Today, the word addiction is often used casually. I’m addicted to this show. Or I’m addicted to this song. Or I’m addicted to this hobby.
Most of us – even if we use this casual definition of addiction from time to time – understand that addiction is very real and can cause a great deal of harm, especially when it comes to drugs or alcohol. Here’s the problem: The word addiction is so commonplace that we might underestimate a serious challenge to our health.
I’m talking about food addiction and sugar addiction.
Can a cupcake really be as dangerous as a hard drug? In terms of how your brain makes decisions about your health, the answer is actually yes.
Feeling Powerless in Your Own Body
Everywhere you go, you are inundated with advertisements and enticing pictures of highly processed, highly addictive food. And it’s cheap, portable, and readily available at nearly all times. Ultra-refined sugar and flour can cause insatiable hunger and cravings, leading to a loss of control.
If you’ve ever stood at the refrigerator eating handful after handful of snacks, while somehow also wishing you could stop, you’ve experienced the addictive power of food. It’s frustrating, and it can destroy your self-confidence. Over time, those moments of powerlessness add pounds to your waist and steal years from your life.
The Roots of Food Addiction
Leptin is the hunger suppressant hormone released by your fat cells that tells your brain you are not hungry anymore. Researchers have found, however, that as insulin rises in response to eating sugar and flour in refined food, it blocks leptin, which means that the signal that should tell your brain it’s time to stop eating never actually gets to the brain.
This isn’t losing a battle of willpower. This isn’t a sign that you are somehow broken or weak. The root of this kind of food addiction is biological. In fact, researchers have found that sugar and flour can light up the brain just like cocaine and heroin.
That’s how powerful foods can be! They can turn off your body’s natural safeguards and then flood your system with dopamine so that you desire the unhealthy foods even more.
Guard Your Leptin Switch
Some of us are more susceptible to food addiction than others. To be clear: It’s not your fault if you are one of these individuals. This is your biological makeup and not the result of who you are, your character, or your potential as a person.
While everyone should follow Habits of Healthy Fuelings to keep refined sugar and flour out of your system, some of us can enjoy a snack on a special occasion with no danger to our Habits of Health. The key, though, is learning about yourself and your body. If you find that you lose control when refined sugar hits your system, avoid it altogether.
Over time, with help from your coach and the Habits of Health Transformational System, you will find it easier and easier to decline these foods, keeping your leptin flowing and giving you control over your appetite again.
If you’d like to learn more about how to deal with addictive food and assess your own susceptibility to these foods, turn to Element 16 in Your LifeBook and work through the exercises. Then, as always, come back to the community with your questions!