If you are overweight or obese and have a voracious appetite for junk foods, what would you think if I said you were no different than the junkie down on the corner looking to score a rock of crack cocaine?
Would that make you angry?
If so, why does this make you angry, because you see yourself as better than a junkie?
Did my opening words get your attention? I sure hope so because our society has a humongous problem with junk foods and obesity. That craving you and I can get for sugar laden foods is an addiction no matter how you look at it. Let me ask;
Have you ever had an insatiable craving for brussels sprouts, broccoli, or any other healthy foods?
Could you eat a 5 gallon bucket of salad greens and still crave something loaded with simple carbohydrates?
Have you ever ate canned frosting with a spoon?
When you eat cookies, do you eat a half dozen or better at a time?
Does this kind of eating ever make you feel guilty, or that you have let yourself down?
What is addiction?
Addiction is a complex disease, often chronic in nature, which affects the functioning of the brain and body. It also causes serious damage to families, relationships, schools, workplaces and neighborhoods. The most common symptoms of addiction are severe loss of control, continued use despite serious consequences, preoccupation with using, failed attempts to quit, tolerance and withdrawal. (1)
My personal opinion is that addiction to foods that are calorically dense from simple carbs while being low in nutritional value are running neck to neck with common street drugs in the damage they do. I believe this because junkies on street drugs know they are doing something wrong when they consume illegal drugs while no one will ever think the same while snarfing down Grandma’s famous cookies or your favorite aunts pecan pie. Food junkies are a bit worse off because they do not always recognize the harm they are doing to their bodies when tossing candy and cakes down their throats.
Good lord, it’s food and we have to eat, right?
The addictive nature of sugar.
We reward children with it, over the holidays or for a job well done in school. And we reward ourselves with it — after a particularly stressful day or to celebrate a birthday or a special success. We add sugar to our coffee, bake it into our favorite treats, and spoon it over our breakfast. We love the sweet stuff. We crave it. But, are we addicted to it?
There’s an increasing body of research that tells us sugar could be as addictive as some street drugs and have similar effects on the brain.
The link between sugar and addictive behavior is tied to the fact that, when we eat sugar, opioids and dopamine are released.
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is a key part of the “reward circuit” associated with addictive behavior. When a certain behavior causes an excess release of dopamine, you feel a pleasurable “high” that you are inclined to re-experience, and so repeat the behavior. As you repeat that behavior more and more, your brain adjusts to release less dopamine. The only way to feel the same “high” as before is to repeat the behavior in increasing amounts and frequency. This is known as substance abuse.
“Research shows that sugar can be even more addicting than cocaine,” says Cassie Bjork, R.D., L.D., founder of Healthy Simple Life. “Sugar activates the opiate receptors in our brain and affects the reward center, which leads to compulsive behavior, despite the negative consequences like weight gain, headaches, hormone imbalances, and more.”
“Studies suggest that every time we eat sweets we are reinforcing those neuropathways, causing the brain to become increasingly hardwired to crave sugar, building up a tolerance like any other drug,” she adds. (2)
You know, there are actually some people out there who can casually drink alcohol and never have a problem associated with it. There are also people who can casually consume street drugs and never fall victim to a full blown addiction. This is true also in that some people can eat sugary foods and never have any issues either. However, there are many, me included, who have a problem with sugar addiction. We have a difficult time controlling our cravings for sugar and the next thing you know, you are overweight or obese.
If you are overweight or obese, odds are quite slim that you became that way by eating like a rabbit, and you know this to be true.
Once your body has a weight issue, health issues are going to be next, if you do not already have them. Health issues such as:
Heart disease and stroke.
High blood pressure.
Gallbladder disease and gallstones.
Breathing problems, such as sleep apnea and asthma.
Sadly, far too many who have weight related health issues will refuse to modify their nutritional habits. If this is not you, you almost certainly know someone who refuses to clean up their nutrition even when they know that will give them a better quality of life.
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