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.


    1. :) awesome,
      when i decided to be better after i had my two babies (because i had a short relapse in my determinations to not eat sugar) I realised that i was using shopping to replace my sugar outlet. Its so easy to rely on something to "run away" from our problems.

      i had to realise that i was running from my problems with my husband being ill all the time. I felt unsupported. And shopping took my mind of of things.

    2. i love your blog and how it's focused on emotional eating Vs. intuitive! keep it up :)