Gawdd, I need some chocolate… Man I can’t stop thinking about something “sugary” to consume… I can’t get off this stuff… I can’t stop “wanting” it even though I know it’s bad for me… Grrr… Are these all thoughts you have experienced or even said out loud before? Or do you think them on a regular basis currently? Is there a relationship between food and addiction? Can certain foods hijack the reward system in much the same way as drugs do? According to some new data and input from scientists, the answer is yes.
Much of this is associated with the role of dopamine which is neurotransmitter that:
- Makes us feel good
- Motivates us to seek more of this reward that makes us feel good
- Lets us know when these “rewards” are present (like cocaine addict in presence of cocaine or a fat kid in front of cake)
- Maintains awareness about reward related cues
- Promotes us to explore more of these related “rewards”
As Addictive as Cocaine and Heroin???
Cocaine and heroin trigger and put this reward system into play just like appetite controlling hormones do, leading to many researchers speculating that obesity may be related to this addiction and therefore may be a strong contributor to being overweight.
I often joke with new clients who are obese that they are about to go thru rehab and slowly wean themselves off of excessive amounts of sugar intake. Most folks don’t even realize how much they are consuming until I have them do a 2-4 day brutally honest food journal. This is often eye opening to them when we go over it and we tally up the numbers. The thing about it is, the more we start to eliminate it, the less we crave it in time. We need to have a plan of attack for what we are eating. In other words, food prep incorporating the right choices into our daily pre made meals that we will have handy with us. Without a winning road map, you are sure to get lost.
I will often ask questions such as: What did you have for breakfast? A very typical response from a new client who is overweight and claims and also believes they are eating good will often retort with something along the lines of a banana, yogurt and oatmeal (which most of the time is packaged and loaded with extra sugar and sweetener) and an orange juice. In my mind, all I hear is sugar, carbs, and more sugar with just a tiny sliver of protein. In order to lose fat, we must control our blood glucose and insulin levels and prevent them from flying up and down. Incorporating low glycemic (“slow”) carbohydrates and lean proteins with your meals is critical in a proper approach to fat loss coinciding with an exercise program. A better example for breakfast would be old fashioned oats with a few berries and some eggs and water, which is a balance of low glycemic carbs balanced with a sufficient amount of protein to match.
When we consume high glycemic carbs like sugar, they empty into the bloodstream very quickly as they are ready to go and fuel our brain and body. When there is a sudden rise in blood glucose, our body is like “holy crap, we need to get this under control” because excessive amounts can be bad for our circulatory system plus we need to fuel our brain and muscles with this. The pancreas then releases insulin which is like a vehicle that will shuttle this glucose in the blood to the appropriate places. If our muscles are full (those that don’t exercise usually have full stores because they aren’t burning them off), it will go to the liver and if the liver is full it will then store as body fat. When all this happens, our blood glucose levels fall back down quickly and we then feel tired and hungry again and then the typical person with this lifestyle reaches for the next bad choice/high glycemic and processed meal that often results in the same thing happening again and again and again… This type of lifestyle and eating habits often lead to obesity, diabetes, inflammatory diseases and cardiovascular issues over time.
Eat “Slow”/Low Glycemic Carbs
Low gycemic foods are those that typically are higher in fiber and low in sugar and it takes them a longer time to digest and be broken down into glucose. This in turn has a “slow releasing” effect and helps to control our blood sugar levels. These are things such as broccoli, cauliflower, oats, berries, beans, peppers, sweet potatoes, etc. Basically, consume colorful foods and NOT white ones. Don’t forget to include a source of protein with each portion controlled meal either as this will also help!
The more of these sugar loaded, processed foods we consume, the more we tend to want them. The less we consume them, the less we tend to crave them. Good habits tend to follow one another just like bad ones do too. If you are unhappy with the way you look and feel and are concerned about where your health and body is heading, there is no better time than now to start making some changes for the better. Having an effective support system is priceless and holds you accountable. With a proper and winning plan of attack laid out for your workouts as well as your nutrition along side a little discipline, you can look and feel your absolute best.
Reach out to me, I am confident I can help you win and achieve that new body and new energy for life!
Happy new year!
Roger Bowman, CPT