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Extinguish the Pilot Light

Posted on Sep 23, 2017 by in Food addiction recovery | 2 comments

(c) by Emily Boller


Image credit: Flickr by Samuel M. Livingston


I grew up on a farm. My dad always planted a large garden every spring.

It produced a bountiful harvest, and they preserved greens beans, tomatoes, tomato juice, cabbages, beets, carrots, corn, and pickles . . . enough to feed a family of seven through the winter months.

In fact, some of my favorite memories of summer were snapping beans and shucking corn.

Many farmhouses had a “summer kitchen.” It was a second kitchen–a large room away from the main part of the house–that was used for the hot process of canning glass jars of fresh produce. The house stayed cooler by not heating up the regular kitchen.

An old, gas stove sat in the corner of the room. My mom taught me from an early age to respect the hidden pilot light underneath the burner that remained continuously lit. As in all gas stoves, the pilot light could instantly ignite powerful flames in order to cook food.

My mom would strike a small, wooden match and hold it near the burner. As she carefully released gas via the stove knob turner, that tiny flame would explode into a large, circular flame, thanks to the hidden pilot light.


Image credit: Emily Boller


Getting out, and staying out of food addiction, has a lot of similarities to pilot lights, matches, and flames.

It is much easier and simpler to keep the pilot light of addictive cravings completely extinguished–by not compromising–than to be continually fighting obsessive compulsions that are brewing underneath the surface of one’s food addiction.

In fact, keeping a craving from becoming an all-consuming monster is a next-to-impossible feat to accomplish. It only takes the tiniest spark to ignite the pilot light of cravings to full power again, and that’s the most dangerous place to live.

One can do all the work of routinely preparing and eating nutrient-dense foods that squelch addictive cravings . . . but it may only take an emergency phone call, or a stress-filled day to ignite the raging flame of addiction within and unravel progress.

Just one bite of an addictive substance activates the dopamine reward system, causing the brain to demand more. “The science on food addiction has now established that highly palatable foods (low-nutrient, high-calorie, intensely sweet, salty, and/or fatty foods) produce the exact biochemical effects in the brain that are characteristic of substance abuse.” [1]

To get free–and stay free–from food addiction, we literally have to flood our body’s depleted nutritional stores with high-nutrient foods. Dr. Fuhrman recommends eating at least one pound of raw vegetables and one pound of cooked vegetables; one serving of cooked, starchy vegetables or whole grains; at least one cup of beans; at least four fresh fruits; 1 T. ground flax seeds; and one ounce of raw nuts and seeds, such as walnuts, almonds, pine nuts, cashews, sunflower, pumpkin, or sesame seeds every day. (We may eat more if we are maintaining or need to gain weight.) Eating these foods will naturally suppress our appetite for unhealthy junk food. [2]

At the same time we are flooding our bodies with these nutrient-rich foods, we also need to completely abstain from eating processed and addictive foods; the low-nutrient foods, such as bagels, chips, fries, hamburgers, subs, cheese, pizza, sodas, sweets, diet foods and drinks, cottage cheese, and pasta. These foods are the “pilot light foods” of addictive cravings.

Igniting them is just not worth it.

It is so much easier to keep the pilot light completely turned off than to continually fight the cravings.

If you are struggling with food addiction, reach out for assistance from likeminded friends for ongoing support to keep the flames extinguished. We gain strength to overcome when we reach out for help.

Here’s to freedom to all!


More encouragement for anyone escaping food addiction:

The Powerful Freedom of Abstinence

Radical Versus Middle-of-the-Road

Let’s Set the Record Straight

Why a Plant Based Diet Doesn’t Work for Some People


1. Deana Ferreri, Ph.D. “Why ‘just one bite’ doesn’t work,” December 21, 2011,
2. Joel Fuhrman, M.D., Eat to Live, (New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company, Revised edition, 2011), 311.

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  1. Amen and amen! I have lived through “oh, just a little will be okay.” And I paid the price of regaining weight I’d lost, but worse, I was back on the cravings wheel. And I hated that. It was an article you wrote, Emily, on this very topic of addiction that set me free. This November, my recommitment will be five years. I am so very grateful for your wisdom, Emily, and the grace of God.

    • “Craving wheel” . . . the perfect description for it!

      It makes me think of a hamster running rampant on a spinning wheel–and no way to stop.

      Congratulations on the soon-to-be, five-year milestone!

      But for the grace of God, we go! Here’s to continual commitment to excellent health!

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