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If you saw Neal Barnard, M.D., on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, you know that many people are hooked on unhealthy foods ranging from chocolate to cheese. Do you know that Ellen DeGeneres loves Oreo Sandwich Cookies? She's not alone. To some people, chocolate is an occasional treat. But for a true chocolate addict, it is a deep-seated need. It's even likely that someone you know has a food addiction that they are trying to break.

As Dr. Barnard discussed with Ellen and her audience, his research shows that diet and lifestyle changes can break these stubborn craving cycles. Evidence suggests that a hefty portion of our current epidemics of obesity, hypertension, diabetes, and other health problems are, in fact, nothing but the natural outcomes of food habits exerting their effects year after year.

In Dr. Barnard's book, Breaking the Food Seduction: The Hidden Reasons Behind Food Cravings-and Seven Steps to End Them Naturally, he outlines a path for conquering those unhealthy food addictions. In addition to fascinating insights into the chemical reasons behind cravings and important advice on how to halt kids' sugar cravings, Breaking the Food Seduction also offers these seven simple steps to break craving cycles:

1. Start with a good breakfast. Cutting hunger is the first step in cutting cravings.

2. Choose foods that steady your blood sugar. Beans, green vegetables, fruit, and whole grains help prevent blood sugar dips that can lead to cravings.

3. Eat at least 10 calories each day per pound of your ideal body weight. This tip is directed at calorie-cutting dieters who do not realize that, if they eat too little, their bodies stop making an appetite-controlling hormone called leptin. A person whose ideal weight is 150 pounds needs at least 1,500 calories per day, and probably much more.

4. Break out of craving cycles, which can occur daily, monthly (with a woman's cycle), or yearly (with the change in seasons). Monthly chocolate cravings, for example, can be reduced with a low-fat, vegetarian diet, which tends to reduce the hormone swings that lead to cravings. 

5. Exercise and rest are keys to restoring your physical resilience.

6. Use social support. Enlisting the help of friends and family makes changing habits much easier.

7. Take advantage of other motivators. New parents, for example, may decide to eat healthy foods not just for themselves, but for the sake of their children.

To enhance these seven steps, Breaking the Food Seduction also includes a detailed three-week kickstart program with dozens of gourmet "addiction-free" recipes, including Portobello Mushroom Steaks, Eggplant Pecan Pesto, Tunisian Potato Salad, Spicy Noodle Soup, and Carob Walnut Fudge. Dr. Barnard's "Three-Week Break" supports research that shows if you set aside an addicting food, such as chocolate, for three weeks, you crave it much less than if you had just had it yesterday.

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