Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Surviving the Holidays

Sugar addiction and the holidays are a terrible mix.  Not only are there extra sweets about there is also something much more enticing: memory.  I'm sure each person who grew up in a Christian home has fond memories of helping a grandma or mom in the kitchen.  Sometimes there is more to sweets than just the taste.  I have many happy memories of my grandmother making all kinds of delicious candy from divinity to fudge but what comes to mind more than eating the candy is the act of making it together.  Nothing beats that feeling of being with a loved one.  I knew I was completely loved by grandma and felt very  warm and safe and candy just happened to be there too.  There is also a feeling of excitement at being able to visit with family that are usually far away and renew friendships.  That is always associated with good food and sweets.

It's a tough choice in a way.  I know how sugar makes me feel (like I've been poisoned).  But I also want to take part in all the festivities and not be a sugar scrooge.  But I also know that an addiction is ever present and anxious to be reignited. 

When Corey and I decided to take responsibility for our sugar eating problems we also recognized the danger of zealousness.  After much discussion we came to an agreement that we would have 1 allowance per month per person, so a total of 2 allowances for a sweet per month.  We both wanted to be part of other family members birthdays and certain holiday celebrations and traditions.  So far this has been perfect for us.  It has eliminated the feeling of "can't ever have any" and replaced it with "can have, but don't need right now."  It eliminated the danger of all or nothing behavior.  

This attitude has been instrumental in disallowing sugar to rule our lives.  Why?  Because if we have more than what we are supposed to in a moth, we loose a predetermined reward.  But also because when an 'all or nothing' belief is in place there is no room for failure and when failure happens (and it always does) the belief inhibits rebound.  You know, makes it harder to try again, to do better next time. 

In a previous post, Sarah asked the question "is it ever ok?  is there any moderation to (the no) sugar thing?"  My feeling is that there has to be.  I would really like to hear Laura's take and anyone else as well.  I have never succeeded at anything that I got zealous about.  Excelled for a time, yes.  But succeeded, no.  I always succeed when I stride myself and work realistically toward something.  But you know, it's taken me 30 years to get to the point that I finally recognize how to go about this lifestyle practically.  It's a delicate balance right now.  But balance is the key.

So ultimately I think that "is it ever ok" is a personal discovery and the answer to the equation is tailor made to the individual. For me it is not ok to eat sweets more than 2 times a month or I can't control my desire for sweets very well.  The realistic limitations are actually welcome safety nets that have kept me from suffering many times.  Would I tell an alcoholic to go drink twice a month to pad his loss of alcohol?  No way.  With some addictions and some people it just doesn't work that way.  I'm always disappointed after eating a sweet.  It is never fulfilling. And truthfully sweets are loosing their charm and appeal.  Hurray for me.  But that strange problem of wanting to consume all sweets everywhere is still there, and may always be there and is especially heavy the day after an allowance.

This isn't an end all decision but rather a lifelong travel of finding inner strength and learning how to take care of myself.  All while striving to achieve balance against the adversity of an addiction.  Because balance and addiction don't compliment each other.  But I'm proud of myself for trying and I'm doing well at what I set out to accomplish and there is a lot to be said for that.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Sugar and Sex Hormones

There is a gene in our body, named SHBG, that regulates estrogen and testosterone.  This gene is closely linked to the condition of the liver.  Why does this matter?  Sugar is metabolized in the liver and when the liver is overloaded with sugar it converts the sugars into fat.  Too much fat in the system shuts of the gene SHBG, which gives direction to the sex hormones in the body.  The troubles that can follow are cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, PCOS and INFERTILITY and more!  The gene is especially affected by High Fructose Corn Syrup and refined table sugar.

“This gene produces a protein that binds to the sex hormones like testosterone and estrogen and carries them into the bloodstream. Only the hormones that are free and unattached to the protein can enter cells and be active. Hence, if the SHBG gene is shut down and is not releasing any SHBG protein, then greater amounts of estrogen and testosterone are released throughout the body.  Tamara Hardison, Too Much Sugar Affects Sex Hormones.  Full article HERE.

An increase in these hormones is particularly hard on the body.  Acne, infertility, polycystic ovaries, uterine cancer and more.

But are the sex hormones all that is affected by high sugar and fat intake?  You tell me - below is a list of what hormones do.  (source: wikipedia Hormone)
I think it's safe to say that too much sugar has a full scale effect on our health - mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Giving Thanks

Happy thanksgiving to you all. Today I felt like I should do a message on gratitude which is a powerful aspect of positive thinking. This might be more for me than anyone else. Sometimes I need to remind myself of the goodness of God. Maybe you are wondering what this has to do with sugar :) Well, depression can be a trigger for me to give in and have something sweet to “release” me from the pain.

Holidays can be a trigger for me to, not because there are allot of sweets, but because I miss my parents so much. This will be their 5th Thanksgiving they have been away from home. They have been in Africa serving the Lord. And they won’t be back until after they have missed their 6ths consecutive Thanksgiving (not to mention Christmas) home.

I was reminded the other night of the impact our negative thoughts can have on our brain. I may not agree 100 percent with what Dr. Amen has to say, but I feel like he can be a great resource. Follow this link for more info. This first quote is from that link.

