Growing up in my food-addiction world of depression and self-hatred, and living in my untruths, food was literally that one thing that brought me comfort and did not ridicule me.

As long as I had my go-to foods, I felt safe from what would or could potentially hurt me.

Little did I know then that the hurt I was trying to defend myself against was claiming my life, one bite at a time.

Before I created the Spice Diet, I lived in a state of diet distress — 360 pounds of distress! As a young child, innocent dreams of food escalated into a full-blown addiction to fatty, salty and sugar-laden foods. For over 20 years, I found myself struggling in a “rat race” with food choices, weight issues, medical complications, depression, and self-hatred.

My love of food was at the heart of my problem, and I realized that it had to be a part of the solution. It was all about making smarter and realistic choices. This “do or die” epiphany led me to develop the Spice Diet.

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One thing was for sure: In order for me to effectively approach this new lifestyle change, I had to approach food in a way that would totally satisfy me. I knew restrictive fad diets were not going to cut it. Flavor and spices were key.

After successfully losing over 160 pounds, I learned that the way to win my lifelong struggle with weight was by using spices — a powerful source of flavor as well as nutrition for the body.

Most of us crave a particular type of food or flavor, such as sweet, salty or spicy. These food yearnings can surely possess us when we least expect it or are most vulnerable. In my book, “The Spice Diet,” I come up with nine food personalities, such as the Chocoholic, the Salty Snacker, and the Sweet Tooth. Most people can relate to at least one, if not, as in my case, all nine of them.

Related: The Whole Health Benefits of Whole Grains

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With the creative use of spices, flavors, and healthy food alternatives, you can reduce and even eliminate cravings for unhealthy choices. Here are some of my favorite examples of the powerful nature of spices.

To Reduce Salt Cravings
Citrus and vinegar. The vast majority of people consume more sodium than our bodies need. A great deal of it comes from processed foods we eat every day. Our taste preferences adapt to changes in our eating patterns. Research shows that if you cut back on sodium, you begin to prefer foods with less salt over time. Also, using citrus ─ limes, lemons and oranges ─ in the form of fresh juice and zest awakens the taste buds and provides a fresh acidic flavor that can satisfy the salty craving. Vinegars not only add flavor but also can be a great substitute for salt.

“Spicy” spices. Research shows that consuming spicy foods, with spices like cayenne, chipotle powder, paprika and dried chilies can trick the brain into craving less salt.

To Reduce Sweet Cravings
Clove is a warming and sweet spice that reminds you of the holidays. It also has stomach soothing and blood sugar regulating benefits. Add this spice to smoothies, dusted on fresh fruit or incorporated with sweet potatoes.

Fenugreek is used in Indian and Middle Eastern cuisine. The seeds of this herb taste similar to maple syrup and burnt sugar. Some practitioners believe this spice is effective in managing diabetes. This spice is great in spice blends, as dry rubs for meat, and when added to tea and even mixed with yogurt and dried fruits.

To Reduce Your Appetite
Black pepper & cayenne pepper boost the metabolism and burn fat by 25 percent.

Cinnamon works well with both sweet and savory dishes. Using just ¼ to 1 teaspoon can boost metabolism. Add cinnamon to your morning tea with a little bit of unsweetened almond milk.

Related: Weight Watchers Slammed Over Its Free Program for Teens

Spices That Support Weight Loss
Cardamom is an exotic spice that has been used to treat obesity in India for hundreds of years. It helps your body burn calories faster and boosts fat burning as well. This spice pairs perfectly with sweet baked goods and is also delicious with your coffee or tea.

Mustard is a pungent and flavorful additional to any dish. Eating at least 1 teaspoon of pure mustard, which contains approximately 5 calories, can boost the metabolism by up to 25 percent for several hours after eating. This condiment can also be a wonderful ingredient to add to soups and sauces and also as quick marinades or spreads for chicken dishes.

Related: Weight-Loss Supplements: What’s Safe, Smart — or Not

The Spice Diet breaks down what spices to pair with specific ingredients to yield a dish that explodes with flavor, and that just so happens to be very healthy for you.

(For more information on the Spice Diet and to learn more about Chef Judson Todd Allen and his story, visit the website and follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.)

New Orleans Pecan-Crusted Catfish
Serves: 6
Serving size: 1 fillet
Calories per serving: 292

My grandfather is from New Orleans, and one of his favorite dishes is fried fish and grits. It is only fitting that I recreate the delectable taste of his favorite dish in a healthier version, because he is my inspiration for being a chef.

Early on in my attempts to change my eating habits, I figured out the best way to achieve the fried-fish effect without the deep-frying and calories. By incorporating healthy nuts with the perfect spice blend and other flavor enhancements, I cracked the code with this recipe.

Get ready for some true Southern hospitality. This recipe works with just about any type of fish. If catfish is not your cup of tea, then swap it out for halibut, cod, red snapper, swordfish, or salmon.

¾ cup finely chopped pecans
1/3 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (grated)
4 tablespoons cajun spice blend
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon olive oil, divided
6 (five‑ounce) catfish fillets, deboned
Lemon wedges, for garnish

Green Bean & Chickpea Salad
3 cups haricot verts (green beans)
1½ cup chickpeas (cooked)
½ teaspoon garlic (chopped)
Red onion
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon honey
1 ½ tablespoons sun-dried tomatoes (chopped)

Preheat the oven to 400 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, combine the pecans, cheese, 3 tablespoons cajun spice blend, parsley, lemon zest and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil.

Place catfish fillets on the lined baking sheet. Brush the fillets with the remaining teaspoon of olive oil and rub in 1 tablespoon of the cajun spice blend. Massage the oil and spice on both sides of the fish.

Spread the pecan crust liberally over the top of each piece of fish. Bake for 15 minutes, or until the crust is dark golden and the fish is flaky and moist. Serve with lemon wedges.

In a stock pot of boiling water, add green beans and cook for two to three minutes and remove from water. Shock them in an ice bath.

In a clear glass bowl, combine the green beans, chickpeas, garlic, red onion, red wine vinegar, honey and sun-dried tomatoes. Mix together and serve with fish.

This Fox News piece is used by permission.

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