Just one…. Just one more…

November 16, 2010 § Leave a comment

….sweetie?*….

just one more.... sweetie?...

Polly’s first sentence….

What does that suggest?

If you ask me, it has to do with my early attempts at being a Rational Polly in my wants; but really it is likely an indicator of my future relationship with the big ‘S’ as in Sugar. In all honesty, I don’t really remember eating that many sweets as a kid and am eternally grateful to my guiding mum who chose to not keep supplies ‘on hand’ yet at the same time magically managed to not make a big deal out of the consumption of chocolate biscuits with my tea (for example). I firmly believe that as a direct result of her ‘not making a big deal out of it one way or another’ to this day I don’t feel like I am missing out on all that stuff with the hormonally-inspired limits I have on my sugar consumption. Thanks Mum.

But why am I saying this? Well, a couple of days ago, I spotted an article (linked at the end) which detailed one writer’s experiences and some recent research on a link between ‘sugar’ and ‘addiction.’ I was so overwhelmed in my thought streams (and that of the subsequent discussion avec mon mari) that I couldn’t formulate even the beginnings of a post until now. And, in terms of paragraph quantity, it is going to be a chunky one….

To quote the author: “Part of the reason it’s so hard to kick the habit [of abundant sugar inhalation (pm)] is that over time our brains actually become addicted to the natural opioids that are triggered by sugar consumption. Much like the classic drugs of abuse such as cocaine, alcohol and nicotine, a diet loaded with sugar can generate excessive reward signals in the brain which can override one’s self-control and lead to addiction.”

Well, this sparked intense discussion (both in my thought-stream and between the husband and I) on myriad levels. I was not surprised by the scientific data; as a recent convert to the ‘listen to yourself’ school of eating (well, a work in progress type conversion) I have experienced all three of the addiction qualities outlined in the article:

Bingeing – why, yes, sadly I have been in Sugar Bingeland many times. As I have mentioned before, I have an evening tendency for a ‘I’m heading back into the kitchen for another bowl of those Nature’s Path High Fiber flakes cereal; in spite of having had dinner and at least three bowl-fulls of aforementioned crunchyness already’. I have recently noted how strange it is that in spite of the quantity of inhaled cereal; I keep going back because I am just not ‘satisfied’ and I it is remarkably hard to wait the recommended 20 minutes before trotting back into the kitchen for round 3.

Craving – that feeling on my tongue and (seemingly) in my memory of the need to satisfy a tangy/sweet sensation that is ruminating in my head (again, regardless of genuine ‘tummy’ hunger).

And my personal favourite: Withdrawal – the headachey, crappy feeling on days 2 & 3 post sugar cold-turkey. Fascinatingly, once I pass this headache phase; I do not crave the sugary articles AT ALL.

So by the logic of this article (and the American Psychiatric Association) I am a sugar addict. When I think about it in all of these terms; I am genuinely unnerved. My U.S. experience thus far points to the possibility that sugar addiction is becoming accepted as a mainstream ‘norm.’ I have witnessed the rather strange group-creating characteristic when the words ‘I am addicted to sugar’ are spoken with its subsequent collective round of head-bobbing-agreement and ‘I am part of an acceptable group so it isn’t really a problem’ relief. I am not someone who takes consolation in the fact that I am apparently not alone and it is clearly a national problem (I am thinking ‘the obesity epidemic’, increasing numbers of children/adults with Type 2 diabetes, etc.. etc..).

The article, resonated, but I want to learn so much more on the topic.

Obviously, as a starting point I hope more actual scientific research is being done  (ideally involving humans…). I also think there are some significant social elements to add into the mix: for example, why has my U.S. experience included the socially acceptable nature of sugar addiction versus the social taboos around smokers and alcoholics (not to mention the illegal-drug addictions)? How can we move toward helping each other with addictions versus blaming (both ourselves and the ‘weakness’ of others)? If the concept of ‘sugar addiction’ is becoming clear; what is preventing the mass dissemination of information? This is definitely a topic that I take very seriously and I don’t have answers; just tons of questions.

Speaking for myself; I am conscious that knowing the science has made me stop and think before I even consider that first bowl of flakes. I am not naïve, though, nor am I aiming for perfect. I can only remind myself to really think before doing something that doesn’t feel good to me; it will involve listening to the Rational Polly and not the driven-by-internal-chemicals Polly. Since I was able to enunciate my penchant from such an early age; perhaps I can stop practicing that phrase now (in both the verbal and action-orientated sense). If anything, just one day at a time, I guess.

The Article: 20 Tips to Curb Sugar Cravings and Kick the Addiction (the tips are actually VERY interesting too but who knew this article would spark my imagination so?)

*Sweeties: the British word for all things candy-like – chocolate bars, boiled sweets, etc. Not to include biccies (U.S translation: Cookies) which get the category of ‘biscuits’ all to themselves.

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