“The thoughts that go through your mind, moment by moment, have a significant impact on how your brain works. Research by Mark George, MD and colleagues at the National Institutes of Health demonstrated that happy, hopeful thoughts had an overall calming effect on the brain, while negative thoughts inflamed brain areas often involved with depression and anxiety. Your thoughts matter.”

Dr. Amen has a clever acronym for negative thoughts, “ANTs” (or Automatic Negative Thoughts)

Quoting a paragraph from his book, “Change your brain change your life.”

Our overall mind state has a certain tone or flavor based largely on the types of thoughts we think. When the deep limbic system is overactive, it sets the mind's filter on "negative." If you could look into the thoughts of people who are depressed, you would find one dispiriting thought following another. When they look at the past, there is regret. When they look at the future there is anxiety and pessimism. In the present moment, something is most often unsatisfactory. The lens through which they see themselves, others, and the world has a dim grayness to it. They are suffering from Automatic Negative Thoughts, or ANTs. ANTs are cynical, gloomy, and complaining thoughts that just seem to keep coming all by themselves.

(to read a section from his book click this link)

Here is a summary of the “ANTs”

1. "Always" thinking: thinking in words like always, never, no one, every one, every time, everything.
2. Focusing on the negative: only seeing the bad in a situation.
3. Fortune telling: predicting the worst possible outcome to a situation.
4. Mind reading: believing that you know what another person is thinking, even though they haven't told you.
5. Thinking with your feelings: believing negative feelings without ever questioning them.
6. Guilt beatings: thinking in words like "should, must, ought or have to."
7. Labeling: attaching a negative label to yourself or to someone else.
8. Personalization: innocuous events are taken to have personal meaning.
9. Blame: blaming someone else for your own problems.

That was me, and in moments of relapse it is me again, if I am not careful or use my “ANT eaters”

Feed Your Anteater and Feel Better

Whenever you notice an ANT entering your mind, train yourself to recognize it and write it down. When you write down automatic negative thoughts (ANTs) and talk back to them, you begin to take away their power and gain control over your moods. Kill the ANTs by feeding your emotional anteater.

FEED YOUR ANTEATER AND FEEL BETTER EXERCISE is for whenever you need to be in control of your mind. It is for times when you feel anxious, nervous, depressed or frazzled. It is for times when you need to be your best.

Here are some examples of ways to kill these ANTs:

ANT / Species of ANT / Kill the ANT

You never listen to me. / 'Always Thinking' / I get frustrated when you don't listen to me,
but I know you have listened to me and will again.

The boss doesn't like me. / 'Mind Reading' / I don't know that. Maybe she's just having a bad day.
Bosses are people, too.

The whole class will laugh at me. / 'Fortune Telling' / I don't know that. Maybe they'll really like my speech.

I'm stupid. / 'Labeling' / Sometimes I do things that aren't too smart,
but I'm not stupid.

It's your fault we have these marital problems. / 'Blame' / I need to look at my part of the problems and look for ways I can make the situation better.

Getting back to gratitude, this talk was given at our most recent General Conference from our wonderful Prophet:

“We can lift ourselves and others as well when we refuse to remain in the realm of negative thought and cultivate within our hearts an attitude of gratitude. If ingratitude be numbered among the serious sins, then gratitude takes its place among the noblest of virtues. Someone has said that ‘gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.’ Cicero, in A New Dictionary of Quotations on Historical Principles, sel. H. L. Mencken (1942), 491.

“When we encounter challenges and problems in our lives, it is often difficult for us to focus on our blessings. However, if we reach deep enough and look hard enough, we will be able to feel and recognize just how much we have been given.”

Lets help each other this holiday season to see how richly blessed we really are. Approaching life with an attitude of gratitude will not only bless our lives, but lift those around us.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Sugar: Emotions

What we eat, good or bad, has an effect not only on our physical health but also our mental health.  For example, a hungry individual is more likely to be irritable and easily frustrated.  Refined sugar is especially devastating due to it’s effect on insulin.  Insulin imbalance is associated with depression, anxiety and frustration.  Less talked about are the effects of food on emotions.  It is obvious that emotions affect the way we eat if we aren’t aware of whats going on.  How many times were you stressed and thought a donut or soda would lift your spirits?  My personal favorite was Oreo’s and milk.

Isn’t that why we are addicted to sugar anyway- to regulate or change a mood?  This is an incredibly dangerous practice as it sets up the groundwork for a cycle of sugar addiction.  Stress –> response: eat for comfort –> Insulin surge –> response: physical fatigue –> eat for energy (usually more sugar) -> let down as sugar effect dissipates -> More stress -> and on and on.

The Limbic system is the most primitive part of the brain.  This is where emotions are both stored and generated.  When addiction is present it is no longer reacting clearly.  “For instance, when we eat chocolate, notes the National Institute for Drug Abuse, we may feel a noteworthy amount of pleasure (via the limbic system), leading us to repeat the behavior. Unfortunately, repeating this action for the sake of pleasure and using this habit to cope with daily life can create a cycle of not only crashing blood sugar, but frustration.”  Click here for complete article.

