Why do we see sweets as treats? (and how can we stop this)

This has been a big topic in recent discussions and seems to be a common theme, so it is an ideal one for a big issues debate... We know what we should be eating. We want to eat only real food. We know we feel dreadful (physically and emotionally) when we eat junk. We also, thanks to the connection made with the three conditions, know why we crave quite particular things – invariably sugary and floury stuff – the fattening things. We know that, if we give in to the cravings they get worse. We know all of this and much more from our own experience so why on earth do we still find ourselves reaching for the biscuit tin?! I truly believe that the physical addiction to junk food can never be underestimated. In this week’s New Scientist ( http://www.newscientist.com/article/...html) researchers at the Universities of Florida and Princeton studied signs of sugar addiction in rats. After just a month of being given the sugar equivalent of a can of soda (sugary, fizzy drink), “the rats developed behaviour and brain changes that were chemically identical to morphine-addicted rats”. The researchers noted that the rats showed withdrawal symptoms when denied the syrup. One of the most significant findings was that the rats experienced a release of dopamine (the chemical released with a recreational drug high) every time they had the sugar – they didn’t seem to become immune to it over time. I have long been convinced that sugar is addictive and this experiment concludes the same. Professor John Yudkin was also convinced – hence calling his book “Pure White & Deadly” (1972) – and he was talking about sugar, not heroin. Even 15 years on I can remember sugar addiction extremely well. I would be determined not to eat any sugar that day and to stick to Phase 1 and only eat real food. Then a voice would appear in my head – oh go on – just one sweet, just a square of dairy milk, you can do this sugar detox tomorrow – just enjoy yourself today. At the very point I made a decision in my head to have some sugar I would experience an almost immediate sense of relief and euphoria. The excitement of knowing that I was going to get my fix was incredible. I could literally salivate at the thought of being about to put chocolate in my mouth. This must be like the drug addict who manages to get hold of enough money for their next fix and then they realise they are moments away from getting high again. What we have to remember and focus on is what happens next – I would eat the sweet stuff and experience that immediate dopamine high and then the joyful feeling would be so short-lived and we need to focus on this fact. The high would go as quickly as it came. Depending on how much I ate (if a whole bar of dairy milk, for example...) I would have a high level of blood glucose until my pancreas released the insulin to start getting things back to normal. Sometimes this period gave me a false sense of ‘energy’, but, all too often, I just felt weak-willed and disappointed in myself. Then the insulin would start flooding my body and I would start to feel low energy and wanting another sweet fix and I would realise I had got on a roller coaster for that day, which I would find very difficult to get off. We all have to get to the point that it is just not worth it. History A number of you have made some really good connections in the club and we should explore these further. I really find that if you hold a microscope up to things and see them for what they really are, they can lose the hold that they have over you. I’m hoping we can do that in this article with junk food. It is often said that we have no chance of getting healthy eating messages across to people because the food industry are delivering tens of messages every day for every one that we try to get out. (Notwithstanding the fact that most official healthy eating messages are supporting the food industry!) The same has happened over time with us and sweets being seen as treats. I’m going to start by listing a number of connections between sweet things and emotions and I invite you to add to this list with your own experiences over your entire life. The idea being that – if you can see how often you have had ‘sweets = treats’ reinforced over your lifetime, you may realise how many times you need to come up with a counter message and how often you need to tell yourself this counter message to overcome the brainwashing. - The doctor gives you an injection and you get a sugar cube ‘to take the pain away’ (polio is delivered in a sugar cube); - You fall over and get a ‘there, there’ and something sweet ‘to make you feel better’; - Every festivity is about food – chocolate eggs at Easter, sweets for your birthday, birthday cake, selection boxes at Christmas, pies at Thanksgiving, Trick or treat at Halloween and so on; - Parties are based around sweets – pass the parcel had sweets in the wrapping, most game winners would be given sweets; - Tea & biscuits is synonymous with tea & sympathy – cheering us up in some way; - We hear the sound of the ice cream van and we turn into Pavlov dogs and immediately want an ice cream; - Holidays bring up many food memories for me – normally ‘not allowed’ ice cream, we would have a ‘knickerbocker glory’ in a cafe, we would get rock at the seaside, we would be eating out lots etc; - When we went to my grandparents we would always pick up fish ‘n chips en route and some ‘black pop’ and I can remember the whole scenario vividly... Please add your own recollections because I think that it will help us to see just how many years of conditioning have built up, such that our heads are making a strong link between sweets = fun = nice = good = I deserve them and all the nonsense that we need to break.

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