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Celebrity trainer Jim Karas explores the cause behind — and potential cure for — food addiction

Think thin: Jim Karas poses front “The Thinker” Musee RodRodMuseum Paris last week.

Think thin: Jim Karas poses in front of “The Thinker” at the Musee Rodin Rodin Museum in Paris last week.

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Updated: October 18, 2013 2:25PM

Addiction. We’ve all been touched by it personally, professionally or via the media. Last month, we learned the talented young “Glee” star Cory Monteith died from an overdose that stemmed from his drug addiction, following in the footsteps of Whitney before him. We watched Tiger struggle and maybe recover. Anthony Weiner — really dude? Again? And Charlie and Lindsay, who may or may not want to recover — for both of them, the jury is still out.

We’re familiar with the usual litany of booze, drugs, gambling, sex and even shopping. (Why do you think infomercials and QVC exist?) But what about food addiction?

We all know the saying — once an addict, always an addict. But if you are truly, unconditionally and possibly unconsciously addicted to food, you still have to eat. How many drinkers could spend each and every day wondering when they could have that one drink?

I strongly believe food addiction is underrated, undetected and mostly misunderstood. Do you really think that Aunt Sophie, clocking in at 278.5 pounds on a good day, simply likes that second piece of lasagna more than you do?

Food affects brain chemistry, the same as booze and drugs. The brain literally “lights up” at not only the actual food, but even just the thought of eating, tasting, smelling and chewing the food. The food industry knows the taste trifecta is sugar, salt and fat, all wrapped up in one. Why do you think the combination of caramel and cheese corn packs such a punch?

These classic questions identify food addiction. Do you:

1. Have cravings despite feeling full and eat much more than you intend to?

2. Feel guilty afterward but make excuses, then do it again and again?

3. Hide eating from others and mostly do it alone? This is a big one.

Is this you, or someone you love and care about? If so, it’s time for action, an intervention, something that changes the current course — which could lead to a shortened, unhealthy and mostly unhappy life. (How many overweight people do you know who proudly proclaim, “I just love my life”?)

What can you do to combat food addiction? EXERCISE. The more intense the exercise, the more you combat the addiction by giving the brain an alternative path to pleasure. That’s how I have been successful in helping people overcome this truly difficult, often hidden addiction: hitting the exercise — and mostly the interval-based strength training — hard.

Don’t worry about how long you engage in exercise. Instead, focus in intensity. Exercise hard first thing in the morning after a piece of fruit, then have your full breakfast after you’re done. Result? Quite possibly a smarter, less-addictive eating day.

Intensity is the most overlooked variable to effective, results-producing exercise … and it works for addicts and non-addicts alike. As Nike ads proclaim, “just do it,” but do it smart — and, most importantly, with intensity!

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