Tag: serotonin

Sugar Rush

To lose weight, it is not enough to think you can just cut back on the amount of foods you are consuming each day. It is foolhardy to believe you can also out exercise a bad diet. Face it, most of us who have ever had a weight problem also had a problem of craving simple carbs and sugar too. I would be willing to place a bet you never had the same type of cravings for broccoli or green beans, unless you are serving them up with a dose of sugar too. I recognize it is not enough to just say do not eat sugar to those who desire weight loss. We have written quite a bit about why we need to cut sugar out of our diet, but I truly feel we can not address this problem enough. You must also understand why we advocate a sugar free lifestyle in order to move forward with following our methodology here at David’s Way to Health and Fitness.

The Emotional Connection

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Very often, our appetite is triggered by emotions that coax us to wolf down every simple carb we can get our hands on.  While the emotional connection to obesity is not always understood, they are a huge reason why people tend to overeat. A part of your brain called the hypothalamus is where your brain and body connect. The hypothalamus works together with the pituitary gland which sends chemicals to the rest of the body.  This is one of the areas where your weight loss battle is either won or lost. This is where the psychological and physiological need for eating comes from.

You and I both know that when you are eating away your emotions, there is little chance that you are munching down stalks of celery. The reality is, you are far more likely to be snarfing down every cookie in the bag because they look good. When we get emotional, our cravings, almost without fail, will lead us to starchy, sugary, or salty foods loaded with fat. There are five different chemicals we produce naturally which influence our emotions, they are also the key reasons why we tend to eat junk foods.

Norepinephrine

This is our fight or flight chemical. It tells us to either high tail it from bad situations or to stand and fight.

Serotonin

This is a feel good chemical which is also the major target of antidepressant drugs.

Dopamine

This one drives our pleasure and reward system and is particularly sensitive to addictions. It also helps you to feel no pain.

GABA (gamma-aminobutryic acid)

This one can make you feel like a zombie and is one of the ways that anesthesia may work to reduce your responsiveness to the outside world.

Nitric Oxide

This chemical helps to calm you. This powerful neuropeptide is usually a very short lived gas that also relaxes your blood vessels.

How these chemicals affect you.

What do these chemicals have to do with whether you snack on a cupcake piled high with frosting or a brussels sprout?

Photo by Alex Boi, FLickr free stock photos

Picture your brain as an arcade game. You  have millions of neurotransmitters that are sending messages to and from each other. When your serotonin transmitters fire their signal, they send the message throughout your brain that you feel good. The more this signal is being triggered, the better you will feel. But when your game is lost, that “feel good sensation” is now lost too. Now you can either walk away feeling all bummed out, or you can feed some more coins into the game. We do this to our body by eating more junk foods in order to counteract the drop in our serotonin that we now feel. The temporary relief that sweets provide, can, and will make you more reliant on sugar, which raises your risk of obesity and its related diseases.

Playing another round of our arcade game is little different than how we also use junk foods to provide an immediate rush of serotonin. We can provide ourselves a good rush with a dose of sugar which releases our serotonin. Insulin facilitates serotonin production in the brain, which in turn gives us a boost in mood. It makes us feel better, it masks our stress, pain, boredom, anger or frustrations we may be feeling. However, serotonin is not at work by itself during this process, Those other four chemicals are also fighting to send your appetite and cravings into overdrive.

When our serotonin and dopamine levels are elevated, we feel good. But when these levels come down, we now find ourselves feeling bad. When this occurs,  we often go in search of sugary foods, or those high in simple carbohydrates in order to get back to feeling good. This is no different than how illegal drugs and alcohol work. The user keeps seeking out the high, not always to feel high, but just to get back to not feeling low. When you have no control over your appetite, you are constantly fighting to get back to your place of neurochemical comfort. When these chemicals are depleted, we tend to reach for bad foods to placate ourselves.

When you are knowledgeable of how your emotions can drive you to eat, you can learn to resist your cravings, and ideally avoid them altogether. By eliminating sugar from your diet, and eating healthy, whole foods only, you will find that your feel good hormones will level out so that you always feel more satisfied and never experience hormonal highs and lows that make you seek out those junk foods that only serve to expand your waistline.

Quitting processed sugar might not be as simple as you think.

Withdrawing from sugar can actually cause side effects, such as:

anxiety

irritability

confusion

fatigue

This has led experts to look at how the withdrawal symptoms from sugar can resemble those of certain addictive substances. When someone misuses a substance for a period of time, like cocaine, their body goes into a physiological state of withdrawal when they stop using it. People who consume high amounts of sugar in their diets can similarly experience the physiological sensation of withdrawal if they suddenly stop consuming sugar. Like alcoholics or drug addicts, there is no acceptable amount of the drug or drink of choice for the user. By having a little bit after recovery, this almost always results in the return of a full blown addiction. This is why I do not advocate any diet plan which tells you that you can continue to eat sugar so long as your track it. This is as nonsensical as giving an alcoholic a glass of beer, or an ex-smoker a cigarette and expecting them to stop at just one. If you had little control over sugar and simple carbs in your past, you are highly unlikely to control them in the future. This is just a simple fact of life my friends.

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