You might be surprised to know that two of the most dangerous and addictive substances around are legal, societally acceptable, and easily accessible. Even worse, these substances are regularly pushed on society in general (and children in particular) as part of a well-intentioned yet distorted reward system. Can you guess what they are? If you guessed flour and sugar, then give yourself a ci-gar! On second thought, don’t – tobacco is right up there with them.
Flour and sugar are the BIGGEST causes of obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, elevated triglycerides, diabetes, heart disease, chronic fatigue, joint pain, and cancer. The statistics are staggering. Yet, for some reason, nobody wants to address this issue honestly. Why not? Well, there are actually several reasons:
1) Most members of our society are addicted to these substances themselves. When someone is an addict, they will typically make excuses for other addicts. Of course, by doing so, they are indirectly making excuses for themselves.
2) People’s denial of these particular addictions is brutally strong. The majority of people get fiercely defensive if someone even suggests that they may be a flour and sugar addict. This defensiveness often intimidates others, causing them to shut up out of fear of being subjected to a massive dose of defensive anger. Thus, the worst addicts are often the ones who never really get called out on their behavior.
3) We are living during a time where political correctness triumphs truth. Talking about the consequences of eating addictive junk somehow gets wrongly misconstrued as judging someone’s physical appearance or inner strength. Although the politically correct movement is the popular trend, it does NOTHING to create increased awareness or positive change. In fact, it often stifles awareness and change.
4) Many people are afraid to rock the boat. Even those who aren’t in denial and would like to help others are uncomfortable going against the societal grain.
As you can imagine, trying to address this topic on a large scale is an uphill battle. But with unwavering consistency and determined persistence, we can do it! In order to solve this national problem, we must fully understand it. Thus, we first need to discuss why we get addicted in the first place. Then we will examine how to systematically break this dangerous habit.
Why We Are Hooked
Many of us were trained to be emotional eaters from a very young age. If you were feeling sad, depressed or anxious, your mom probably gave you some dessert to make you feel better. If you accomplished something great and praiseworthy, you were encouraged to celebrate your achievement by eating junk.
This kind of subtle childhood conditioning becomes part of our unconscious mind and develops into an automatic emotional response throughout our entire lives. But that’s not the only reason sugar and flour are so addictive…
When people are in a negative emotional state, eating junk triggers a both physiological and psychological response:
Physiologically speaking, eating flour and sugar increases dopamine and serotonin levels. These neurotransmitters activate the receptors in the brain that provide us with feelings of pleasure.
And psychologically/emotionally speaking, this feeling of pleasure completely distracts us from feeling the primary negative emotions we were experiencing just before we inhaled that jelly donut! In other words, the initial pleasure from eating tasty junk food distracts us from our negative feelings.
Once the binge meal is over, our feelings get rerouted yet again – this time towards feeling guilt about binging on the junk food and for being out of control. As bad as the guilt feels, it is far less hurtful than the original negative feelings that made us want to binge eat in the first place.
Unfortunately, this diversion is extremely short-term. The reality is that eating crap cannot fix any problem or help resolve any issue. In fact, it only makes matters worse.
So how can a person break this destructive habit? Here’s the plan!
We just learned that, although the roots of sugar addiction are emotional, there is a physical component as well. Therefore you’ll need a combination of physical and psychological approaches to break the junk food habit. Here are some tactics to employ right away:
1) Increase your awareness. Every time you crave flour or sugar, try to get in touch with what you are feeling. Are you trying to distract yourself from feeling stressed, depressed, anxious, hurt, or angry? Are you rewarding yourself for doing something well? Journal what’s going on. This kind of awareness is the first step towards change.
2) Work on resolving your deep emotional issues. For some, this step is the most difficult, but it is also the MOST powerful. It requires an open mind, a lot of courage and usually the assistance of a skilled coach. Once these negative issues are brought to resolution, they will no longer have such control over your decisions and reactions.
3) Cut out flour and sugar, cold turkey. I know, I know, everything in moderation. Not in this case! If someone were addicted to narcotics or alcohol, you wouldn’t just tell them cut back a little, would you? I didn’t think so. Sugar and flour are no different. Cut them out and allow yourself to feel the emotions that you’ve been avoiding. If you’re following Step 2 (above) eventually you’ll be able to “cheat” occasionally without it leading to totally falling off the wagon and binging excessively. But for now, cold turkey. Zip. Nada. Ya dig??
4) Never be hungry. Even though these cravings are emotionally driven, there is a real physical component as well. You have to outsmart your cravings! Try to eat at intervals that keep you one step ahead of your hunger. For some people, this requires eating a meal or snack every three hours. Be sure to be prepared each and every day to outsmart your hunger. And of course, NEVER miss a meal.
5) Get adequate sleep. If you’re not getting at least seven hours of sleep per day, your cravings will be stronger. I can speculate about the reason for this, but there is no science to prove my hypothesis true. Twenty-one years of experience working with people, on the other hand, is enough evidence for me.
6) Keep the junk out of your house. If it’s less convenient to access, you’ll be less likely to cave to a craving.
7) Have healthy snacks on hand. Nuts, nut butters, fruits, cut up veggies with a healthy dip, homemade frozen yogurt, and Alvino-approved home baked items will fill the bill here. These may not sound overly exciting to you now, but once you cut out the junk, your taste buds with become sensitive again and these foods will be absolutely delicious.
8) Get regular exercise. Exercise not only provides your body with plenty of feel-good hormones, it also helps motivate you to eat clean.
9) If you fall off the wagon, admit it, own it, take full responsibility and get right back on track. As with any other addiction, quitting will be a process. In the beginning you may slip up a few times. Don’t get stuck in a state of embarrassment or guilt. Just don’t quit on yourself! Remember: you are fighting for your life and your health – and you are worth the fight.
10) Regain your personal power. This involves taking charge of your life and making difficult decisions. For example, if you’re stuck in a toxic relationship, an unhappy marriage, or an unfulfilling job, you are depriving yourself of pleasure in some major areas of your life. This lack of joy usually leads to pleasure-seeking elsewhere in your life, and unfortunately, it is rarely healthy pleasure-seeking.
Some may shop excessively, others drink and do drugs, even others may have an affair – but many of us eat junk to fill this void. Make the tough changes that you need to make so that you are living a life that makes you happy. Once you do, you won’t need to seek a short-term escape on a regular basis.
11) Learn to love yourself. There is no better substitute for junk food then some genuine self-respect, self-love, and self-acceptance. This will take work, but the rewards are well worth it, as they will affect every single area of your life in a positive way.
Breaking an addiction is easier said than done, but with a sound approach and some persistence, it is definitely achievable. And aren’t you worth the effort? It’s your life we are talking about here. It’s your health, and ultimately, it’s your happiness. Refuse to be a victim any longer to these addictive foods that have robbed so many people of their vibrancy and vitality. Take charge and start changing your life right now!
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