Sugar, the other white powder
It looks a lot like cocaine, and acts a lot like heroin when it hits your brain.
It was recently brought to my attention that everyone around me has been suffering from a case of uncontrollable sugar addiction this month. I’m talking like a “going out of your way to do ridiculous things to get that delicious white power in my system” type of addiction. It wasn’t only my friends, but also fitness and health professionals that I see as gods and goddesses on a daily basis.
Here are some stories I have been told this month. False names have been used to protect the identities of the victims.
Darla’s craving was especially horrifying one night when she ate 2 chocolate bars back-to-back. Her craving was not satisfied. In a desperate attempt to feed the beast within, she found herself at the grocery store at midnight lusting over a box of cookies. In order to disguise an act as crude as this one; she felt the need to add a few meal appropriate items to her cart of shame. This was to give the illusion that she was purchasing breakfast items, not roaming the streets for a midnight bump. I am unaware of the cookie survival rate, but I am sure you can imagine the outcome of this tale.
Darla’s story does not end there… Oh no… During this month of self-indulgent torture, Darla just happens to have some blood work done. After a few days she received a phone call asking her to come in and get tested for diabetes! Darla’s blood sugar and spiked to such a level from this sugar binge eating that her doctor actually thought she developed the disease. This was when Darla quit sugar, cold turkey. She will recover, but the memories of what she did to obtain the white stuff will linger forever.
Katie- “I hid it under my cereal and drowned it in milk.”
Vera woke out of a deep sleep at 2am. Her eyes shot open, and her mind started to race. She knew exactly what she needed to do. Her hands glided over her nightstand until she found the switch to her bedside lamp. Panic-stricken, Vera started to tear through her cupboards. “There MUST be some left over, a chocolate bar, some chews… anything!!!” she yelled at her empty hands.
Before she could process what had happened, Vera found herself standing in front of the white stuff. A bag as large as her craving stared back at her, beckoning. Vera gave in. Everything was measured out perfectly. Sugar, cocoa, flour; with movements as reckless as Dr. Frankenstein, Vera created her own monster.
She was staring at the dim light of the oven like a child anxiously awaiting recess. But this, oh yes this, was much better than recess. Vera had concocted the perfect combination of ingredients to satisfy her addiction- Chocolate fudge brownies sprinkled with the powder that got her here in the first place.
Megan- She found herself at the corner store for the third time that day. As Megan stared at the many rows of chocolate bars, she knew exactly what they were thinking. “It doesn’t matter which one you pick, you’ll be back for more…” They were right. She reached for 2, but grabbed one. Megan paid without looking the cashier in the eye, put on her hood and ripped open the wrapper unveiling the caramel-filled bar of heaven. It didn’t stand a chance; it was a matter of mere seconds.
It was gone and Megan was left unsatisfied. “Just one more,” she thought. Too ashamed to face her local supplier for the fourth time today, she found herself walking towards unfamiliar territory. She never ventured this far east. But she also couldn’t have her local guy think she had some sort of problem. Once again she found herself staring at the brightly coloured wrappers unable to choose just one. She took 4, and they didn’t make it home.
Julie- “I noticed I was making up excuses to justify these habits. I punished myself with it, I rewarded myself with it and I punished myself for rewarding myself. I was on a ride I couldn’t get off of”.
So is sugar a drug? Yes, both sugar and the taste of sweet activate beta endorphin receptor sites in the brain. These are the same receptor sites that are activated by heroin and morphine. Refined white sugar is a pleasure drug. If you don’t believe me, eat a cookie or chocolate bar and observe the instantaneous effects. You’ll experience a warming, comfortable feeling that makes you feel safe and happy. They’re not called comfort foods for no reason. In medical terms, a substance is addictive if it:
• induces a pleasant state or relieves distress,
• causes long-term chemical changes in the brain,
• leads to adaptive changes in the brain that trigger tolerance, physical dependence and uncontrollable cravings,
• causes dependence, so that abstaining is difficult and creates severe physical and mental reactions.
Hmmm, any of those sound a little too familiar? A 2002 study at Princeton University found that rats brain systems change in response to sugar. When researchers blocked the brain’s opioid system—which plays a role in the feeling of pleasure derived from a substance—the rats showed signs of withdrawal-like anxiety.
Sugar provides quick highs and lows and offers nothing but empty, nutrition-less calories that pack on the pounds. It leaves your blood levels spiking, a throws you hormones off-balance. When left unmonitored, it can lead to strange and shocking behaviours. Don’t be fooled even natural sugars can cause this type of behaviour. Sugar is sugar, no matter what the source. So indulge every once in a while and allow yourself that chemical release, but then STOP. Binge eating on sugar is not worth the downward spiral you will make your destiny.