Giving into addiction is essentially allowing the substance you are addicted to take care of the uncomfortable emotion for you.  Stress, anger, anxiety – all emotions typically avoided by addicts.  It is my belief and experience that if you want to overcome an addiction, you have to face your troubles.  You can no longer run from what is upsetting you.  Negative emotions can be very frightening because they are usually associated with mental thoughts and ideas or perceptions.  If I perceive that my boss is a real jerk to me, naturally my thoughts instruct my brain to feel either anger or fear.  If I don’t feel capable of dealing with the anger or fear what happens in my body?  The chemicals (hormones) that my brain generated in response to the stress are stored in fatty tissue or the body attempts to eliminate the excess through the waste process.  If my body is already in overdrive trying to compensate for sugar overload then eventual illness will result.  All because I chose to allow sugar to deal with my boss instead of being responsible for myself.  Sadly, when anger or fear isn't dealt with it often becomes shame and self loathing.
I believe (from my own experience) that emotional dependence on a substance facilitates an inability to see life as it really is. I feel that it makes problems worse, not better or easier because it keeps us from growing through an experience.  A problem rarely goes away if we choose not to deal with it.  Usually the problem is always there and more problems start to heap up when we choose to ignore or hide from them.  (In a future post I will talk more about emotional intelligence).

It's actually easier to cope with emotions when an outside chemical isn't influencing hormones and the brain.  As sweet as sugar is, it does not make life sweet.  The only thing that can make life sweet is what comes from within us.  Self respect, positive attitude and a desire to do what's right.

    Thursday, November 11, 2010

    Withdrawal: My Story

    A few months ago Corey, my husband, planned a day outing to a mountain lake.  At the time we were sporadically working on living more healthy but hadn't eliminated desserts and treats from our diets.  When I asked him what kind of goodies I should buy for the short trip he looked thoughtful for a moment and said, "We don't need anything, do we?"  I felt my throat closing up in panic at his question but managed to choke out a "probably not".   I slipped into the other room to take a moment and figure out why my world was spiraling because of junk food.

    The hour long ride up to the lake was very distressing to me in many ways.  I was most distressed because of my reaction.  Couldn't I have fun without candy anymore?  I was distressed because I didn't have my sweets to provide an extension of fun.  I was distressed because I felt panicked without something sweet - I could no longer function without a fix.  It became seriously apparent at that moment that I had a problem.  An addiction.

    More phenomenal was the experience that came after arriving at the lake.  I had fun.  I actually had a lot of fun.  Because I didn't have sugar to pull at my mind constantly I was able to freely use all my senses to enjoy the beautiful surroundings.

    Corey and I discussed the experience and confirmed what we already suspected, that each of us has a problem.  We decided to make changes and began the planning process (which will be discussed in another post) and started our new lifestyle on the following Monday. 

    Monday came.  All fine and only mild cravings after dinner.

    Tuesday.  Headache.  Mild anxiety.  No energy.

    Wednesday.  Headache still there.  Anxiety tightening my throat.  Heavy irritability.  Low energy.

    Thursday.  Mild irritability.  Low energy.  Whiny and intense cravings. (Should I mentions a change in bowel habits for the worse?)

    Friday.  Subdued but hopeful cravings.

    The Weekend.  Not pleasant.

    Monday.  Not so bad....

    Tuesday.  A sense of accomplishment and pride for making it 1 week.  Feeling a lot better physically.

    Weekends are still hard.  My brain is so used to weekend fun eating that just the word 'Friday' starts a dessert quest in my mind.  And then I remember that I don't do that anymore.  I don't need to. 

    Many years ago my dad suffered from alcoholism.  I sought his advice when planning my recovery from sugar.  I asked him if the cravings ever just go away.  His reply is the very core of why I'm a recovering sugar addict.  He said "No.  My body still wants alchohol."  This is coming from a good man who attends the temple and strives to live a Christlike life.  At that moment I realized that I could no longer keep one foot in Babylon.  I had to make a choice:  to be ruled by sugar or to be my own master.  Accepting that sugar will always have a siren's call to me was a hard bit to swallow and initially seemed bitter and unfair.  But like my experience at the lake I have found that life is much more sweet without it anyway.

    "In order to experience the symptoms of withdrawal, one must have first developed a physical dependence (often referred to as chemical dependency). This happens after consuming one or more of these substances for a certain period of time, which is both dose dependent and varies based upon the drug consumed."   Wikipedia

    Emotional Withdrawal Symptoms

    • Anxiety
    • Restlessness
    • Irritability
    • Insomnia
    • Headaches
    • Poor concentration
    • Depression
    • Social isolation

    Physical Withdrawal Symptoms

    • Sweating
    • Racing heart
    • Palpitations
    • Muscle tension
    • Tightness in the chest
    • Difficulty breathing
    • Tremor
    • Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea

    Monday, November 8, 2010

    Physical Aspects: What Sugar Does to Your Brain

    I've known for a long time that refined sugars made me 'feel good'.  The older I got the more stress entered life and my sugar consumption began a steady increase while my health began a steady decrease.  I got to the point that I could eat candy or some kind of junk food, stand in the kitchen and literally feel the subtle wave of calming and euphoria hit me.  Humiliating and enslaving, disgusting and pathetic to need something like that to feel happy in life or to cope. 

    It's important to remember that the more a substance is refined the less nutrition it has and it takes on a basic chemical form.  Why is this of interest?  Sugar in it's bleached and refined state leeches a multitude of vitamins and minerals from the body in order for the body to process it.  [Dr. David Reuben, author of Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Nutrition says,] “…white refined sugar-is not a food. It is a pure chemical extracted from plant sources, purer in fact than cocaine, which it resembles in many ways."

