrates or sugars for energy.

What do you think about the ketogenic diet for food addicts? Does it work for everyone?

Nothing works for everyone. There are always other options available. Have I seen keto work for food addicts? Yes, absolutely! Are their massive health benefits to living in ketosis? Yes, it can benefit not only our bodies but our minds. Is it for everyone? Absolutely not! No way! If we think about ketosis as a lifestyle, it means using fat for fuel and for most people, it means largely avoiding all carbohydrates. This translates into 30g or less of carbohydrates per day. But it can have tremendous results for some addictive eaters.

Some people are addicted to grains and they have to remove them from their food plan. Others don’t have trouble with grains. How do you know if you’re addicted to grains?

My best answer is to use the process of elimination. If one feels that grains are a problem, avoid them for a week or two (preferably with the guidance of a professional) and see how you feel. Initially, as the grain is leaving your system, you may feel more tired, more irritable, and notice an increase in brain fog. However, once the grain is out of your system, you may experience the opposite effects including increased energy, a decrease in mood swings, an increase in clarity along with a decrease in joint pain and inflammation and swelling. I would be failing at my job as a food addiction specialist if I did not boldly state the following: ‘If you are struggling to maintain your food plan, if you are fighting to stay on board in between meals, and if you feel life could be easier and notice being irritable and unreasonable with others, grains may be the problem.’ Removing them could change not only your ability to stay abstinent on your food plan but to change your interactions with others and outlook on your world. I know this is hard to believe, but I have seen this happen to countless clients. However, it must be done safely and healthily with a clinician who understands not only food addiction but also grain free eating and living. For these reason, I believe you are doing yourself a great disservice if you disregard grain free eating as an option. In my experience, this change has had the most profound effects on abstinence and quality of life.

There aren’t many dietitians who understand food addiction. What are some of the criteria that you think addictive eaters should look out for when choosing a dietitian to help address their addictive eating?

This is a great question. Here is a list of questions to ask anyone with whom you are considering working with:.

  1. Does the dietitian/nutritionist believe in the concept of food/eating as an addiction and that it is your drug of choice?
  2. Does the dietitian/nutritionist understand what it means to have a food addiction?
  3. Does the dietitian/nutritionist believe in abstinence as the primary treatment for food addiction?
  4. Does the dietitian/nutritionist understand what kind of secrets you have kept and lies you have told in reference to your food/eating?
  5. Does the dietitian/nutritionist understand that once you are triggered you will do nearly anything to fulfill your food cravings?
  6. Does the dietitian/nutritionist understand that you may require extraordinary support in order to sustain your food plan and your new way of life?

The one thing to always remember is that no matter who you decide upon, your recovery is your personal responsibility. Do not put it at unnecessary risk. You are worth more than that!