Why sugar and flour are highly addictive and why you shouldn’t give them up!
If you ever wondered how you managed to eat half a loaf of bread or a bag of cookies when you weren’t even hungry you will know firsthand how addictive wheat and sugar can be. When you can’t stop doing something that you know is harmful for you, you know you have an addiction. You probably also know that will-power isn’t effective at stopping such addictions.
Those times in my life when I haven’t eaten these two substances have been the times, I’ve felt most free of overeating in general and had better health and concentration levels.
The two times I was totally raw vegan for more than six months, I felt that freedom.
Another time was I swore off sugar and flour was after reading Brightline Eating, a book by Susan Pierce-Thompson. The author who had battled with drug addictions and went onto study Neuro-science and Psychology, describes how certain people who have addictive personalities and histories were simply not able to eat these substances without eventually losing control and overeating or binging on them. She compared the effects of these refined foods to been like heroin for such people in the way they hit the brain and trigger uncontrollable eating. The fact that these two foods contain essentially empty calories also explains why the part of our brain that registers true satiation simply remains turned off, and we can continue to eat them ad infinitum. She also talked about the blood sugar spikes and drops which wreak havoc on our appetites and energy levels.
She had a questionnaire in her book and I ticked all the boxes for such an addictive person. Her advice for people like me was to simply draw a Bright Line. To see sugar and flour as the drugs that they are for them and simply to refuse to entertain any thoughts of ever consuming them again. This included fruit juices, smoothies, any forms of natural sugars, dried fruits, etc, as they were as potentially dangerous as the more refined varieties. There were also guidelines for eating each meal, with no snacks in between, and measured quantities of food for weightloss and weight maintenance. Although something deep inside was repelled by the thought of measuring my food for a day let alone my whole life, I was also inspired by the stories of the weightloss and the levels of freedom that the successful Brightliners attested to. So, I gave it a try. I didn’t follow any of the detailed outlines but I did avoid sugar and flour for about four months. I immediately began to lose weight rapidly and felt absolutely free from any necessity to overeat at all. I became one of those people who leave food on their plate because they are full after a few mouthfuls.
Until, of course I stepped over the Brightline. Those on the Brightline path would say, that overcoming such food addictions needs the support of the whole community. But I am a freedom loving person and to be shackled to a group or a diet, albeit one dressed up as a necessary lifestyle for the chronically damaged addictive personality didn’t feel like something I wanted to commit to or even affirm as my reality.
The good thing about being free of sugar and flour for any decent length of time, is that you do have to find other things to eat. And brain wiring around food preferences is pretty malleable. The more healthy unprocessed food you eat, the more you begin to appreciate more subtle salty and sweet tastes in their natural forms. Without being a committed raw vegan or having any Brightlines to protects me, I let myself be at the mercy of my full addictive appetites. And sometimes they have got the better of me. But in general, by making sure I prepare myself healthy meals regularly and eating fruit, plus working on the others areas of my life which need attention, such as being more assertive, more honest with myself and more focused on creativity and productivity, to mention just a few, I’ve noticed that without trying I find no great need to either restrict or indulge in overeating sugar and flour. Although I haven’t reached the point, where I forget I have chocolate in the fridge and therefore don’t keep it there. They simply don’t appeal to me in the same way they once did.
Some tests they did with rats given access to cocaine, showed that rats who were housed in more fun and interesting cages were less likely to be hooked on cocaine than ones in boring cages. And I’m pretty sure that goes for humans and food too.
If you want to lose weight as soon as possible, then by all means, avoiding these foods will definitely get you to your goal weight faster. And will have many other benefits also.
But if you are a freedom loving being like me, and simply want to become more relaxed about your body and food in general, you may choose to take the longer slower path and learn what constitutes a fun and interesting life for yourself. Develop a taste for healthy foods. Then let your body catch up in its own good time with your freer more relaxed state of mind. People often joke when someone says no to sugar in their coffee, ‘oh, you must be sweet enough already’. Perhaps it is a sweet life or a sweet state of mind that we are really craving rather than a sugar buzz at the end of the day.
I would still recommend reading Brightline Eating as a great explanation of the effects of sugar on our brains, but read with caution and don’t necessarily buy into the belief that you have an incurable eating addiction and total abstinence is only cure.