    There are many scientists and doctors that scoff at people who claim to have sugar addiction.  In fact there are not a lot of studies to back it up or disprove it.  I don't think it takes a scientist to tell any of us that sugar is addictive.  This article pulls form several websites and studies about the effects of sugar on the brain and mental capacity.

    As a disclaimer, I DO NOT advocate extreme dieting or diets that aren't based on moderation.   I don't agree with every thing on these sites but there is some good information to filter through.

    Keeping Your Brain Healthy by Dr. Patsi Krakroff
    When you have an elevated blood-sugar level, you elevate your insulin level. You also elevate your stress hormones, which follows right behind your blood sugar. These are all capable of causing inflammatory responders to go into high gear in the body. This can damage the mitochondria of the cells, which are our main cellular energy-producers.

    When the mitochondria are damaged by constant elevation of blood sugar, especially if you are overweight, this may cause a pre-diabetic or diabetic condition. When the mitochondria are damaged, the nerve cell deteriorates and dies. This is why sugar addicts experience fatigue.

    Daily drinkers of alcohol are particularly prone to brain damage as they age. Since alcohol is processed as sugar…

    Artificial sweeteners are not the solution. They can cause headaches, migraines and attention difficulties.  [Full article here]

    What Sugar Does To Your Brain
    By Dr. Scott Olson

    brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). 
    Research has shown that high sugar diets (along with high fat diets and lack of essential fatty acids) decrease a BDNF.2 In fact, the relationship between BDNF and sugar gets even more interesting: low amounts of BDNF actually leads to insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome and even diabetes.3 This means that high sugar in the blood leads to low BDNF, and then low BDNF leads to a worsening of blood sugar control, which leads to high blood sugar, which leads to worse blood sugar control… and the cycle continues. You want as much BDNF around as possible if you want to learn, grow, and have normal brain functioning.
    Interestingly, there is also a close association with poor blood sugar control (metabolic syndrome) and the severity of schizophrenia:

    As a hint that how we live and what we eat have some effect on our moods, it has long been known that coronary heart disease and diabetes all are common in people with depression.8 This means that the same dietary conditions that create heart disease and diabetes also can lead to depression.  Anxiety, too, has been closely linked with sugar use in a number of studies.  [full article here]

    "Sugar and the taste of sweet stimulate the brain by activating beta endorphin receptor sites. These are the same chemicals activated by heroin and morphine.

    Fatty foods may cause cocaine-like addiction. Taking drugs such as cocaine and eating too much junk food both gradually overload the so-called pleasure centers in the brain, [according to Paul J. Kenny, Ph.D., an associate professor of molecular therapeutics at the Scripps Research Institute, in Jupiter, Florida.] Eventually the pleasure centers "crash," and achieving the same pleasure—or even just feeling normal—requires increasing amounts of the drug or food, says Kenny, the lead author of the study.   

    "Recent behavioral tests in rats further back the idea of an overlap between sweets and drugs. Drug addiction often includes three steps. A person will increase his intake of the drug, experience withdrawal symptoms when access to the drug is cut off and then face an urge to relapse back into drug use. Rats on sugar have similar experiences. Researchers withheld food for 12 hours and then gave rats food plus sugar water. This created a cycle of binging where the animals increased their daily sugar intake until it doubled. When researchers either stopped the diet or administered an opioid blocker the rats showed signs common to drug withdrawal, such as teeth-chattering and the shakes. Early findings also indicate signs of relapse. Rats weaned off sugar repeatedly pressed a lever that previously dispensed the sweet solution." (Leah Ariniello, Brain Briefings, October 2003)
    Full article here.
    Click here for the most comprehensive article I've found on sugar and it's effects on mind and body.

    Is it too much to ask to take responsibility for our bodies and live better?

    Thursday, November 4, 2010

    Laura’s Take: The Power of Positive thinking; helping us achieve our Healthy Habits

    Sow a thought, and you reap an act; Sow an act, and you reap a habit; Sow a habit, and you reap a character; Sow a character, and you reap a destiny” ~Charles Reade

    From my previous post I spoke about my struggle with depression and anxiety. During the time I was serving an LDS mission was when I began to reap new habits and it all began with positive thinking.

    In the second letter from my bishop he wrote: “As a ‘confession,’ I used to really dislike being told to have a ‘PMA’ (positive mental attitude) and similar things, probably because it seemed trite and somewhat ‘cheer-leaderish.’ However, now I realize it isn’t so trite at all. Indeed, it is a precursor to exercising true faith.”

    I had felt the same way. All throughout Jr. High School and High School I looked down on positive people. I felt they were ignorant to the real suffering and pain in the world. Looking back, I was the ignorant one.

    I began collecting positive quotes like an entomologist collects butterflies during this time of transition. I feel like I should share two of my favorites. The first is called “If”


    If you think you are beaten, you are.
    If you think you dare not, you don't.
    If you'd like to win, but think you can't,
    It's almost a cinch you won't.

    If you think you'll lose, you've lost.
    For out of the world we find

    Success begins with a fellows’ will.
    It's all in the state of mind.

    If you think you're outclassed, you are.
    You've got to think high to rise.
    You've got to be sure of yourself
    Before you can win the prize.

