Don't Wake the Sugar Dragon
They say that’s all you need to stop eating the crap. It's that simple.
Except for that’s a lie. Do you know what that message subconsciously translates to? If you struggle with not keeping your promises to yourself, then you're weak. More specifically, your mind is weak and your body just follows suite. Well, there's a recipe for shame if I've ever heard one. And I know many of you live there. You berate yourselves day after day, insisting that you're soft and lazy and failing... you must be! How else can it be explained? Your bodily destruction is simply the result of your irresponsible, weak self.
I call bullshit.
"You are entitled to your own opinion, but you're not entitled to your own facts."
Daniel Patrick Moynihan
Here's an enlightening set of facts for you. People react to foods, drugs, and life events with biological responses. The human body has unique chemistry and personality just as it has unique DNA. The body was designed brilliantly.
This is important to know and actually believe, otherwise you'll get stuck comparing yourself to your CrossFit trainer or that celebrity or your best friend or whoever.
Have you ever gotten up in the morning and decided, "Today is the day I'm going to do it." You vowed not to eat anymore sweets, get your 30 minutes of cardio in, and not fill your wine glass that night. But then you walked into work and someone brought donuts to share. Thus began the cascade of events that launched you into that same old downward spiral that landed you in bed with a bag of chocolates, licking your fingers and swearing that you'd start again tomorrow.
Maybe for you it isn't sweets. Maybe it's alcohol. Or drugs. Or pornography. Or excessive exercise. Or video games. Fill in the blank. Sound familiar now?
Have you ever wondered why? Why is it so hard to tell yourself no and actually do the thing you want to do? To stop doing the things you don't want to do... It's almost like your a slave to something you can't even pinpoint.
In case you've never heard of it, there's this little thing inside of you called Dopamine.
Dopamine is a chemical inside your body that acts a messenger between neurons, and it's largely responsible for motivating your behavior toward anything that may provide pleasure. Dopamine itself doesn't make you happy. It just promises happiness if you do the thing its telling your brain to do. Awesome sauce.
This is not the only biological response happening to motivate your behavior. There are others. But the point is that it's not just about willpower and mental weakness. If you have a slight tendency to abuse something or you have a full-blown addiction...
...your body and your mind are at war.
Your literal brain has been wired to motivate you as it sees fit. As a result, your hormones follow its lead and thus begins the raging battle.
How does this happen in the first place? Through consistent conditioning, we train our brains. Do you reward yourself with food or alcohol? Do you tell your children that it's time for a "special treat" and offer them candy? Do you consider special occasions a time to indulge? Then you're conditioning your dopamine response accordingly.
The bottom line is that your body is a key player in manipulating your mind to ignore the risks of whatever action you're trying to avoid. It's distortion of reality at its finest. And the moment you succumb to the ways of old, you've strengthened that powerful muscle in a way that will come back to bite you.
Not everyone is susceptible to this on the same level. As always, one size does NOT fit all. And some of us have higher tendencies toward addictive behaviors than others. You know who you are. For those of you who are unsure, some introspection.
-Do you tend to keep your promises to yourself?
-Do feel the pull of certain behaviors strongly, debating in your head whether or not to act?
-Are you easily swayed based on your environment or certain people you're with?
-Do you hide certain behaviors from other people?
-Do you feel shame or anger after indulging?
If you answered yes to any of those questions (and I encourage you to come up with your own), then you have likely lost control of the relationship with that food or drink or activity.
The problem with losing control of our relationship with food and drink, unique to anything else, is that the slopes are slippery in every direction you look. Remember, our manufactured, industry-driven food supply is rich with conflict of interest. Their primary goal is to keep you as their customer, and this leads to the purposeful creation of foods with addictive properties. Once again, we're talking biology.
We've all heard the old adage: "One man's food is another man's poison." And it's true.
To say that sugar is physiologically addictive seems to stir up a lot of controversy. And while there’s never been a legitimate RCT (randomized control trial) study done on its addictive nature in humans, plenty of animal studies confirm the theory. I’m not a huge fan of taking animal studies and applying them to humans, but I bet you can test your own body. Just answer those questions above and you’ll know.
Were you aware that there are over 60 different names for sugar as listed on ingredient labels? Now you know why the topic is controversial. Shocker.
The packaged, processed, hybridized and genetically engineered carbohydrates you buy at the grocery store and in restaurants are literally rewiring your brain and training you to want more of them.
Pretty clever, eh? So in case you thought those companies were concerned for your health, they're not. Their concern is your dopamine response. Period.
Notice, I blamed the carbohydrate. Not an accident.
What is a carbohydrate, anyway?
A carbohydrate is a combined molecule that comes in three forms: monosaccharides, disaccharides and polysaccharides. However, I want you to think of them as one-sugar, two-sugars or many sugars. Because this is what they are. When you ingest any carbohydrate--be it a simple sugar, a starch or fiber--your body breaks it down into glucose before releasing it into the bloodstream. Fine.
Now, listen here. I am not labeling any macronutrients as "good" or "bad." But here is why the carbohydrate is so special. And I'll quote Dr. Robert Cywes who said it so brilliantly: "There is no feedback control when it comes to carbohydrates or alcohol."
This means that your body will tell your brain that you've had enough when you eat protein and fat, or when you drink water. You are physically satisfied and won't be able to eat any more without throwing up. We literally have this built-in tool used to control our relationship with those foods. Now that's amazing.
However, that same mechanism does not apply when it comes to carbohydrates, as these affect a different area of the brain. (One must wonder why that is... more on that later.) As a result, we're able and much more likely to mindlessly shovel in as many tortilla chips or M&M’s as we see fit. Have you ever finished an entire bag to yourself at 10pm while watching The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon? Yah. Me too.
So what can we do? Hopefully, during the elimination phase, you were able to starve the sugar dragon. (You know her. That dopamine-driven, carbohydrate-loving dragon that rears her ugly head and makes you crave all kinds of crap food in ridiculous quantities.) She's fierce and she doesn't let up. If you gave your body all it needed in the way of essential nutrients for a sufficient amount of time, you shouldn't have any cravings left. So once you've put her to sleep, whatever you do...
Don't wake the sugar dragon.
Shhhhhh... This comes back to knowing yourself in and out, and how you operate best. You're going to have to consult that inner health expert, your own intuition, because only you can determine the level of carbohydrate and alcohol you can handle. During and after the elimination phase, you need to pay attention. Some people do fine with adding in a variety of real food... potatoes and carrots, berries or bananas, milk or yogurt. It may sound crazy, but others just can't consume any starchy vegetables, fruit or dairy without waking the sugar dragon and losing control of the relationship all over again.
Know thyself. And treat your body right, so it's not at war with your mind.
I'll leave you with this to chew on.
"An intelligent person can rationalize anything. A wise person doesn't try."
Which will you be?