The other week I read an article that startled me. The author was a recovering drug addict and related an ah-ha moment he had one day regarding food. He said that his cravings for food reminded him of his cravings for drugs. “Yeah yeah, I’ve heard this before” I thought. Then, when the author asked others in his NA group about food cravings, a lot of them said the same thing… they all had food cravings and they all felt like drug cravings! I’ll give you a moment while you pick yourself up off the floor.
Maybe this bit of information doesn’t shock you. Perhaps it’s old news for you. But it shocked me, even though I’ve read countless times that food addictions are real. Perhaps what shocked me was the mental image I suddenly had of a severely downtrodden drug addict that I then applied to myself when I’m craving food. My head was suddenly filled with images of food addicts everywhere hiding food under the kitchen sink behind the bleach, eating in secret, brushing their teeth to hide the evidence etc.
I tried to find that article again so I could share it with you, but unfortunately I lost it in cyber space. What made me think if it again this morning was a great video released a few days ago by TED-Ed. The video shows how sugar affects the brain similarly to drugs and alcohol.
Considering that sugar is in just about every processed food (how do you think they make low-fat taste so good?), it’s easy to see how food addiction can go unrealized in a large segment of the population. Think you’re craving a healthy low-fat yogurt?… Think again. You’re actually craving the sugar in that processed yogurt. See how food addiction can be hiding in plain sight?
I’m currently in the middle of trying to go a full 30 days without alcohol, grains, and sugar. Interestingly enough, alcohol and grains are the easiest ones. But I’ve realized that I need to be very firm with my no-thank-yous for sugar otherwise it leads me down an incredibly slippery slope from which it’s hard to recover.
I need to start treating myself like an addict, and ask that others do the same… please no one bring sweets to my house! But, what else besides admitting my problem can I do? How can I overcome my sugar addiction? I was reading an article about how recovering addicts find a healthy habit to replace their former addiction. Like exercise. Exercise releases dopamine just like drugs, sugar, and alcohol, so it’s a good replacement activity.
What else can we do to replace all that feel good dopamine in addition to exercise? A quick google search on foods that increase dopamine levels reveals that vitamin C and E are helpful in raising dopamine levels, as are bananas, avocado, almonds, and dairy products.
The only trick now is training my body to want exercise and healthy foods more than sugar. I have a feeling practice makes perfect, so I’ll keep trying to attain my 30 day streak without sugar and will be more firm in my no-thank-yous.
How do you control your sugar cravings?
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