    Life's battles don't always go
    To the stronger or faster man,
    But soon or late the man who wins
    Is the man who thinks he can.

    ~ Anonymous

    “The Eternal Everyday” by Edmund Vance Cooke (fragment)

    “…O, one might reach heroic heights
    By one strong burst of power.
    He might endure the whitest lights
    Of Heaven for an hour;–
    But harder is the daily drag,
    To smile at trials which fret and fag,
    And not to murmur – nor to lag.
    The test of greatness is the way
    One meets the eternal Everyday.”

    I put that last poem to memory and I would recite it in my mind or with those I visited. It was a source of great comfort to me. (I found it while reading the Ensign: Quentin L. Cook, “Looking beyond the Mark,” Ensign, Mar 2003, 40–44)

    Our thoughts have power for good or ill. I have felt this very literally in my life. For an example of the literal power of pray/positive thinking can be found in an account by Dr. W. Jerome Stowell I read after I came home from mission. It is a bit lengthy so I won’t post it here, but you can read the account at this

    A small summary of the story is about a group of scientists looking for a way to measure the electrical charges in the brain during the transition of dying to death. On this measuring device they had measured the power used by a 50,000 watt broadcasting station sending a message around the world at nine points on the positive scale. They then measured a dying woman (they could hear what she was saying during her last hours) as she prayed. They didn’t have an instrument strong enough to register the positive number, it was higher than the 500 positive points on their scale. This had a similar but opposite effect as they measured a man who was more bitter and angry.

    Our very thoughts have the power to propel us to our dreams or our nightmares. They have a real affect on our attitudes and our health. If we want positive changes in our lives we need to feed our minds with pure, uplifting, edifying activities. Through our own actions and the aid from our Father above we can achieve anything we set our mind to. “Sow a thought, and you reap an act; Sow an act, and you reap a habit; Sow a habit, and you reap a character; Sow a character, and you reap a destiny”

    Wednesday, November 3, 2010

    Physical Aspects of Addiction: What Sugar Does to Your Body

    The following is an excerpt from "Why is Sugar Bad?" by Nutrition Diva.  For the full article click here.  It's well worth the read. These 5 reasons are just the top 5, there's more.

    1. Sugar suppresses the immune system. 

    2. Sugar promotes inflammation. 

    3. Sugar suppresses the release of human growth hormone.

    4. Sugar promotes glycation.

    5. Sugar raises insulin levels.


      So basically the top 5 mean that sickness happens more and easier, "excessive inflammation promotes aging and disease", aging is sped up, the body is filled with toxic chemicals and stripped of nutrients, the pancreas gets so confused and overworked that insulin dependence results.  (The author is of course speaking of chronic excessive intake of refined sugars.)


    Let's not forget to mention that candida (yeast infection) thrives on refined sugar and acidity.  Sugar causes more acidity in the body, the joints are more prone to arthritis, more reproductive disruptions, vision problems and SO MUCH MORE. 


    Did you know that the average American eats over 140 Lb. of sugar per year.  If you have an addiction to sugar I'm sure that it's more.


    For more that 5 reasons why refined sugar is harmful click here


    Expand the image below to see the breakdown of what typically happens in 1 year of eating.  

    Tuesday, November 2, 2010

    Habit: A Sidenote on Neurons

    The following is an excerpt from a study done in 2005 at MIT.  The full article is here.

    Brain researchers explain why old habits die hard

    Cathryn M. Delude, News Office Correspondent

    Habits help us through the day, eliminating the need to strategize about each tiny step involved in making a frothy latte, driving to work and other complex routines. Bad habits, though, can have a vise grip on both mind and behavior. Notoriously hard to break, they are devilishly easy to resume, as many reformed smokers discover.

    "We knew that neurons can change their firing patterns when habits are learned, but it is startling to find that these patterns reverse when the habit is lost, only to recur again as soon as something kicks off the habit again," said Graybiel, who is also the Walter A. Rosenblith Professor of Neuroscience in MIT's Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences (BCS).

    "It is as though somehow, the brain retains a memory of the habit context, and this pattern can be triggered if the right habit cues come back," Graybiel said. "This situation is familiar to anyone who is trying to lose weight or to control a well-engrained habit. Just the sight of a piece of chocolate cake can reset all those good intentions."  --------

    So beware - even if we replace a bad habit with a good habit the neural pathways have memory and can easily fall back into whatever activity was previously engaged in.  Especially if there was a 'reward' involved, such as sugar.

    Monday, November 1, 2010


    hab·it [hábbit] n
    regularly repeated behavior pattern: an action or pattern of behavior that is repeated so often that it becomes typical of somebody, although he or she may be unaware of it

    Oh, habits. How many we each have, good and bad. But there is hope! Habits can be changed. It just takes consistency. My bad habits with sugar addiction were eating for fun, eating for comfort and eating to cope. I began to mentally catalog how often I thought of making desserts or eating something sweet and how often I went to the cupboard or fridge and I was absolutely shocked. All day. Every day. Worse on the weekend. What an awful way to live - where every moment is spent on the same thing. I didn't want to leave the house without grabbing a handful of Skittles or go on a drive unless it meant we could go for ice cream or go fishing unless we could take candy. That's a really expensive way to live.

