Have you ever resolved to get started down a healthier path, and no matter how hard you try or what you do, you find yourself craving and eating things that are not moving you closer to your goals, but you “...just can't help it”?
There are two things you need to know here:
- You're not the only one this is happening to.
- It's not a lack of willpower on your part.
One of the most highly addictive substances available today is sugar. In fact, sugar should really be looked at as a drug because it triggers the exact same response in the brain as heroin, cocaine, and other drugs we know to be addictive. Just like these drugs, sugar triggers the brain to release a shot of dopamine, the feel-good hormone, into your body.
The more you have it, the more you want it. Rather, the more your body sends you signals promising you'll feel good if you'll just give in and have some more. Dr. Mark Hyman talked about a study done with mice and when given the choice, they would choose sugar over cocaine every time. The study also showed the mice would switch to sugar if they were already addicted to cocaine and would work about eight times harder to get it. Clearly it's addictive and willpower alone isn't going to get you where you want to be.
OK, so we know sugar is addictive. We know refined sugars are not good for us. And we now know willpower alone likely won't get you very far when it comes to avoiding it. So what is the catalyst and why do we reach for sugary/processed things in the first place? It all comes down to blood sugar and hormones.
At one time or another, we've all gone too long without eating and been so hungry, it turned to hangry, am I right? What's the first thing you reach for when that happens? You likely found yourself reaching for something sweet, starchy and/or processed. That's because when you go too long between meals, your blood sugar drops. Kind of like when you're on a road trip and the gas gauge hits the red zone. You know you're going to stop at the first station you see, regardless if it's the brand you normally choose or not because it won't be a happy situation without fuel. Same with your body and your brain.
Your brain is always turned on, and thank goodness it doesn't shut off or that would be the end of the line. But because it doesn't ever shut off, it needs a continuous supply of fuel to keep it going. Your body is your vehicle that drives you through life. And just like your car, when you skip meals or take too long between meals, or don't eat enough, there's not enough fuel for your body to turn to glucose to send up to the brain and it wants something quick, which triggers the sugar cravings.
Sugar, along with the starchy carbs and processed foods, breaks down and digests really quickly, getting into the blood stream right away. This causes the blood sugar to spike up in an attempt to satisfy your brain. Because there are very few nutrients however, satisfaction is short-lived. What goes up quickly, also comes crashing down. And then you're back to the beginning and cravings start again.
Just to be clear, whole, nutrient dense proteins, fats and carbs, not only stabilizes blood sugar, when done in the right portions, it balances hormones as well. You just won't crave the chicken and veggies because it takes longer to digest than the granola bar or bag of chips. And when your brain needs that quick fix, it doesn't care which “gas station” it gets its fuel from.
Of course, just like your car, making sure to fuel your body with nutrient dense food in the right portions and in the right frequencies throughout the day, consistently, keeps your blood sugar stable, hormones in check and cravings disappear. FYI being proactive and eating in a way that creates hormonal balance and stabilizes blood sugar turns on your metabolism and allows your body to naturally release stored fat and protect muscle. Something we all need as we age.
To learn more about blood sugar stabilization, watch Tania's 15-minute video.
This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.