Chronicles of Less Urban Living, Fresh from In the Night Farm

Bounce the Brain

I’ve been thinking about addiction lately.

Everyone knows the usual suspects:  Caffeine.  Alcohol.  Nicotine.  Meth.  Heroin.  Judging by casual comments thrown around the office, most people are aware (though they don’t take it seriously), that sugar is addictive as well.

Specifically, fructose not only stimulates our brains to release dopamine, but actually modifies our brains to reinforce sugar-hoovering behavior.  Considering that fructose is the form of sugar most readily converted to bodyfat (see Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes), we would do well to break our addictions to it. 

Unfortunately, fructose features prominently in “food” (ahem) products ranging from frozen pizza to yogurt to barbecue sauce to table sugar, which is half fructose and half glucose.  Just this week, I was appalled to discover high fructose corn syrup lurking in my bottle of seasoned rice vinegar!

Ditching the obvious sugars (honey, agave, molasses, sucrose) and processed foods in which they congregate is simple, conceptually speaking, but can be difficult to maintain in real life.  Just as with other addictions, some people find the pull more difficult to fight than others — but even those of us who have discovered the satiating qualities of fat and have healthy relationships with food will, at least occasionally, be tempted.

For me, addiction comes knocking when I’m most carefree and relaxed.  Like Friday nights.  Ahhh, end of the week.  Quiet evening alone.  Wouldn’t it be nice to pick up a pizza and a slice of cheesecake, and maybe some bakery granola for morning…

ACK!  Poison!  What am I thinking?

I’m not.  It’s just those old mental pathways trying to lead me astray.  They can do it, too, if I let them hit their stride.  My job is to stop temptation the instant it starts.  How?  By using the same technique that is recommended for slapping back addictions ranging from pot to porn:  Bounce the brain.

You know, bounce your thoughts to another topic before the craving takes hold.  Actively think about something else.  Don’t dwell on the texture of that ganache.  Don’t weigh the pros and cons.  Don’t try to come up with a paleo substitute.  Don’t engage in intellectual gymnastics that weigh workouts against wontons.

Don’t give in to the “I deserve it” lie.  (What?  You deserve an infusion of addictive toxins that will breech your gut lining, suppress your immune system, promote inflammation, and decrease insulin sensitivity?  What did you do to earn that kind of karma?  Burn down an orphanage on Christmas Eve?)

Just bounce the brain.  Do not pass go.  Do not collect 200 grams of carbohydrate.

If you fail to bounce immediately, you’ll feel the addiction sink its claws sink into your will.  For me, it’s a literal prickling around my nape.  Yes, really.  And this is from someone who has never endured serious food struggles, never had a major “sweet tooth,” never binged and purged, never eaten my way up to 300 pounds and down again.  I can only imagine how much harder it is for those with stronger addictive tendencies or more dysfunctional gastronomic histories.

Believe me, it’s best to bounce.  And, it’s not that hard.  You don’t eat that stuff anymore, remember?

It isn’t food.



Craving more?  Melissa Joulwan elaborates on the subject here.


5 responses

  1. Ironman

    I’m ready to bounce!!!

    October 29, 2010 at 11:21 am

  2. Tom

    Good advice. Not sure I’m up to the challenge when it comes to sugar. I don’t know if “addicted” is an accurate way to describe my relationship with sugar and it’s extended family, but something in that vernacular is correct.

    One of the biggest problems is the “wanting to quit”. This was my biggest challenge, by far to the 10th power, when I was a two-pack-a-day smoker in college. I started out simply enough with a cigarette when I went with friends to the bar, but rapidly became utterly addicted. When I confronted the fact that I really needed to quit or I would be a lifetime smoker, I had to deal with the fact that I didn’t want to quit. I loved smoking like you just about wouldn’t believe.

    Fortunately, I did quit smoking and that’s been since 1983, but sugar is such a sweet delight (pun intended) and I don’t want to let it go. I am cutting back though, so that’s worth something.

    October 29, 2010 at 12:34 pm

    • I hear you, Tom. Ultimately, it’s up to the individual’s weighing of costs and benefits.

      If it helps, I find that I do well with very occasional, PLANNED exceptions. On Thanksgiving, for instance, I’ll eat all the pumpkin pie I want, thank you very much. After the stuffing and rolls. 🙂

      It’s nice to know that, while I choose not to eat sugar, grains, etc. on a regular basis, nothing is on the “never-ever-again” list.

      October 29, 2010 at 12:40 pm

  3. Ah yes, the cupcake or cookie cold sweat as I refer to it as.. A year into eating 80/20 primal and I feel great,wouldn’t go back .. I have become incredibily sensitive to the evils of sugar and flour and yet.. that damn craving!..I still struggle as well. I just try to remember how crummy I feel after wards and for the next 48 hours.. That usually kills the temptation.

    October 29, 2010 at 6:51 pm

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