The $ 64,000 Question: Why Do Sugar and Junk Food Have Such An Impact on Us?
After all, we are all animals. Okay, so we're human, but all you have to do is watch one episode of David Attenborough's Dynasties to remember that we have primal instincts. On an evolutionary basis, our primitive ancestors were scavengers. We have evolved to find sweet foods particularly enjoyable as they are one of the best sources of energy. To maximize our survival, we have an innate brain system that makes us like sweet foods to make our bodies stronger. But then the food was scarce. Now, unfortunately, we have an abundance of foods and especially an abundance of sugary, processed foods.
How do we get addicted?
When we eat sugar or highly refined carbohydrates (which basically act like sugar), the body releases feel-good chemicals as part of our brain's reward system. Similarly, our brains will tell us to avoid touching anything hot to avoid pain, and for problem drinkers, their brains will tell them to keep drinking to experience the pain relieving calm that alcohol provides (initially) can bring. So in our hearts we are lust-seeking, pain-avoiding beings. However, the repeated activation of the reward pathway through medication or through the consumption of many sugary foods leads to the fact that the brain adapts to frequent stimulations, which leads to a kind of tolerance. With sweet foods, this means we need to eat more to get the same rewarding feeling – a classic trait of addiction.
Download your free copy of our e-book The Truth about Sugar here.
It's all in the neurotransmitters
Well-being neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin are quickly released by consuming sugary junk foods. So food addiction is not caused by greed or lack of willpower. Rather, it is our sensitivity and strong reaction to the feel-good effects of foods that trigger the addiction. The problem with modern junk food is that it can create a reward that is far stronger than any reward the brain can get from normal, healthier foods. While eating an apple or a piece of steak can result in a modest release of dopamine, eating a bag of tortilla chips or a tub of double choc ice cream is so rewarding that a much larger amount is released. The junk food makers know this and that's why they pump our foods with things like fructose corn syrup – in a way, they're hijacking our brains and our original reward reactions to sugar and refined carbohydrates.
Are You Prone To Sugar And Junk Food Addiction?
Ask yourself the following questions:
- Feeling like you can't stop when you start eating sugary / junk foods?
- Do you often crave these foods even when you are not hungry or feel full?
- Do you sometimes make the decision NOT to eat these foods, but then become obsessed with them and can't get them out of your mind?
- Do you have to regularly restart your healthy eating program every Monday after a weekend of "delicacies"?
- When you give in and start eating the foods you longed for, do you often find yourself eating a lot more than you originally intended?
- Do you often feel guilty after indulging in unhealthy foods?
- Obsessed with how to restrict your food before an event?
- Are you ashamed of eating junk food so often try to do it in private?
- Often make justifications for the unhealthy food choices you make – such as "I'm tired", "I'm busy right now", "The weather makes me eat this way" or "I'm hormonal". .
6 ways to solve your addiction to sugar and junk foods
Unfortunately, there isn't a one-size-fits-all solution to addiction, but some of these things can help:
- Avoid triggering foods – Such as those that contain sugar or highly refined carbohydrates, such as baguettes, scones, and pastries.
- Think of alternatives – Now you need a list of healthy alternatives to these foods. – Discuss this with your Weight Loss Consultant. Protein bars and chips can be lifesavers here.
- Keep a daily journal – Identify the specific occasions when you pamper yourself too much or the emotions you had just before the poor food selection.
- Look at saboteurs – Are there people or habits that make your cravings worse? For example, do you tend to eat more junk food after drinking alcohol or when you are not getting enough sleep? Do you always overeat with the same friend because they do the same thing? Then address these things first.
- Avoid getting overly hungry – It is critical to control those blood sugar levels, eat small, regular amounts of protein, and eat healthy fat every day to keep you satisfied.
- Do a sugar detox – All motivational eating plans require that you omit sugar entirely. While breaking habits of always having sugar in your coffee isn't easy, there are sugar alternatives (like agave or stevia) and keep in mind that the first step is often the most difficult (where you may have severe withdrawal symptoms, however we will assist you through this). These get easier along the way. Listen to our Truth About Sugar podcast to find out more.
- Expect relapse to be inevitable – It is common to relapse. So instead of saying "I'll never screw it up" you expect you to do it, and it depends how you deal with it. The key is not to give up and to learn from your mistakes. This is the time to read: "5 Reasons NOT to Throw in the Towel and Keep Pushing".
50 Ways to Calm Down Without Eating, by Susan Albers, a collection of mindfulness skills and practices to help relax the body during stressful times and end your addiction to food to deal with difficult emotions. Not only will you find easy ways to ease the overeating urge, but you will also learn how to distinguish emotional hunger from healthy hunger
See Addiction / Expert Judson Brewer discuss a simple yet effective way to break a bad habit in this useful Ted Talk.