Post 8 – Sugar Addiction Part I (The Basics)

I have been reading about sugar addiction lately. Yeah people are addicted to drugs and alcohol and porn (hey, did you know that? I just watched this cool TEDx talk about it), but most people don’t talk about or hear about addiction to sugar. Have you?

Hi my name is Erin and I am addicted to sugar. <Applause of acceptance>

Okay, okay so I’m not grossly overweight, obese, or anything, BUT that does not mean that I only eat healthy foods and avoid sugar. Au contraire, mon frère. I eat it a lot.

When I’ve read about sugar addiction before (CSPI Nutrition Action Newsletter had a great article on it in May 2012) researchers basically have said that an addict has lower levels of dopamine receptors in the rewards center of the brain. Dopamine is what gives us the good feelings that we receive from eating certain foods, feeling loved, or being happy. Because an addict’s brain has lower levels of dopamine, it takes more of (fill in the blank) for him/her to reach that “high” that a normal person would feel from a smaller dose. A sugar addict can’t stop at one cupcake, but continues eating more to get that high that she didn’t get from the first, just as an alcoholic develops a tolerance for alcohol that requires more and more drinks to feel good.

In my life, my relationship with sugar goes in stages. I love to bake so I always have sweets at home. With no one to eat them but Sam and me (the cats don’t count), I end up eating more than my fair share. Some days I find myself hovering over the pan of brownies, cutting off slivers and popping them in my mouth or sitting down and getting up moments later for more. There are also the days like the past few where I have been relatively busy and though I have small moments of craving something sweet, it goes away quickly without my having to satisfy it. What gives? Am I like the alcoholic who can go for weeks without a drink only to fall off the wagon one day and start the cycle all over? Or am I just a girl, with multiple sweet teeth trying to fill a hole that being with a loved one could fill when I’m alone for a few hours?

Last week I made a new recipe – cinnamon roll biscuits – and it didn’t turn out the way I wanted. Yet because I had a whole pan of them and they looked good and I hate throwing out food, I ate them, one little unwinding of biscuit roll at a time, until I decided they were not worth eating and that I should stop. To save myself (sort of) I turned the leftovers into bread pudding and took it to work. Problem solved!  Cinnamon rolls recycled into something delicious and the burden of sugar-eating shared! No no, not so fast.

The two pieces that remained at home (because they didn’t fit in the tupperware – take another tupperware damnit and don’t leave that stuff lying around!) tested me again when I returned home from work, hungry for a snack as usual. I dug into one piece, bite by bite, knowing that I should stop, but unable to put my fork down.

So what do I do?

<Shrug>

This. Write. Share.

So, thank you for bearing with me in this strange confession. Thank you for taking me seriously. My next step is unknown. I have figured out this much about myself – when I am spending time with people that I love, doing things that make me happy, I am less likely to worry about the food I am eating or how much of it I am getting. Is it the dopamine receptors (what little I have left of them) picking up on that touch of human kindness and friendship that is satisfying my appetite or is it distraction? Either way I welcome it.

I have no solutions yet, other than to become more mindful (add that to my everyday, already mile-long mental checklist) and to tell more people how I am with sugar and who I am. It is that support that calms my cravings so thank you for supporting me.

More to come.

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