If you want to understand and conquer this addiction, it is important to realise there are three major physical and psychological facets that add to and exacerbate the food craving and addiction; Quality, Quantity, and Social aspects. These factors make it very hard to break the carbohydrate addiction cycle. If you can understand some of what is happening in your mind and in your body to cause this addiction, it can help you break free of this cycle:
QUALITY: The quality of food we are eating adds to our addiction: it is refined and easily accessible:
Every time we eat something, the amount of sugar in the blood increases and the pancreas produces insulin, a key hormone that allows cells to absorb energy. In the ancient world this mechanism was simple and gentle-‘pure’ and unrefined foods requiring high physical activity (hunting, gathering) to procure. Their ability to increase blood glucose was rather limited. Today, however, we are surrounded by easily obtainable refined and sugar-rich foods, and are therefore able to trigger the production of insulin rapidly and frequently with minimal physical effort. This alters our metabolic response on a qualitative level. (excessive violent stimuli leads to loss of its natural self-regulation skills). Pancreas begins to produce excessive amounts of insulin and increase the chance that this insulin becomes less effective, creating a vicious cycle called insulin resistance, which is the preamble to diabetes.
QUANTITY: We eat more food more often, and it is ‘designed’ to give us more ‘pleasure’: Every time we eat we are satisfying a primary need. On the cerebral plane this involves a release of dopamine that gives us a sense of pleasure. Evolutionarily, this mechanism causes behaviours useful to the survival of the species (eating and reproducing for example) to give pleasure and fulfilment.
In the natural world this works perfectly but if, as it is today, we are surrounded by artificial foods designed to make us produce huge amounts of dopamine, we enter into a trap. Dopamine actually runs out quickly and, when it is produced in excess, the next sudden fall brings frustration, boredom, dissatisfaction, emotional states that force us to look for food again that has made us feel good. This starts the cycle of addiction.
SOCIAL: We influence each other all the time to eat more for pleasure and a sense of ‘community’: We are social animals and we influence each other. We live in groups and try to ‘fit in’ with the behaviour of others. These networks of social influence make the change more complex because the person not only has to get rid of their negative habits, but fight against the constant influence of the group. Where food is concerned, this involves the rituals of meeting for food and drink, having food as a key aspect of socialising and celebration, and even the rewarding of ‘good behaviour’ or friendship with food ‘rewards’ (cake, chocolates, etc). Many an attempt to eat healthy and break the addiction cycle has been foiled by an invitation to a friend’s celebration or social event.
So are you Carbohydrate Addicted? Check tomorrow’s blog for the signs…