    Eating to cope and eating for comfort can be eliminated with proper stress management.
    Eating for fun - ugh. That has been a very difficult one to change. It's taken time, self pep talks and positive activity replacement to ease that one.

    This site has some helpful habit changing information. Once again, I don't agree with all of it but some of the ideas are great and simple and not too wordy.  How to Break a Habit

    For me, recognizing the moments I was being habitual was key. Next came a detailed plan of how and why to change. Getting out of the house or doing something positive, uplifting and creative has helped the tender process of denying and replacing the bad habit with something better. Getting my mind off sugar has been SO important. For example, I am an artist and I like to draw with pen and ink. So I draw when I have time. Corey and I like to play Halo together.  Do something truly rewarding and the need for the sugar reward is no longer as appealing. It's really that simple.

    Here is an excerpt from 'How to Break a Habit'
    "Try to replace your habit with something new and positive in your life. The key is not to focus on the "not doing", but to think instead about "doing". Instead of thinking about missing that piece of chocolate cake after dinner, think about how good it is going to feel to take a long walk without all that sugar in your system."

    Give yourself time and living well will get easier.  3 weeks to break a habit and 3 weeks before a new habit sets in.  It's all about consistency and recognition.

    What do you do break or make a habit?

    Friday, October 29, 2010

    Laura's Take: Combatting Stress with Spiritual Power

    Almost eight years ago I began an ecclesiastical mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  I served for 19 months, putting aside family, friends, hobbies, college and work to serve in Maryland.  This was the desire of my heart since I was 9 years old, to share the glad message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Though this gospel had brought me a great deal of comfort and joy, I had suffered from depression for several years and was taking medication to deal with the anxieties that resulted from it.  When I got to the mission field I encountered allot of new situations and stresses that became nearly debilitating.  I had served for about four months when I found out a dear woman I had taught had passed away.  It was a hard blow, and hand phoned my mission president in tears.  I was shocked when he said I should consider going home.  I knew I couldn’t go home so I sought counsel from my home ward bishop.
     When my bishop spoke with me, he could tell I had a lot of feelings of stress and anxiety.  He told me that some of those feelings had to do with the every-day experiences and life of a missionary.  He then told me that most of them seemed to be centered in perceived feelings of inadequacy or fears that I might not be able to do everything that I should.
     He went on to explain of his conviction that some of Satan’s greatest tools are discouragement and depression. “Negative emotions such as depression, anxiety, doubts, fears, etc. can be just as effective at driving the Spirit away from us as conscious sin.
    Just as with doubt and fear, any other negative emotion such as depression, anxiety, etc. can drive the Spirit out of our lives and cause us to “sink.”  (Think of Peter participating in a great miracle of walking on water, Matt. 14:29-30).  Remember, “where doubt [or fear, or anger, or depression, or anxiety] is, faith cannot be.”
     He helped me discover a fallacy I had believed in for years, that depression was the same as humility.  And that I was putting too much trust in my own efforts and not relying on the Lord. To quote my Bishop:
     “Making flesh our arm” refers to relying upon our own efforts and abilities.  When we doubt we are simply relying upon our own intellect to address or consider a dispute.  When we fear, we are relying upon our own understanding or intellect to judge or assess a situation”
     “By definition, the weaknesses which are given to us cannot be overcome by our individual efforts, no matter how hard we work, or it would not make us humble.  Indeed, it would have just the opposite effect and make us proud that we had overcome the weakness on our own!

    Then is given one of the greatest of all the promises in the scriptures:  “for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.”  I have emphasized the word “I” because it is the Lord who will make you strong and lift your burdens. “
    Because of the lengthiness of the letter, these are the steps my bishop set up to help me overcome the severe anxiety I was experiencing.
    ·        Recognize the negative emotion .  It is alright to feel unworthy, weak and inadequate. However, after we have made that acknowledgment, it is NOT alright to stay that way or to let it affect our life.
    ·        Don’t dwell on the negative emotion.  Quickly cast out such damaging and negative thoughts.
    ·        Pray for the Lord’s help in overcoming the stress.  The weaknesses which are given to us cannot be overcome by our individual efforts.
    ·        Finally, know that putting these principles into effect will take time and significant effort.
    Like my bishop said, it would take time and effort to put these things into practice.  I find that when I am up against some major change and stress that I haven’t encountered before, like marriage, pregnancy, childbirth, etc. I have to go through the same process that I went through over 7 years ago.  This works for any weakness, any problem.  The gospel of Jesus Christ is so perfect in its simplicity and so beautiful in its universality.  Yes we are all unique and have our own special circumstance and belief systems but we are all the same in that we are all children of a loving God.  And his council works for all of us.

    View the actual letter by clicking here or choosing the link on the sidebar. 

    Thursday, October 28, 2010

    Stress Management: a Sidenote on Meditation

    As a believer in Christ and a Latter Day Saint, I feel that every thing we do should be centered around the Master and His Gospel. Why? Because I know I can't go wrong if I follow His teachings and the teachings of His prophets. (If you want to know more about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and our beliefs click here). I also know that I will be able to discern when something is bad for me through prayer and feeling. God knows each of us personally and can often help us find what we need better than we can help ourselves. I've lived without God in my life and I know the difference that He makes. He is worth taking time to get to know. So, one type of meditation can involve the scriptures. My personal favorite is the Book of Mormon. Pray. Read. Ponder. And when we invite the healing power of Christ into our lives change is much more effective and so much easier.

