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.