Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Power of Sugar

Sugar is an interesting substance. It is extremely addictive for many people and many women report that if they have one bite of a sugary food (especially if combined with fat and salt) it precipitates a binge. There are a number of psychological reasons for feeling out of control after eating sugar and I will discuss some of these in another post, but for now let’s consider what happens on a purely physical level. When we take sugar into our systems, a series of events occurs. Our blood sugar level rises quickly and our body begins to manufacture insulin. Adrenaline floods our system and our heart rate increases. Our blood pressure goes up and we feel “high.” This “high” feeling doesn’t last long, however, and soon our blood sugar level drops causing our body to beg and plead for more sugar and more “energy.”

When this happens we may feel exhausted, irritable and depressed. If you experience mood swings, mental dullness or become tired easily, try eliminating sugar from your diet for a week. You will most likely notice a significant reduction of all of these symptoms. This is the physical process everyone experiences when eating sugar – not only when bingeing. It is as simple as that but many people do not realize that eating sugar can cause such powerful, often irresistible physical cravings. So next time you are cravingsugars and simple carbohydrates, ask yourself what’s going on physically and, if you have been eating sugar, drink a big glass of water, get some exercise and do something nice for yourself that doesn’t involve food. The urge to dip into the gallon of ice cream in the freezer will pass…. really.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Life Changes and Emotional Eating

We are always evolving from one stage of life to another, from one body shape to another. We travel over time from babies to little girls or boys, to adolescents, to women and men, to elders. These life passages happen gradually and have profound effects on the ways we view and care for our physical bodies. Do you recall when you first noticed your body was maturing? How did you react to these changes? How did your feelings towards your body change over time? Were you fearful, excited, curious, anxious, or ashamed? Did you talk to anyone about the changes you were noticing or did you struggle with unanswered questions all by yourself?
Many women and men report that they felt confused and lonely through these life changes and most agree that certain life changes were a least somewhat disturbing to them (and most likely led them to eat to soothe their emotions). As we mature our bodies change but society tells us they should not. So, as our bodies change in natural ways throughout our lives, we may see ourselves in negative ways – as fat, unacceptable, unattractive. It is nearly impossible to feel good about ourselves and our bodies in this culture. Most of our bodies could never match those we are taught to view as ideal and even man and women who have achieved this look are often frightened that they will be unable to maintain their thin appearance over time. For a number of my clients, maintaining weight loss has proven far more difficult and stressful than achieving the weight loss in the first place.
It is no wonder that so many of us have been struggling with compulsive eating behaviors for years. Here are these bodies we received at birth behaving in ways that we have no control over. We cannot stop our bodies from developing any more than we can stop our hair from growing or the sun from coming up. Yet we punish our bodies for simply doing what they are supposed to do. We want to look different than we look – be taller, thinner, have curly hair or a different tone to our skin. Part of stopping compulsive eating behavior permanently means accepting each bodily change as a natural part of life and ourselves as exactly who we’re supposed to be. Change those negative, self punishing thoughts to positive, self-loving ones…. This will help!