    Using the scriptures as a base and prayer as a medium for discernment ensures that we wont be led astray by harmful beliefs or ideas that are negative or damaging to life and the soul.  Also, it is easier to find helpful forms of meditation that exist beyond the range of our own religious experience.
    I believe that meditation should be deeply personal. It should be a time when you are completely vulnerable so that you can learn who you are and learn to trust yourself. That being said, meditation should be safe, gentle, kind hearted towards self, and purposeful - with good intention.

    By being vulnerable we quiet the ego, we set all strivings aside and take time to be delightfully calm so that we don't get in the way of ourself. I believe that there is something lovely inside each of us that remains unchanged by time and circumstance - something that is eternal and that resonates with memory when we embrace goodness and truth. When we take time to look inward without the ego getting in the way, we can be reminded of just how beautiful we are and how much truth already resonates within us, even though we may have things that trouble us, habits that cloud our vision or tendencies that dim our light.

    Another type of meditation is the stereotypical kind of deep breathing and visualization. I don't like anything that makes me feel like a weirdo so I try to keep it simple. :) Deep breathing is naturally calming (which helps with stress). Visualization is VERY powerful. So is positive thinking. Especially if positive thinking is difficult for you. I've really liked this book "The Book of Chakras" by Ambica Wauters. Simple and doesn't get in the way of itself with too much Eastern Philosophy. This book has written out meditations that are pretty easy to follow and are a good basic start.

    Essential oils can be an excellent addition to any meditation, even scripture reading. They can assist anything from making difficult changes to having more clarity when learning.  I highly recommend the book "Butterfly Miracles With Essential Oils".  The author, LaRee Westover, has studied and lived natural medicine for over 30 years.  I know her personally and she is a lovely person.

    You can always try an audio meditation where someone is verbally guiding you as well. Use caution with this and be sure to avoid hypnosis. Hypnosis weakens agency, or the ability to choose for ourselves and if used improperly can give the hypnotist the power to strongly influence your choices and actions.

    Ultimately, visualization and positive thinking can do wonders when trying to change or lift oneself out of negativity. Having a moral guide, such as the scriptures, helps us see where we need to make changes in our behavior so that we don't fall back into the negative pattern.

    Wednesday, October 27, 2010



    stress [stress] n


    strain felt by somebody: mental, emotional, or physical strain caused, e.g. by anxiety or overwork. (Microsoft Word Dictionary)

    Money. Relationships. Work. People. Responsibility. Worries about the future. So many things in our lives can cause stress. How we cope with stress is essentially important to the health of our whole being. I personally believe that most addiction comes from an inability to cope with stress. I feel that my own addiction to sugar started subconsciously as a way to calm my body and mind by taking it to a happier place. All because I couldn't (or wouldn't) comfort myself in stressful times.

    Unfortunately, while sugar may have superficially calmed down my mind and mellowed my nerves, my body endured the physical side effects. Lowered immune system, lost nutrients, insulin imbalance, poor health and eventual physical dependence. Stress is a powerful factor in addiction and leads to habit forming actions if not coped with properly.

    So how do we properly cope with stress? It seems to boil down to learning to respond, not react. I am starting to understand that stress comes from within, not without. How stressed we are is closely linked to our outlook on life. How we feel about ourselves, about others and about God or the 'Universe'.

    I like the simplicity of these sites. I may not agree with everything they say about stress management but they are pretty helpful. Really all you have to do is Google 'stress management' and millions of hits come up.
    Understanding Stress
    How To Deal With Stress

    Below is an excerpt from the 'How To Deal With Stress' link
    "Stress symptoms include mental, social, and physical manifestations. These include exhaustion, loss of/increased appetite, headaches, crying, sleeplessness, and oversleeping. Escape through alcohol, drugs, or other compulsive behavior are often indications. Feelings of alarm, frustration, or apathy may accompany stress."

    Below is an excerpt from the 'Understanding Stress' link.

    Things that influence your stress tolerance level
    • Your support network – A strong network of supportive friends and family members is an enormous buffer against life’s stressors. On the flip side, the more lonely and isolated you are, the greater your vulnerability to stress.
    • Your sense of control – If you have confidence in yourself and your ability to influence events and persevere through challenges, it’s easier to take stress in stride. People who are vulnerable to stress tend to feel like things are out of their control.
    • Your attitude and outlook – Stress-hardy people have an optimistic attitude. They tend to embrace challenges, have a strong sense of humor, accept that change is a part of life, and believe in a higher power or purpose.
    • Your ability to deal with your emotions. You’re extremely vulnerable to stress if you don’t know how to calm and soothe yourself when you’re feeling sad, angry, or afraid. The ability to bring your emotions into balance helps you bounce back from adversity.
    • Your knowledge and preparation – The more you know about a stressful situation, including how long it will last and what to expect, the easier it is to cope. For example, if you go into surgery with a realistic picture of what to expect post-op, a painful recovery will be less traumatic than if you were expecting to bounce back immediately.
    I personally feel the above items are excellent things to strengthen in our lives. Ultimately it seems like when we are stressed we need to just step back and bring a little logic into the situation and a little prayer, meditation and gentle personal confrontation. I'm just a babe in the woods when it comes to stress management, but I'm determined to get better at it. And it's the first step to beating an addiction to sugar.

