When we talk about addiction, the first thing that comes to mind might be drugs and alcohol. The damage they cause in the lives of the individuals and families they effect need not be discussed in detail, as we know they are real with many of you reading this possessing first hand experience. When we think about foods, however, its rare that we consider their effects as “drug-like”, nor would we associate their impact on human health in a comparative way. However, research and real life is painting us a very different picture. Let’s take good ole’ table sugar for example.
In the late 1800′s the average american consumed about 10-15 pounds of added sugar per year. By the turn of the 21st century, that number had sky-rocketed to nearly 150lbs per year, a truly staggering statistic. With all the data on the obesity epedemic and considering the rise of diabetes, you would think that sugar intake, (a highly responsible party for those issues) would decline. It’s not. Why?
In addition to being physiological, its effects are highly emotional. In fact, sugar can create both a neurological and emotional response similar to that of recreational drugs. The only difference is that you might wind up in the hospital or doctors office to deal with its repercussions, not court or jail like other addictive substances. Need proof? Here is an excerpt from a 2008 study (one of many) conducted at Princeton University:
“Researchers at Princeton University studying bingeing and dependency in rats have found that when the animals ingest large amounts of sugar, their brains undergo changes similar to the changes in the brains of people who abuse illegal drugs like cocaine and heroin.”
Even if there were no studies to prove the addictive properties of added sugar like this one, (and other preservatives and food additives) the proof lies in the pudding: the reality of the human condition:
- When told to eat properly, fruits, veggies, lean protein, good carbs, people say, “I’m going on a diet” – not true. They are coming OFF a diet and starting to EAT properly.
- When asked if they are happy with the extra weight they’re carrying, almost every individual says no - which begs the question – then why are you still carrying it? If it was that easy, no one would be overweight – sugar, food, additives are addictive, and therefore, its a disease by definition. Dictionary.com states addiction as: “the state of being enslaved to a habit or practice or to something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming.” If you can’t stop drinking those sodas or eating those donuts, you are in some stage of addiction to them. If you have to use will power and “give them up”, same deal.
The effect has to do with serotonin and the limbic system (pleasure system of the brain) among other things. Once we open the door to that substance (like sugar) just like a drug, we are suseptible to its addictive properties. A conversation for another time.
For now, focus on these things:
- One ingredient foods – stay as close to them as you can, with as many of your food choices as possible - fish, chicken, apples, broccoli, etc…
- Limit added sugar – you can find it on foods labels – sugar in a product is not always bad, but when the ingredient itself (like sugar or any form of it) is listed on the label, its been added, and is not natrually occurring. Oranges have sugar, but its naturally occurring, cookies, not so much. The guidelines are loose, but its recommended that women ingest no more than 100 calories of added sugars per day, and men, no more than 150. That’s about 25 and 37 grams respectively. To start, keeping added sugar at or below 10 percent of your total daily calories is a solid goal.
- Eat things that grow naturally – from the ground, on trees and from mothers :) As my friend Brooks Tiller would say – ” you don’t see any twinkie trees or pop tart plants do you?”.
- Consider a spring cleaning, and a small, safe fast. For more information on the benefits of it, click the link to read an article I contributed to on MSN.com. http://fitbie.msn.com/lose-weight/diet-cleanse-thats-safe-and-really-works
The bottom line – realize that a war rages, and your body is the target. Take appropriate steps to fight the battle one day at a time and respect your body like the miracle it is. If you had a Ferrari you wouldn’t dump acid in the gas tank. You have a much more incredible machine, so treat it that way.
Teamworks Fitness – Acton, MA