WEEK 5 - The Compassionists
Cultivate Love and Compassion to Connect with Yourself and with Others
Positive Health Principle #34
Practice Delayed Gratification
In today's class you will learn:
1. What causes sugar cravings
2. Why sugar cravings may be confused with sugar addiction
3. How to manage sugar cravings in a healthy way
When you finish today's class, click the golden button below and take another extra small action!
“Willpower isn't something that gets handed out to some and not to others; it's a skill you can develop throughunderstanding and practice.”
TODAY'S DOSE OF POSITIVE HEALTH
“Eating is not merely a material pleasure. Eating well gives a spectacular joy to life and
contributes immensely to goodwill and happy companionship. It is of great importance
to the morale.” Elsa Schiaparelli
How many times have you heard that sugar is addictive? Is that true? Research says that it could be. Foods high in sugar trigger the same responses in the brain as drugs like cocaine or heroine do. It’s not the flavour that makes a biscuit, or ice cream so irresistible. Rather it’s the addictive power of sugar.
An interesting study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition was looking at how sugar may affect the brain. The researchers tracked more than 100 teenagers as they drank various chocolate milkshakes identical in calories but either high in sugar and low in fat or vice versa. The MRI scan results have shown that although both kinds of shakes lit up pleasure centres in the brain, those who had a shake high in sugar had a greater activation in a food-reward area of the brain that plays a major role in compulsive eating than those who had a low sugar shake. The study concluded that what really causes people to crave sugary foods is not the fat or flavour or the texture, but, primarily the sugar. In fact, sugar had such a powerful effect on stimulating the brain that it overshadowed fat, even when sugar and fat were combined in large amounts.
This research gives us a more complex understanding of what drives people to overeat in the first place. The conclusion is powerful and rather straightforward. Highly processed foods packed with sugar and fat activate and potentially modify the same reward centres in the brain that are triggered by alcohol and drugs. This may explain why millions of people who try all sorts of diets and struggle to lose weight, ultimately are doomed to failure.
We know that sugar acts like a drug by activating certain circuits of the brain. What we don’t know however is how this mechanism may play out in influencing the brain and how it may change our behaviour.
Scientists made an attempt to answer this question by inviting 106 teenagers and experimenting with more chocolate milk shakes, but with different sugar and fat content.
All participants had an MRI scan done four hours after shake consumption to observe the potential changes in their brain. It turned out that although low fat, low sugar shakes activated areas of the brain associated with taste and sensation, they had no impact on reward centres. Relatively high fat, low sugar shakes, however, lit up parts of the reward area and a high sugar shakes with a triple amount of sugar but only 25% of the fat had an even greater impact, lighting up various so-called food reward structures like the putamen, insula and rolandic operculum. These centres control our desire for food. The more active they are, the more we want to eat. Scientists concluded that increasing fat content in the high sugar shake didn't activate the reward area any further.
The results of the study have shown that high sugar foods are not inherently addictive simply because of their flavour. It’s the effect they have on our metabolism that makes them so addictive. Sweets stimulate reward regions indeed, but they also cause spikes and drops in blood sugar levels. These blood sugar drops cause further changes in the brain that trigger cravings.
What’s really interesting, is that those cravings are typically for foods that can quickly rescue low blood sugar levels, like biscuits or candy bars. The brain knows exactly what foods are needed to restore sugar levels quickly and by triggering the craving, centres sets us up for the next sugar-crazy cycle.
The fact that sugar consumption contributes to obesity, type 2 diabetes, or cancer, has been well documented, but could an addiction to sugar be actually a sign of an already existing health condition? In other words, could sugar addiction be triggered by an underlying, undiagnosed problem?
It turns out that it is possible. Sugar addiction may be a sign of a thyroid failure along with other symptoms like fatigue, muscle tension and headaches. It can also be triggered by yeast infections; people on antibiotics, antacids, and steroids have an increased secretion of cortisol that tends to suppress the immune system, making them more susceptible to overgrowth of toxic bacteria that thrive on sugar. Eating more sugar multiplies the yeast faster, which creates a vicious circle and constant sugar cravings.