    In my own experience, recognizing that I was comfort eating because of stress was half the battle to overcome the sugar addiction. I had never considered myself to be a high strung or stressed out person until I tried to live without sugar for the first time. Life overwhelmed me and I didn't last long. It became very apparent that I was stressed and not dealing with it at all. It was a rude awakening. There will always be stresses in life that we can't change, but the harmful effect is lessened by our attitude.

    Meditation will be discussed in tomorrow's post. Until then, chill out! :)

    Tuesday, October 26, 2010

    Why Sugar Addiction?

    ad-dict-ed /e'diktid/ adj. 1. dependent on; unable to do without. (dk illustrated oxford dictionary)

    Why do we get addicted? Especially to something like sugar. There isn't a simple, one sentence answer. I believe that addiction is much more than a physical need. I believe that every facet of our lives affects our behavior toward a substance or activity that we have a weakness for. Addiction isn't just physical. It's chemical and hormonal. It's mental and subconscious. It's emotional. It's habitual and neurally driven. It's genetic. And probably more.

    My personal experience seems to be mostly geared around 6 main elements (not in order of influence):
    1. Stress
    2. Hormonal
    3. Habit
    4. Emotions
    5. Physical Dependence
    6. Spiritual Health
    This is why I believe addiction is so difficult to help. One element, when out of balance, stressed or affected, influences the other elements. For example, hormones can absolutely lay waste to emotional health and logic. Too much negative emotion effects us physically. Habit creates neural synapses that lead to physically perceived need for substances and activities. Ineffective coping with stress leads to too much output of chemicals from glands in our bodies and can create hormonal imbalance. And on and on they cycle goes. If we are going to fight an addiction to something there must be a holistic approach.

    In the next few posts I will expand on each element and how it affects and is effected by addiction from my personal experience and perspective.

    Monday, October 25, 2010

    Self Examination

    I am 31 years of age as of this post. For as long as I can remember I have struggled with a desire to eat desserts for comfort and for fun. Let's face it, food is a huge part of life and culture. At about age 12 I became more interested in physical fitness and began to discover that I had a difficult time leaving sweets alone. For nearly 20 years now I have battled with myself, attempting to eradicate the desire for sweets from my life. If you are not sure if you are addicted to refined sugar (desserts, candy, soda, etc.) I suggest asking yourself a question: Can I walk away from dessert forever and not care? What do you feel? Does it create anxiety? How is your body reacting? What thoughts are coming to your mind? For me, I got to the point that when I asked myself that question I nearly puked with fear and felt very depressed.

    Now I'm not saying that eating dessert is an evil, sinful thing. DON'T misunderstand my intention here. What I am saying is that if you 'can't live without it' then refined sugar is destroying your health and retarding your capacity to feel and experience life. We are talking about addiction to refined sugar, not the act of eating it. After all, sugar in and of itself has no intention, is neither evil or good, it just is. It's what we do with it that can create negativity in our lives. I want to explore why it is bad for health in a future post.

    So, do you have a problem with refined sugar? I do. It was difficult to admit addiction and even more unpleasant to accept that I have a problem. But, you know, it wont go away on it's own. And I speak from experience that the longer you ignore it and push it away, the worse it will get, especially if life gets stressful for long periods of time.

    As part of a self examination here are several other questions to ask yourself:
    1. Do you get a small, euphoric high when you eat something packed with refined sugar?
    2. Do you eat excessive amounts of refined sugar or salty snacks when you are stressed?
    3. What do you do in down time? What are the first thoughts you have when relaxing? Is it 'go to the kitchen or fridge'?
    4. Do you make desserts or drink soda to relax or have fun?
    5. Have you tried to live without refined sugar (desserts, candy, soda, etc.) without success?
    6. Does your body feel awful after eating sugar? (It should whether you're addicted or not! :)
    7. Do you have an affinity for sweets?
    8. Do you buy lots of sweets? Eat lots of sweets?
    9. Can you live without desserts, drinks, etc.?
    10. Do you have a problem with yeast infections (candidiasis) of any kind?

    I have a problem with sweets and I'm going to beat the problem. Because I want to feel better and have the satisfaction of knowing that I am the captain of my own ship.

    Sunday, October 24, 2010

    If you're addicted to it, then it's an addiction

    Addictions come in all shapes and sizes. I believe that everyone has a tendency or weakness to addiction but that addictions are uniquely personal to each of us. This means that not everyone has the same addiction to the same substance or activity and that each addiction comes from a variety of personal factors. Such factors as culture, biological family history, individual personality type, childhood abuse, life experience, inability to cope with strong emotions and many other factors contribute to what we can become addicted to. But even though there are many substances and activities a person can become addicted to, one thing remains the same: addiction is addiction - no matter what it is to. This means that the steps to overcome and recover from an addiction are fundamentally the same all across the board!

    In this blog I will only be dealing with addiction to refined sugar with an occasional mention of salty snacks as well. I decided to create this blog because it's so hard to find free help and advice on the Internet about sugar addiction. I'm just an average Joe, so to speak, and this blog is a catalog of how I am beating sugar addiction. As always, seek medical help before making changes in your lifestyle.