Sugar and Food: an Antidepressant

Every evening and every morning I pop open the lovely Apple News app and scan through the latest news.  One of them talked about sugar and it’s addictive properties.  While I’m going to post something on the Ketogenic diet, which I’ve been on for about 5 months now, I wanted to add to the talk of sugar.  Yet, I’d also like to speak briefly about those of us who are overweight, stressed, anxious, and depressed.

First off, eating anything results in an increase in levels of serotonin and dopamine.  These are commonly known as the feel good neurotransmitters (aka, chemicals) in the brain.  However, when we eat sugary and fatty foods (see the picture for this post), these levels go up even more.  As a result, we feel great and man do we enjoy eating this stuff!  Now some articles have likened sugar addiction to that of cocaine…well, I’ve never tried cocaine so i don’t know about this.  Also, I don’t know the research so I can’t make direct comparisons.  However, I concede the point that sugar is hard to kick.  But is it hard to kick only because of the physical process?  I don’t believe so.

In the U.S., most of us are overloaded with life.  We have kids, work, multiple jobs, expectations from parents, a tough home life, the negative effects of Facebook and social media, etc.  Most people that I’ve met suffer from at least mild forms of stress, anxiety or depression.  Just like alcoholics can be “functioning,” so can those of us with milder forms of stress, anxiety and depression.  And in a country where the majority have less and less, it would make sense that most or many are struggling.  It’s for these people that sugar comes to the rescue as a nice, albeit crappy, kind of antidepressant.

So we eat, and eat, and eat…and then our portions get larger and larger.  But then we start gaining weight and now we feel worse about ourselves.  So let’s eat some more.  And what’s especially sad about this situation is that nearly all of the foods out there have highly refined carbohydrates (sugars, flours, pastas, etc.).  The more refined the carbs, the better we feel while we’re eating and for a short period after.  In my opinion, this is the cycle.  We feel a little or a lot crappy, we grab some food, it feels great, we feel bad again or worse, we eat again…and so on.  The cycle really needs to stop.

Now I’m not going to tell you that you should do what I’m doing.  In fact, if you make any dietary change it should, ideally, be a thoughtful one that’s planned out and based on some scientific knowledge.  For example, if you try the Ketogenic diet and consistently cheat with regular carbs like pasta, your health can seriously get bad.  So, please be cautious.  Yet, I would encourage you to drop refined carbs for one week…just one week, and see how you feel.  For me, not having carbs has resulted in decreased hunger, better and more even energy, and even better focus.  In fact, my experience has been so good that I’m not sure that I ever want to have a cupcake ever again.  The ups and downs are worth it, I crave food much more when I eat sugars and refined carbs, and now that I haven’t had sugar in 5 months, I get seriously painful headaches if I have even a spoonful of frosting.

My hope is that you’ll consider a diet change and not because I’m saying it, but because you want something better for yourself.  A week can’t hurt you.  Just stick with brown rice, quinoa, veggies, meats, and healthy fats and see how you feel.  You might be a bit surprised.  Regardless of what you do, I wish you the best.

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