Adrenaline overload may be another reason for craving sugary foods. Adrenal glands are responsible for stress hormones production like adrenaline and cortisol. The glands need to work particularly hard when put under constant pressure so a proper dose of sugar gives them a quick boost of energy. Typical signs of this problem are irritability when hungry, chronic stress, dizziness in standing position, frequent sore throat and unusually intense thirst.
What can we do about sugar cravings?
The human brain is wired to crave sugar and refined carbs which make us feel even hungrier. We develop a taste for fat but are born to prefer sugar. Many of us are eating foods full of processed sugar worrying about the calories, but the calories don’t actually make any difference. The quality of sugar does. Sugar cravings, overeating and the obesity epidemic have nothing to do with eating natural whole foods even if they contain large amounts of sugar. Rather, they have a lot to do with consuming processed sugars and fats.
Here are a few practical ways to limit sugar cravings in a healthy way.
1. Cut out any process foods and eat the real whole foods like vegetable, fruit, nuts, beans and seeds
2. Eat nutritious breakfasts and stop eating, at least, two hours before going to bed
3. Eat mindfully and slowly to digest food properly. When we eat fast, we tend to eat more
4. Become aware of trigger foods like sugary sweet drinks, biscuits, or any processed foods
5. Start a journal to write your feelings down instead of eating them up
6. Get enough sleep. Sleep deprivation contributes to insulin resistance and makes you feel more hungry
7. Control your stress levels. Meditate. Exercise the right way. Go for a walk, jog, dance, do whatever works for you. Just move.
We tend to think about overcoming sugar cravings in the context of willpower or habit or perhaps a whim. In reality, it is more complex than that. If the brain reward centre gets activated in a way that causes it to fight against its willpower, then it's almost impossible for us to control it and what we call a craving becomes an addiction.
All the addictive drugs light up the addiction centre in the brain. Sugar and anything that contains sugar does exactly the same. It’s time to rethink the way we approach sugar cravings, overeating and binge eating. Sugar is an addictive toxin that should be regulated in the same way as cigarettes or drugs.
Sugar Cravings or Sugar Addiction?
The Marshmallow Test
TODAY'S INSPIRED ACTION
YOUR WEEKLY SESSION
Get ready for your weekly session.
In your fourth session you will explore the benefits of practicing self-compassion and set the following intentions:
1. Gain more clarity around the concept of self-compassion
2. Find three simple ways to practice self-compassion daily
3. Start your self-compassion journal
Answer the questions in the Self-Compassion test (download No1), and go through the exercises (download No2) before your next session. Evaluate your session in the Self-Evaluation Worksheet (download No3).
1. Please make sure that you choose a convenient time and a quiet place for your Skype conversations.
2. Let the members of your household know when you need time for yourself, so you are not being interrupted.
3. Check your wifi connection and show up on time.
4. If you are unable to attend, you can still reschedule within the next few days before the Monday of the following week, if your guide has a free time slot.
5. Your one-to-one sessions are an integral part of the Grace School curriculum. It is, therefore, fundamental that each session is in synchrony with the weekly Grace School module.
YOUR WEEKLY DOWNLOADS
All files attached below have been created to support and enhance your learning experience.
These are available for download for the next 7 days. Please make sure that you create your account to answer the questions in the Self-Compassion test (No1), and do the exercises (No2) before your next session.
Use the Self-Evaluation Worksheet (No3) after your session. At the end of the week reflect on your experiences and challenges. Summarise your week with the Self-Reflection Worksheet (No4).
Your WEEK 5 Downloads:
1. Self-Compassion test - identify your level of self-compassion (approx. time 5 minutes)
2. Exercise Worksheet - do the exercises before your next session (approx time 10 minutes)
3. Self-Evaluation Worksheet - evaluate your session and learn from your experience (approx time 10-15 minutes)
4. Self-Reflection Worksheet - at the end of the week reflect on your experiences and challenges (approx time 10-20 minutes)
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