Marla stops off for happy hour after work, first once in a while and then gradually escalates to almost every day. Her child care provider, fed up with the late pickups refuses her child admittance. She has to change day care centers…for the 3rd time.
Jeremy loses his job for being caught watching porn on his office computer… repeatedly.
Leonard dreads his trip home anticipating another argument with his wife because he gambled away the rent money again. He walks in to find his place empty, wife and children gone but stops to buy a lottery ticket on his way to beg her to come home.
Carla wants nothing more than to lose weight and be healthy. Joins exercise classes, hires personal trainers and starts program after program but can’t seem to keep her hands out of the cookie jar or stay away from the bakery aisle. She has been told she is at risk for several weight related health problems but she often behaves as if it’s a matter of her own will power. And any attempts to reason with her on the subject are met alternately with sarcasm or anger depending on her mood which swings wildly.
Different issues? Not really. Let’s call it all what it is. Shall we? It’s addiction!
The American Society of Addiction Medicine (www.ASAM.org) defines the word addiction in part, this way:
Addiction is characterized by inability to consistently abstain, impairment in behavioral control, craving, diminished recognition of significant problems with one’s behaviors and interpersonal relationships, and a dysfunctional emotional response. Like other chronic diseases, addiction often involves cycles of relapse and remission. Without treatment or engagement in recovery activities, addiction is progressive and can result in disability or premature death.
All addiction is serious but my primary focus in my practice as a Wellness Coach would be Carla. Carla wants to lose weight and improve her health. But Carla has a problem. Let’s hold her up to the magnifying glass of our definition. She repeatedly starts to make changes only to relapse and fall back into the same patterns. She is unable to consistently stay away from or control her cravings for sweets. She doesn’t seem to recognize the genuine danger to her overall health. She seems oblivious to the fact that both the “addiction” and the health results of it are progressive. She really just thinks she likes sweets. She likes them a lot!
But she isn’t the only one. Americans scarf down tons of sugar each year and the rest of the world is joining us. Sugar was once a luxury. Now it’s in practically everything. And I do mean everything! It’s hidden of course and difficult to find. Made even more so by the clever and imaginative minds of those who want more of us addicted. Much like the common dealer on the street these folks are allowed to play fast and loose with our health and our lives. They do this with no care about the possible consequences other than to fill their coffers with our hard earned dollars. Sugar works on the same region of the brain as most other addictions, the dopamine receptors, the part of the brain that signals pleasure. And sugar is pleasurable. It was designed that way so that humans would seek it out and be able to satisfy our need for the energy that it provides. This was supposed to be a good thing but that was back when we were hunter/gatherers or even when we were farmers and tradesmen. When the way we made our living required strenuous physical activity and food was not so plentiful and easy to come by.
As we progressed there were more and more people able to earn their living or provide for themselves at others’ expense. Let’s call them the aristocracy or merchant class. They could afford to have others do the hard work while they did less and less. That may be why when we look at pictures of Europe back in the good old days all the wealthy appeared to be …well…Fat! Even then the real cost of eating empty calories was a risk to weight and health. Now the problem has simply multiplied by billions. As even those with very little money can now get their hands on the same crap that killed only the rich less than a century ago. In fact the least well off are more at risk as sugar is a cheap filler that by virtue of the pleasure it gives keeps those who can least afford it coming back for more, in spite of the risk to their lives and its cost. Wait! Isn’t that the very definition of addiction? And now we can all have it cleverly hidden under a lot of different names.
Sugar By Any Other Name:
- Agave Nectar
- Barley Malt Syrup
- Beet Sugar
- Brown Rice Syrup
- Brown Sugar
- Cane Crystals (or, even better, “cane juice crystals”)
- Cane Sugar
- Coconut Sugar
- Coconut Palm Sugar
- Corn sweetener
- Corn syrup, or corn syrup solids
- Dehydrated Cane Juice
- Evaporated Cane Juice
- Fruit juice concentrate
- High-fructose corn syrup
- Invert sugar
- Malt syrup
- Maple syrup
- Palm Sugar
- Raw sugar
- Rice Syrup
- Sorghum or sorghum syrup
- Turbinado Sugar
The greatest trick the devil ever played was to convince the world he doesn’t exist. The greatest trick the food labeling and manufacturing industry ever played? Sugar!